From the CEO May – stand up for your rights

“Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!”
Bob Marley.

Recently I attended the International Forum on P2 and Stakeholder Engagement for Sustainable Development Goals. The Bangkok event, a result of the ongoing partnership between UNESCAP and IAP2, attracted over 100 international delegates, many from developing nations.

As I absorbed the shared learnings from sessions and discussions, I realised (not for the first time) how very fortunate we are in Australia and New Zealand, where public participation is a right.

Engagement and public participation has a different cultural context in other countries. Nations have needed to fight for the right for public participation, while other countries don’t yet have that right.

The UN Human Rights Council Guidelines outline the basic principles and requirements for the effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs.

These priniciples, which align beautifully and powerfully with the IAP2 SpectrumCore Values and Quality Assurance Standard are:

  • Enabling environment
  • Safety
  • Equality
  • Empowerment
  • Openness
  • Remedies

Here, in the relative comfort of Australasia, we can take our right to participate in public affairs for granted.

And what I heard, loud and clear, at the International Forum, is that it is our duty to stand up for public participation worldwide. Other countries expressed how they have struggled to gain the right to participate, and now they are working to change very ingrained and downtrodden views to create a sense of duty.

Let’s not allow the right for public participation slide away on our watch!

We have a real opportunity to place public participation and engagement into the spotlight on an international scale. You can help by pledging your support for the Year of Engagement. Many organisations and individuals have shown their support. Is your name on there? If not, then perhaps it is your turn to stand up for the right to have every voice heard. It only takes two minutes, and costs nothing. Head over to to get started.

I’d like to finish with a big shout out to Joel Levin, Malcolm Paterson, the Brisbane local network team and the event partners SEQ Water and Queensland Urban Utilities for producing a fantastic local network event held in Brisbane on 16 May. A great discussion was had on how engagement professionals can manage personal well-being. You can learn more about the event here, but here are some great tips to take away:

  • The importance of a support network and having a good sounding board to share problems with (IAP2 local networks are a great way to find, build and strengthen a set of connections).
  • How vital it is to reach out to colleagues when you are struggling. Don’t go it alone.
  • Protecting your personal “force field”, particularly before entering into difficult situations.
  • Find your own ways to manage your personal well-being. a working mother shared that she understands the benefits of meditation, yet finding time is difficult. A solution offered was to share an evening meditation with your children. It only needs to be for two or three minutes, which is enough time to still the mind and feel calm (and the kids will love it!).

Well-being is about finding what works for you. And it is a vital skill for engagement professionals to add to the toolbox.