Chapter overview on legislative frameworks for social participation: how do laws contribute to social participation?

What do we mean by this topic?

Different types of laws have impact on social participation in health:

  • Legal frameworks directly linked to participation - Social participation laws.
  • Legal frameworks indirectly linked to participation - Decentralization & Freedom of information.
  • Legal frameworks on health implying social participation - Health Acts & Right to health legislation.

Why is it important for policy makers to address this topic?

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) states: “….The right to participate in political and public affairs should be enforceable by law and its denial should be open to judicial challenge...”
  • UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 2000: participation features as a central component to achieve the right to health. …participation in health systems should entail ‘decision-making’ and should occur at local (community), national and international levels. Furthermore, this should entail involvement in decision-making with regards to priority-setting, planning and implementation of health services. Participation also involves being part of political decisions related to health at community and national levels including involvement in the formulation of a national public health strategy and plan of action.

Selected key messages

Different types of legal frameworks are generally positive for social participation but:

  • Legal frameworks do not guarantee social participation
  • A legal framework is not necessary for social participation to happen
  • When civic momentum is present, a legal framework can reinforce participation and/or participatory structures

Prerequisites when implementing a law facilitating social participation in health:

  • Readiness of stakeholders to participate in terms of capacity and resources at all levels of the health system
  • Political will to give participation a real chance
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