A Citizens’ Assembly is like a big jury of citizens set up to deliberate on an issue. A CA may have 50-250 members, selected to be broadly representative of the demographics of the population as a whole. It may meet for just a few weekends or for weeks on end.
CA participants learn about a topic through a combination of presentations from experts and facilitated workshops (although they are also often provided with learning materials that introduce them to the topic being discussed before the Assembly starts). This is followed by a dialogue phase which encourages participants to explore their own opinions on what they have heard and develop a wider understanding of the opinions of others. Experts will usually participate in this phase to provide additional information and clarification (but not opinions). The deliberation phase of the Assembly involves participants coming to some conclusions on what they have learnt through the assembly process. Most large Assemblies will do this through voting systems, but smaller Assemblies might use consensus decision making processes. Citizens’ Assemblies usually tend to be quite high-profile events. The relevant decision makers will often be present at the Assembly allowing citizens to present their findings directly.
A Citizens' Assembly deliberated on Ireland's law prohibiting abortion and in 2018 recommended repeal of the law. Its recommendation was put to the public in a referendum which accepted the proposal.
Ireland's CA has also deliberated on "How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change", although their deliberations were conducted over only 2 weekends.
François de Rugy: "150 citizens will be able to propose a future for the carbon tax" Frédéric Mouchon and Émilie Torgemen; Le Parisien; 18 May 2019
- translated by Google
- The Minister of Ecology, François de Rugy, unveils the operation of an unprecedented body. Composed of 150 French draws, it will be responsible for proposing measures for the climate. A model that could be duplicated in other areas.
- One million endangered species, more and more extreme weather events ... While scientists multiply the warning signs, the government seems (finally) to seize ecological issues . In any case, it is the message he wants to convey, with the creation of two political innovations, of which the Minister of the Ecological Transition, François de Rugy, reveals the operation to us.
- The first is an Ecological Defense Council (CDE), intended to mobilize large ministries and state services around the issue of climate and the protection of biodiversity. The CDE will hold its first meeting Thursday at the Élysée. The second is an assembly of 150 French people drawn by lot , who will start floor next month on our emissions of greenhouse gases. This "Citizen's Convention for the Climate" will be the first participatory democracy exercise in the country!
- Should we believe it? Introducing popular initiative, it was a strong demand for yellow vests and ... Marion Cotillard. Received in February at the Élysée, the actress had whispered the idea to Emmanuel Macron. The director Cyril Dion, who was at his side, does not want this project to become a "gadget". "If the president does not vote any of the proposals by referendum, the red line will be crossed," he warns.
- Launch the first Ecological Defense Council three days before the European elections? The idea makes Yannick Jadot wince: "The strategy is to rake the green vote, not to save the climate," annoys the head of the list Europe Ecology-the Greens. Environmental associations are also on their guard.
- Laurence Tubiana, negotiator at the COP 21, sees in this citizen assembly the opportunity "to catch up with France" at the moment on the fact that "this project should in no way slow down the urgent decisions that are necessary in the mobility sector or buildings such as the ban on the rental of heat seals ". Arnaud Schwartz, of France nature environment, is on the same line: "It should not be a waste of time given the urgency of the situation. "
- What is the Ecological Defense Council meeting for the first time this Thursday?
- FRANÇOIS DE RUGY. The Head of State wants a general mobilization on the questions of climate, of biodiversity and the ecological questions in general: we thus put ourselves in order of march. Instead of having meetings at irregular intervals, with different interlocutors each time, the Ecological Defense Council will meet under the authority of the President of the Republic who calls it, with the Prime Minister and, at least, nine ministers. participating in it permanently.
- It is a Council of Ministers bis somehow?
- No. First, depending on the agenda, other ministers and the directors of government or state operators concerned will also be present. Then, this new council will make it possible to set objectives, to arbitrate concrete decisions and each minister will have to give an account of them.
- What will be the first topics on the table?
- First, the biodiversity plan. The president has said recently to experts around the world: we will take stock and we will see if there are any complementary measures. The same work will be done on the climate plan. Then there will be other topics such as thermal renovation or projects like the Montagne d'Or ( Editor's note: an open pit mine in French Guiana ).
- The Citizen Convention for Climate is the second floor of the rocket. How will it work?
- One hundred and fifty citizens will be drawn. They will represent France in its diversity. There will be French people from the countryside, the city, the North, the South, women, men, representatives of various professional social circles ... The draw will be done by crossing the electoral lists and subscriber lists. phone to mobilize including people who have lost interest in elections.
- What's the calendar ?
- Our goal is to bring this Citizens' Assembly together by the end of next month. The work will then last six months. They will work one weekend out of three and will be paid. We did not want to mobilize them more because they must be able to keep their professional activity and their lives.
- You will be present at the premiere?
- It is not the government that will lead the 150 citizens chosen by lot. On the other hand, if they want to audition me, I'll be happy to show them my copy. They will hear experts on the climate, economists, associations, social economic actors ... who will present the state of the situation but also the impacts, the effectiveness of the various measures.
- What will they deliver after six months?
- At the end of the process, they will have to make choices to propose a coherent package of measures. As long as it stays within the framework, namely to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and that it respects a budgetary responsibility (with each expenditure, it is necessary to create a recipe), there will be no taboo. They will be able to discuss all the levers of actions, dosages between the different levers. Including the carbon tax.
- Is there not a risk of ending up with 150 climatosceptic citizens who would completely question the climate plan?
- It would still be amazing, while a majority of French considers it essential to fight against global warming. In addition, the mission letter is known in advance: the issue of fighting against global warming is not subject to debate. If someone does not want to be part of this, they will obviously not be required to participate. Citizens are not automatically assigned as jury members. They can refuse.
- They could repropose the carbon tax stopped with yellow vests?
- The 150 citizens to propose a future carbon tax. For example, they will be able to determine how the money collected will be used. They could also consider that it is better to have another ecological tax. These citizens may also prefer other levers such as regulation and incentives.
- What will their power be?
- The president announced that their proposals will be either directly implemented, or put to the vote of the Parliament, or to that of the people by referendum.
- How will the citizens agree?
- There will be a methodological support mission that will propose a mode of operation. For example, there could be internal votes by absolute majority. They will also be helped to write their proposals. The goal is not to have yet another catalog of measures in which the government would pick but to have a coherent package, operational, with financing solutions, closer to realities.
- Is this a response to yellow vests?
- It is especially a response to the blockages whereas it is urgent to act quickly and to mobilize the whole society.
- The limitation to 80 km / ha caused an unprecedented discontent. Could this type of file be submitted to a citizens' assembly?
- This assembly that brings together 150 citizens around the climate issue is, for the government, a life-size test that could then be duplicated on other issues . This will be one of the components of the constitutional review.
Oxford City Council is setting up a Citizens' Assembly to examine what the council can do.
Extinction Rebellion Oxford's Zuhura Plummer is involved with the process, and is making a series of videos talking about it:
- Intro to Oxford Citizen Assembly process
- Citizen Assembly Oxford Extinction Rebellion selection process
- Citizens' Assembly UK public participation charity "Involve"
See also the Electoral Reform Society's "What is a Citizens' Assembly"
Wikipedia's "Citizens' Assembly"
- How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change The Citizens' Assembly, Ireland