Citizens Assemblies Around the World
Backed by evidence, powered by people
“People are really appreciative of this. For their whole lives they have been citizens, but they have never been asked to do anything significant to contribute. This feels important.”
—Marcin Gerwin, an expert on citizens’ assemblies and coordinator of the Gdansk citizens’ assemblies
In July, 2020, the OECD has released a phenomenal report called “Innovative Citizen Participation and New Democratic Institutions: Catching the Deliberative Wave”.
The OECD project brought together an ironclad team of practitioners, designers, academics, researchers, civil servants. It examined an awe-inspiring 289 cases around the world of citizens assemblies and citizens juries―to find out what we can learn from their success.
When to Use a Citizens’ Assembly
The experts recommended using deliberative processes for:
- Value-driven dilemmas. Policy issues where there is no clear right and wrong―the goal is to find the common ground.
- Complex problems that require trade offs.
- Long-term issues that go beyond the short-term incentives of electoral cycles. Citizens’ assemblies take political self-interest out of the equation. Participants make decisions based on the public good.
Deliberative processes have been used for decades, but are exploding all over the world since the success of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly. The past year alone, governments in Scotland, Ireland, the UK and France convened assemblies on challenging national policy issues such as climate change.
READ THE REPORT HERE:
A few examples of citizens’ assemblies around the world
100 citizens were to meet between autumn 2019 and spring 2020. This Assembly is still ongoing and meeting virtually due to delays related to COVID-19. They will answer three questions:
- What kind of country are we seeking to build?
- How best can we overcome the challenges Scotland and the world face in the 21st century, including those arising from Brexit?
- What further work should be carried out to give us the information we need to make informed choices about the future of the country?You can follow their work – including watching them live or videos of their plenary sessions!
Citizens’ Assemblies in Ireland have tackled such difficult issues as abortion and developing a climate plan. Currently they are addressing gender equality. The Assembly’s mandate is to recommend proposals to advance gender equality that:
- challenge the remaining barriers and social norms and attitudes that facilitate gender discrimination towards girls and boys, women and men;
- identify and dismantle economic and salary norms that result in gender inequalities, and reassess the economic value placed on work traditionally held by women;
- in particular, seek to ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in the workplace, politics and public life;
- recognise the importance of early years parental care and seek to facilitate greater work-life balance;
- examine the social responsibility of care and women and men’s coresponsibility for care, especially within the family; and
- scrutinise the structural pay inequalities that result in women being disproportionately represented in low pay sectors;
- Following on from the above, to prioritise the proposals, which may include policy, legislative or constitutional change, having regard to the legal requirements and the costs versus the potential impact.
You can follow their work here!
The Citizens’ Assembly on Climate in France (finished in 2020)
Note: You can read about their work – the website is French.
Read a great piece on the Assembly in the Guardian! “In a grandiose 1930s building on the banks of the Seine in Paris, 150 French citizens chosen at random had gathered. Ranging from 16-year-old school pupils to carers, shuttle-bus drivers and retired rail workers, the French president said these ordinary people would define the next phase of his term in power.” “In the coming months, the citizens must draw up a series of far-reaching policies on how France can cut carbon emissions by 40% before 2030. Macron has vowed their policies will then be put to parliament “unfiltered”, transformed into executive decrees or even used as the basis for a referendum.”
The Citizens’ Assembly on democracy in Germany
This was a non-governmental Citizens’ Assembly of 160 citizens to provide feedback to the government, which has promised a commission on democracy. Recommendations are intended “to help politicians find ways out of the current crisis of democratic and strengthen the connection between citizens and the parliamentary system.” The Assembly made 22 recommendations. Learn more here.
The Climate Assembly in the UK (2020)
The Assembly will made recommendations about how the UK can meet its target of net zero emissions by 2050. You can read about their work here!
Other past citizens’ assemblies or similar processes based on the same principles that have occurred in recent years (focusing mainly on larger scale processes or processes dealing with national issues, and far from a comprehensive list!)
AUSTRALIA: A two phase Citizens’ Jury was used to advise the government on the future of nuclear waste storage in Australia.
BELGIUM: The G1000 in Belgium was the largest citizens’ assembly to date. Due to its success, the special Parliament representing Belgium’s German-speaking community voted to form a permanent citizens’ assembly. You can find their website here.
CANADA:The Citizens’ Reference Panel on Pharmacare advised the Canadian federal government on a national pharmacare program.
IRELAND: The Irish Constitutional Convention examined a range of changes to the constitution, including electoral reform. The success of the Constitutional Convention led to the formation of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly, a two year process which advised the government on climate change, an aging population, same sex marriage and abortion.