Nothing About Us Without Us

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"Nothing About Us Without Us!" (Latin: "Nihil de nobis, sine nobis") is a slogan used to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected by that policy. This involves national, ethnic, disability-based, or other groups that are often thought to be marginalized from political, social, and economic opportunities.

The saying has its origins in Central European political traditions. It was the political motto that helped establish—and, loosely translated into Latin, provided the name for—Poland's 1505 constitutional legislation, Nihil novi, which first transferred governing authority from the monarch to the parliament. It subsequently became a byword for democratic norms. In this use, it is closely analogous to one of the most familiar slogans of the American Revolutionary War, 'No taxation without representation'.[1] It is also a long-standing principle of Hungarian law and foreign policy,[2] and was a cornerstone of the foreign policy of interwar Poland.[3][4]

The term in its English form came into use in disability activism during the 1990s. James Charlton relates that he first heard the term used in talks by South African disability activists Michael Masutha and William Rowland, who had in turn heard the phrase used by an unnamed East European activist at an earlier international disability rights conference. In 1998, Charlton used the saying as title for a book on disability rights.[5] Disability rights activist David Werner used the same title for another book, also published in 1998.[6]

The saying has since moved from the disability rights movement to other interest group, identity politics, and populist movements.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Davies, Norman (1984). Heart of Europe: The Past in Poland's Present. Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ Bentley, R (1860). Hungary, from 1848 to 1860.
  3. ^ Smogorzewski, Kazimierz (1938). "Poland's Foreign Relations". The Slavonic and East European Review. 16 (48): 558–571. JSTOR 4203420.
  4. ^ Kornat, Marek; J Micgiel (2007). "The Policy of Equilibrium and Polish Bilateralism". In P Wandycz (ed.). Reflections on Polish Foreign Policy (PDF). pp. 47–88. ISBN 978-0-9654520-7-6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-08-24. Retrieved 2010-06-22.
  5. ^ Charlton, James I (1998). Nothing About Us Without Us. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22481-7. Retrieved 2010-06-22.
  6. ^ Nothing About Us Without Us: Developing Innovative Technologies For, By and With Disabled Persons, Healthwrights, Palo Alto CA, 1998 ISBN 9780965558532
  7. ^ "Nothing about us without us: Greater, meaningful involvement of people who use illegal drugs". Archived from the original on 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  8. ^ "Nothing About Us Without Us: The Shared Goals of the Harm Reduction and Sex Worker Rights Movements". August 2, 2010. Archived from the original on September 20, 2010. Retrieved August 3, 2010.

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