Public Participation

Participation in public affairs is an essential right. It ensures that people can work with their governments to effectively solve problems and improve their communities.

Trust in public institutions is key to a thriving civil society, but in many countries, trust is lacking, and opportunities to engage in government decision-making are absent. To address this, ICNL works with partners around the world to develop and reform laws and policies so that they provide greater civil society participation at the national, regional, and local levels.

We support efforts to implement new initiatives in an inclusive manner so that everyone can participate effectively. We cooperate with local partners to ensure that international standards are known and understood. Working together, civil society and governments around the world have made progress in expanding opportunities for meaningful public participation, but more remains to be done.

Key Resources

UN Guidelines on the Right to Participate in Public Affairs

In 2018, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published new guidelines for the effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs. The guidelines include basic principles and requirements as well as practical recommendations that governments and civil society can use in implementing this basic right.

Briefer on the UN Guidelines on the Right to Participate in Public Affairs

This two-page overview by ECNL summarizes the main points of the United Nations Guidelines on the Right to Participate in Public Affairs.

Rights Card on Participation in Decision-making During Covid-19

During COVID-19, public participation in decision making is more crucial than ever because we need measures that respond with our actual needs. ECNL’s one page rights card underlines the importance of public participation in decision making during Covid-19.

Guidelines & Best Practices

ECNL Submission to the UN Guidelines on the Right to Participate in Public Affairs

This paper provides information for the drafting of guidelines on effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs. The paper defines the right and discusses general principles and frameworks for participation. It also outlines practical guidance, such as structures and practices, which can provide for meaningful and effective participation.

Guidelines for Civil Participation in Political Decision-Making

In 2017, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers adopted these guidelines to broaden and protect opportunities for public participation in political decision-making processes.

Civil Participation in Decision-Making: An Overview of Standards and Practices in Council of Europe Member States

This 2016 paper was prepared by ECNL at the request of the Council of Europe as it drafted guidelines on meaningful public participation in political decision making. Available in English and Russian.

Criteria for Selection of CSOs in Cross-Sector Bodies

ECNL co-authored this comparison on the criteria used to select CSOs to participate in government bodies, including cross-sector working groups, councils, and national boards. The paper also proposes models to improve the framework for selection and the guidance provided.

Comparative Overview of European Standards and Practices in Regulating Public Participation

This ECNL article provides a brief overview of European standards and models of public participation in decision-making processes, especially the government drafting of laws and regulations.

Mechanisms for Nominating of NGO Representatives

This BCNL report discusses the professional relationships and mechanisms that inform the nomination and election of CSO representatives to state commissions and other consultative bodies in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Right to Participate in Public Affairs

Regulating Political Activities of Non-Governmental Organizations

With input from ECNL experts, the NGO Expert Council of the Council of Europe produced this report on regulating CSO participation in political activities, including policy-making.

Participation of NGOs in the Process of Policy and Law Making

This analysis by BCNL compares European approaches to promoting CSOs’ participation in government decision-making processes.

Citizens' Participation in the Process of Preparation and Implementation of Laws and Other Public Policy Instruments

This brochure, distributed in the Republic of Serbia, explains the importance of participation by individuals and CSOs in government decision-making processes.

All Resources Related to Public Participation

The Triple Threat to Civil Society in India

Taj Mahal (Photo Credit: Gerard McGovern)
This working paper, by Ingrid Srinath, the Director of the Centre for Social Impact and ... Read More

Civic Engagement and Lawmaking in the Kyrgyz Republic

Group of women touching hands (photo credit:
These guidelines are intended to become an information resource for representatives of civil society organizations ... Read More

COVID-19 and Civic Freedoms in Asia and the Pacific

Scenes of healthcare workers at Thailand Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute, Ministry of Public Health. During this coronavirus outbreak, workforce shortages have gotten worse and nurse-midwives around the world have had to sacrifice in the hospitals around the clock and with limited personal protective equipment. (Photo: UN Women/Pathumporn Thongking)
To get a full picture of how COVID-19 measures have impacted civil society in the ... Read More

E-Consultation Mechanisms in Legislative and Regulatory Decision-Making

Report on The Regulation of Foreign Funding of Nonprofits in a Democracy
The COVID-19 epidemic has necessitated a shift to remote operations across society, from workplaces to ... Read More

Guidelines for Policing Post-Election Protests in the US

'I Voted' sticker spool on top of a ballot envelope. Stickers have an American flag on them and are in English and Spanish. (GPA PHOTO ARCHIVE/Flickr)
In the face of a potentially contested 2020 US election, there are concerns that authorities ... Read More

Public Participation in the Middle East and North Africa

Public Participation in the Middle East and North Africa
In September of 2020, ICNL LLC's Jordan team held a webinar called “Challenges and Prospects ... Read More
Explore our full resource collection, which includes reports, legal analysis, and curated collections of materials covering an array of issues impacting civic space around the world.