Policy matters because policy affects people in very real ways. Civil engagement, activism, and voting all play a role in helping policy better serve people. Here are five good news stories about new policy changes around the world:

1. The House of Representatives voted to federally decriminalize marijuana. The bill, which will almost definitely not be approved by the Senate, would also mandate a reassessment of prior marijuana convictions, invest in services for people caught up in the war on drugs, and open Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses. Despite the likelihood that we won’t see this bill become law, it paves the way for the future.

2. A local government in Japan will become the first city in the country to introduce a partnership system that treats the children of same-sex couples as family. While not legally binding at the national level, the new system will allow same-sex couples in the city to change their relationships from “roommates” to “relatives” in their residence certificates, recognizing them and their children as equivalent to a family.

3. The Bhutan parliament decriminalized homosexuality. (Yes, there are still places where homosexuality is against the law.) The new legislation, pending the king’s approval, will be a human rights victory in the country.

4. On his first day in office, the newly sworn-in Los Angeles County district attorney eliminated cash bail for many offenses and resentenced death row inmates to life in prison. He announced that county prosecutors will no longer seek cash bail for any misdemeanor or non-violent, non-serious felony offenses. Read more about how cash bail disproportionately affects Black and Latinx people here.

5. A new law in the Netherlands automatically gives equal parenting rights to unmarried couples. Previously, a co-parenting partner would have no legal status if, for example, the mother dies. Now unmarried couples have the same legal rights as married couples.

All of these stories are reminders that government matters. Your activism, advocacy, and civil engagement matter — not just during big political elections, but the smaller ones, too, and in the ways we show up every day in our communities to make them better.