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Right To Participate In Public Affairs

Participation enables the advancement of all human rights.

It plays a crucial role in the promotion of democracy, the rule of law, social inclusion and economic development. It is essential for reducing inequalities and social conflict.

It is also important for empowering individuals and groups, and is one of the core elements of human rights-based approaches aimed at eliminating marginalization and discrimination. Moreover, decision-making is more
informed, legitimate and sustainable when young people are at the table as it will respond to and address the real needs of youth. Youth-led and youth-focused organizations play an important role in public life.

The right to participation includes:

  • Voting and being elected at genuine periodic elections held by secret ballot, affording universal and equal suffrage
  • Taking part in the conduct of public affairs, either directly or through freely chosen representatives
  • Equal access to public services
  • Being consulted and given opportunities to be involved in decision-making processes on all matters of public concern

Additionally, the right to enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life should be guaranteed, to ensure everyone including young people with disabilities can exercise their right to participation.

In depth…

To avoid tokenism, youth participation must be meaningful. Efforts to increase young people’s participation must go alongside more gender equality in representative bodies as well as intergenerational dialogue, to ensure youth participation does not happen in isolation. At all levels, from the local to the global, participation requires:

  • An enabling environment that includes a legal framework giving effect to the right to participation, and generally an environment where all human rights, in particular the rights to equality and non-discrimination and to freedoms of opinion, peaceful assembly and association, are fully respected and enjoyed by all individuals.
  • An environment that keeps young people safe and addresses the challenges faced by young women and other youth in vulnerable situations. This includes ensuring the right to physical integrity, liberty, security and privacy.
  • Openness, transparency and accountability of public authorities at all stages of decision-making, from initial planning to budgeting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Maximum disclosure of information of public interest by public authorities is key, including through platforms easily accessible to young people.
  • Youth empowerment for participation, for example through civic education, including voter education.
  • An environment that ensures public participation of young persons without discrimination, with particular attention given to young persons with disabilities (including accessibility considerations), young women and girls and young human rights defenders.


Where can I learn more?

Right To Freedom Of Thought, Conscience Or Religion

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought on all matters, to their personal conviction as well as to adopt a religion or belief of their choice and to manifest such religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching either individually or with others, in public or in private.