Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are associated with long-term complications that can be prevented or delayed by intensive glycaemic management. People who are empowered and skilled to self-manage their diabetes have improved health outcomes. Over the past 20 years, diabetes self-management education programmes have been shown to be efficacious and cost-effective in promotion and facilitation of self-management, with improvements in patients' knowledge, skills, and motivation leading to improved biomedical, behavioural, and psychosocial outcomes. Diabetes self-management education programmes, developed robustly with an evidence-based structured curriculum, vary in their method of delivery, content, and use of technology, person-centred philosophy, and specific aims. They are delivered by trained educators, and monitored for quality by independent assessors and routine audit. Self-management education should be tailored to specific populations, taking into consideration the type of diabetes, and ethnic, social, cognitive, literacy, and cultural factors. Ways to improve access to and uptake of diabetes self-management programmes are needed globally.