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. In its modern form, this often involves national, ethnic, disability-based, or other groups that are often 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. The slogan also gained popularity during World War II when the Munich Agreement was signed without the presence of Czechoslovakia.

It is also a long-standing principle of Hungarian law and foreign policy,[1] and was a cornerstone of the foreign policy of interwar Poland.[2][3]

The phrase formed part of the title of Krzysztof Kieślowski's 1972 documentary Workers '71: Nothing About Us Without Us (Polish: Robotnicy '71: Nic o nas bez nas).[4][5][6]

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 [7]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.[8] Disability rights activist David Werner used the same title for another book, also published in 1998.[9] In 2004, the United Nations used the phrase as the theme of International Day of Persons with Disabilities[10] and it is also associated with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.[11]

Use of this slogan has expanded beyond the disability rights community to other interest groups and movements.[12][13] In 2021, the World Health Organization published a eponymous guide recommending that children and adolescents be involved in the decision-making process for health-related policies that affect young people.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Szemere, Bertalan (1860). Hungary, from 1848 to 1860. London: Richard Bentley. p. 173.
  2. ^ Smogorzewski, Kazimierz (1938). "Poland's Foreign Relations". The Slavonic and East European Review. 16 (48): 558–571. JSTOR 4203420.
  3. ^ Kornat, Marek; Micgiel, J. (2007). "The Policy of Equilibrium and Polish Bilateralism". In Wandycz, P. (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.
  4. ^ Haltof, Marek (2004). The cinema of Krzysztof Kieślowski: variations on destiny and chance. Directors' cuts (1. publ ed.). London: Wallflower Press. pp. 11–12, 22, 28, 36, 48. ISBN 978-1-903364-91-8.
  5. ^ Kieślowski, Krzysztof (1995). Stok, Danusia (ed.). Kieślowski on Kieślowski (paperback edit. first publ ed.). London: Faber and Faber. pp. 54–57, 81, 126, 136, 242. ISBN 978-0-571-17328-0.
  6. ^ Cummings, Doug (2007-08-27). "Kieslowski, Krzysztof – Senses of Cinema". Retrieved 2024-01-25.
  7. ^ "The Nth Degree Catalog: Advocacy Shirts". 2002-08-06. Retrieved 2024-03-16.
  8. ^ Charlton, James I. (1998). Nothing About Us Without Us. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22481-7. Retrieved 2010-06-22.
  9. ^ Healthwrights (1998). Nothing About Us Without Us: Developing Innovative Technologies For, By and With Disabled Persons. Palo Alto CA. ISBN 9780965558532.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  10. ^ "International Day of Disabled Persons 2004 | United Nations Enable". Archived from the original on 2017-03-10.
  11. ^ Harpur, Paul (2017). Nothing About Us Without Us: The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.245. ISBN 978-0-19-022863-7.
  12. ^ "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.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ ""Nothing about us, without us"". Retrieved 2023-11-25.

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