What’s Meaningful Participation?

Meaningful Participation by Alice WelbournWhat’s Meaningful Participation? A key question that requires many people to answer.

A diverse and dynamic group of activists, academics and public health officials are now collaborating on a new  project — All Aboard! This initiative, spearheaded by the IMAXI Cooperative, combines scientific research with the practical development of a new participatory tool that aims to make “Nothing about us without us” a reality in global health governance. We believe that by advancing the meaningful participation and accountable representation of the most affected communities within decision-making institutions, fewer people living with life-threatening and life-changing diseases / disabilities will be ‘left behind’ and left out of programmes to improve health and well-being.

Before tools to claim ‘seats at the tables’ of the policy-makers can be forged, we seek a broad-based consensus on what meaningful participation actually means. Below are a few elements – we like to know what else can be added to the mix.

• Meaningful participation is based on the principle that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.

• Meaningful participation includes the promise that the public’s contribution will influence the decision.

• Meaningful participation promotes sustainable decisions by recognising and communicating the needs and interests of all participants.

• Meaningful participation contributes broad, long-term stake-holding to policy development when supported in a sustainable manner.

• Meaningful participation seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision.

• Meaningful participation seeks input from participants in designing how they participate.

• Meaningful participation provides participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way.

• Meaningful participation communicates to participants how their input affected the decision.

• Meaningful participation helps to assure that ‘no one will be left behind’ in the sustainable development agenda.

• Meaningful participation enables people to realise their rights to participate in, and access information relating to, the decision-making processes which affect their lives.

Please send us any further ideas or suggestions. Everyone’s welcome to “Write Your Rights” to a seat at the table.
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Some more food for thought:

“Participation is a right held by all people to engage in society and in the decisions that impact their lives. Participation is thus a political endeavour that challenges oppression and discrimination, in particular of the poorest and most marginalised people.” – Institute of Development Studies

“If people want to have programmes that are acceptable, accessible, affordable, attainable, then the sooner those most affected are involved in the programme design, development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation— the better.”  – Alice Welbourn

“Recognizing that development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom,” – UN Declaration on the Right to Development (1986)

“In the light of the principle of participation, it is essential to promote participatory rights in national-level policymaking as well as in the decision-making processes of global institutions.“  Flávia Piovesan,  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Participatory rights are also enshrined in international human rights instruments that give universal protection to political rights, including article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.