Citizens’ Democracy press release on the first national Citizens Assembly – 7.11.22
Fresh impetus for food policy through more dialogue and democracy
The first Citizens’ Council is an important pilot project that demonstrates the potential of Citizens’ Councils to speed up the democratic search for solutions. Citizens’ Democracy was involved in the accompanying research and supported Collaboratio Helvetica in the process design with its expertise to enable an optimal and independent process.
The final weekend of the first national Citizens’ Council took place on 5-6 November 2022. Over a period of 6 months, the participants worked on Swiss food policy – an issue where there has been a political stalemate for a long time, preventing the urgently needed transformation of our food system. The Citizens’ Council is made up of a cross-section of Swiss residents who were selected in a clearly defined lottery procedure. On the basis of five themes – social, economic, health, production and environment – the Citizens’ Council addressed the question based on the 2030 Agenda: “What should a food policy for Switzerland look like that makes healthy, sustainable, animal-friendly and fairly produced food available to all people by 2030?”. The Citizens’ Council defined a total of 53 goals, with 137 recommendations, 126 of which were accepted by more than 50% of those voting in favour.
Some of the recommendations are very progressive and go far beyond current legislation, while other recommendations confirm already existing guidelines. The big question that remains is how the goals and recommendations of the Citizens’ Council will now be taken up by politicians and implemented accordingly. The political leaders were cautiously positive until the end, but have largely refrained from definite agreements on implementation. The experiences of the participants and the final vote show the success of a dialogue-based and deliberative search for solutions to complex problems. It would also be desirable to remunerate the participants, to have mixed-language thematic groups and more physical meetings.
How Citizens’ Councils can strengthen democracy in Switzerland
In the following year, Citizens’ Democracy will communicate more concretely about the first national Citizens’ Council and the most important findings. Citizen’s Democracy is committed to strengthening the direct democratic process in Switzerland. In view of the increasingly complex crises facing our society, the question arises as to how grassroots democratic decisions can be taken better and independently of individual interests, with the well-being of the population at the centre. Citizens’ assemblies should be introduced as a new political instrument for the population and possibly also for parliament. If possible, the recommendations should then be adopted in a referendum for final approval.
Media contact: Alexandra Gavilano, 0788217613, Accompanying Research and Process Design
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