Over the past decade or so, the EU has gradually adopted the concept of ‘human security’ in its support for security andjustice programming. A commitment to human security implies that security and justice strategies and programmesshould proactively seek to take into account and address citizens’ needs and concerns, as primary recipients ofsecurity and justice provision. One way to ensure these requirements are met is to promote public participation in thedesign, implementation and monitoring of security and justice mechanisms.The EU has a number of policies, tools and frameworks which commit its institutions to taking a ‘participatoryapproach’ to programming, including in the areas of security and justice. These commitments are gradually, ifunevenly, being translated into practice. However, research by the Initiative for Peacebuilding (IfP) Security Clusterhas identified a number of institutional, cultural and operational challenges which hinder the understanding anduse of participatory approaches by EU institutions. This paper gives an overview of the challenges faced by EUactors in understanding and using participatory approaches and suggests steps that EU institutions can take to overcome them.