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

Positive Government Responses to COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic does not have to be a crisis for human rights. In the ... Read More

The Law Affecting Civil Society in Asia

UNSR meeting with civil society and human rights defenders on Asia issues in March 2019 (Photo: Jeff Vize)
Made up of more than 40 countries, Asia defies easy categorization. On the one hand, ... Read More

CSO Meter

CSO Meter
In partnership with local experts and civil society organizations (CSOs), the European Center for Not-for-Profit ... Read More


The CIVICUS Monitor is a web platform that provides constantly-updated information and analysis on the ... Read More

U.S. Current Trend: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation

Judges gavel laying on wood table (Photo credit: Rawpixel/Unsplash)
Strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs, are a type of lawsuit that impedes the ... Read More

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

ECNL briefer on the UN Guidelines on the Right to Participate in Public Affairs
This 2-page briefer by ECNL summarizes some of the main points of the UN Guidelines ... 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.