Why Citizens’ Assemblies ?

The failure of our current political system

Our government is failing to respond to the growing climate change crisis. Political participation through citizens’ assemblies adds, for the duration of the mandate, a complementary decision-making body to Parliament. Such an assembly sets up a breath in a parliamentary mechanism forced by the rhythm of the electoral cycle to give priority to short-term decision-making. It also allows a better representation of the interests of every groups of the population, within the arenas of power. The climate emergency requires responses based on a long-term vision and that take into consideration the situation of the entire population.

A Citizens’ Assembly is representative

Unlike existing power bodies, a citizens’ assembly is constituted through a selection process that makes it representative of society. Participants are randomly selected from the general population, according to demographic criteria such as gender, age, ethnocultural heritage, level of education, place of residence, etc. The participants are chosen at random from the entire population. Why is the representativeness of a power body important? When certain categories of the population are over-represented, decision-making is mechanically oriented towards defending their own interests at the expense of those of the rest of the community. This is simply because if those in power do not resemble the governed, it is difficult for them to “think, feel, reason and act like the rest of society” (Van Reybrouck, 2014, p.101).

A Citizens’ Assembly is independent

The process by which citizens’ assemblies function is constructed in such a way that external actors have difficulty influencing the decision-making process. Assembly participants are thus able to make decisions based solely on their own informed views, their values and their idea of public policy for the common good. Thus, the citizens’ assembly must be set up by the government but is not dependent on it.

The decision-making is long-term orientated

Participants in the citizens’ assembly are not chosen to represent political parties and are not pressed for re-election. Freed from these constraints, the members of the (mini-public) assembly build their own point of view by taking into account their future, that of their family and their loved ones. 

Everyone’s voice is heard

During the deliberation phase, the members of the assembly meet around round tables and discuss their positions together. Facilitators ensure that everyone can speak and that no one dominates the conversation. This is to ensure that all points of view are heard. In addition, suggestions from the audience can also be included in the discussions.

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