Social Participation

Social participation relates to the empowerment of people, communities, and civil society to participate in – and thereby influence – decision-making processes for health. It is the cornerstone of equitable, inclusive, transparent, and responsive health systems that leave no one behind. This inclusive approach not only promotes healthier behaviors and practices but also fosters community resilience, reduces health inequalities, and builds trust in healthcare systems.



Since the launch of the “Voice, agency, empowerment – handbook on social participation for universal health coverage” in 2021, there has been a noticeable increase in political commitment among Member States to promote social participation in health decision-making. This commitment extends to regional levels, seen in references to social participation in WHO Regional Committee Meetings and resolutions, and through initiatives like the European Youth4Health Network established by WHO Europe. There have been parallel efforts to improve the engagement of civil society and youth in the workings of WHO through the WHO Youth Council and the Civil Society Commission.

During a dialogue on social participation and accountability in 2021, Dr. Tedros highlighted the importance of social participation in promoting health for all:

“As we build forward better and prepare for future emergencies, we need to empower community ownership, enhance participatory governance, rebuild trust in public health, and strengthen global solidarity. This is true not only for emergencies but in every area of health, and especially in making progress towards universal health coverage.”

At the 76th WHA side event in May 2023, several Member States announced their intention to pursue a resolution on institutionalizing social participation at the WHA in 2024. A series of multi-stakeholder consultations were held to inform a Technical Paper, which summarizes priority actions for Member States as they seek to institutionalize social participation for health.

Social participation was also included in the 2023 Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in which world leaders renewed their commitment to accelerate progress towards achieving UHC and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.


WHA Resolution on social participation

The governments of Thailand and Slovenia – in collaboration with Brazil, France, Norway and Tunisia – are pursuing a resolution for WHA77 on Social participation for universal health coverage, health and well-being. If the resolution is approved, it presents a clear statement of political support for social participation, outlining specific priority actions for governments to take to advance this agenda within countries.

Learn more with the Advocacy Brief.


Take action now

To ensure the resolution is successfully adopted at the upcoming 77th WHA, civil society has an important role to play in building the political support needed to ensure that social participation for health remain priorities for decision makers at all levels.

The CSEM and SPHERE developed a toolkit to support civil society to urging Ministers of Health to:

  1. Co-sign the draft resolution on social participation and endorse it at WHA77.
  2. Attend the high-level ministerial side event on social participation this Tuesday 28th May, led by  Norway, Slovenia, Thailand, The Civil Society Engagement Mechanism for UHC2030 (CSEM), European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, UHC2030, UHC Partnership.
  3. Support the implementation of the resolution, which could include convening a multistakeholder dialogue to discuss the status of social participation in the country, the recommendations listed in the resolution, and what specific actions the government should take to advance implementation of the resolution in the short-medium and longer term, before and/or after WHA77.

Download the Civil Society Toolkit

Use the toolkit below to urge Ministers of Health to show collective leadership and support for implementing, strengthening, and sustaining meaningful social participation in health-related decisions.


Additional Civil Society Resources

The CSEM has been working closely with SPHERE* to support civil society actions in the lead up to the 77th WHA taking place between 27 May – 1 June 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland.

*SPHERE (Social Participation for Health: Engagement, Research, and Empowerment) is a global consortium of civil society, health and academic organizations that is:

  1. Documenting country experiences in promoting social participation for health;
  2. Collaborating with communities and civil society to promote country-specific implementation models and evaluate their impact;
  3. Drawing lessons from country-specific implementation models to advance the wider UHC2030 agenda for all countries.

Learn more on SPHERE’s website.

Information Sessions