What is a citizens’ assembly?

MAP/INTERNAL MENU

1) What is a Citizen’s Assembly
2) Explanation in a nutshell
3) Progress Around the World
4) What is the UK’s progress so far?
5) Introductory guide to Citizens Assemblies
6) More about Citizens’ Assemblies
7) Further learning

1) What is a Citizen’s Assembly [Video 1.1mins]

Citizens Assemblies (=CAs) are a key mechanism of what is known as deliberative democracy or participatory democracy

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2) Explanation in a nutshell [2-3mins read]

Series of Honeycomb images showing the stages in a citizens' assembly.

 

There are many different models of ‘deliberative democracy’, but one thing they all share is putting people at the centre of decision making. Every form of deliberative democracy involves everyday citizens like you and me discussing an issue in order to come up with suggestions or solutions together.

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3) Progress Around the World

This section presents examples of citizens’ assemblies or similar deliberative democratic processes around the globe, these can be at a local, regional and national level.

USA, Texas [Video 3.3mins]

America in One Room was a deliberative democracy project where a group of voters selected from diverse backgrounds formed an assembly over a few days to explore and discuss critical issues facing the US. It was a historic moment. Click on the video link and scroll to the 3 minute video.

America in One Room

Ireland [Video 16mins]

Since 2012, two Irish citizens’ assemblies, deliberating several issues each, have been held to break political deadlock on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and climate change. This video shows the process of citizens deliberating over the sensitive issue of abortion.

Poland

In 2016, the Polish city of Gdansk was struck by major flooding, killing two people and causing millions of euros in damage. Experts warned that climate change would only increase the frequency of such extreme rainfall events. In response to the disaster, the mayor agreed to organise a citizens’ assembly, bringing together about 60 residents to hear expert testimony and design their own solutions. To promote transparency, the final stage of the random selection process was carried out by a die-roll that was live streamed. The mayor attended the start of the assembly and informed participants that decisions with at least 80% support among its members would be enacted in law. In 2017, the city flooded again, however, the municipality was able to respond effectively, thanks in part to the resolutions passed by the assembly. Further citizens’ assemblies followed which addressed pollution, civic engagement and LGBT rights. The 350,000 adults living in Gdansk are able to request a citizens’ assembly by collecting 1,000 signatures. If the number of signatures reaches 5,000, the mayor is obliged to run a citizens’ assembly on the proposed topic.

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4) What is the UK’s progress so far?

Scottish Citizen Assembly (happening now)
  • – Good stepping stone
  • – Our opinion: It is NOT independent from the Government because civil servants are able to influence the process

Website for the Scottish Citizens’ Assembly on Climate

XR Scotland on the Climate Assembly

Climate Assembly UK (CA UK) (Early 2020)
  • Good stepping stone, good recommendations made
  • Click here to take you to their website
  • Our opinion: No ecological urgency, insufficient agenda, plus from the start the Government had no obligation to review it so its outcome is being ignored

Website for the Climate Assembly UK

More on the our view on the Climate Assembly UK

Local initiatives in deliberate processes
The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill

This Bill calls for:

  • The UK to make and enact a serious plan
  • Include our entire carbon footprint
  • The protection and conservation of nature
  • A plan which does not rely on technology that does not yet exist
  • A Citizens’ Assembly

The CEE Bill website.

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5) Introductory guide to Citizens Assemblies [28 pages PDF]

The Citizens’ Assembly Working Group have produced the Extinction Rebellion Guide to Citizens’ Assemblies which is a good introduction to the subject and also contains further reading recommendations.

Download the Guide.

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6) More about Citizens’ Assemblies [14 short 1-2 mins videos]

Click on the series of very short videos where Manuel Arriage answers questions such as Why is Extinction Rebellion calling for Citizens’ Assemblies? And how do Citizens’ Assemblies relate to the global climate emergency?

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7) Further learning

Our Frequently Asked Questions will hopefully provide even more insight but another way to learn more is to attend our regular educational presentations. The latest events are announced on our Latest Talks page. You can also join our mission to raise awareness and educate people about citizens’ assemblies by joining our Citizens assembly advocate network (CAAN).

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