Citizens’ Assemblies Could Be Democracy’s Best Hope

Article by Hugh Pope: “…According to the OECD, nearly 600 citizens’ assemblies had taken place globally by 2021, almost all in the preceding decade. The number has expanded exponentially since then. In addition to high-profile assemblies that take on major issues, like the one in Paris, they include small citizens’ juries making local planning decisions, experiments that mix elected politicians with citizens chosen by lot, and permanent chambers in city or community governance whose members are randomly selected, usually on an annual basis from the relevant population.

Sortition, also known as democracy by lot, has been used to randomly select citizens’ assemblies in the Philippines, Malawi and Mexico. Citizens’ assemblies were used in the U.S. in 2021 to debate the climate crisis in Washington state and to determine the fate of a fairground in Petaluma, California. Indeed, whereas few people had heard of a citizens’ assembly a few years ago, a late 2020 Pew Research poll found that in the U.S., Germany, France and Britain, three-quarters or more of respondents thought it either somewhat or very important for their countries to convene them.

Though a global phenomenon, the trend is finding the most traction in Europe. Citizens’ assemblies in Germany are “booming,” with over 60 in the past year alone, according to a German radio documentary. A headline in Britain’s Guardian newspaper wondered if they are “the Future of Democracy.” The Dutch newspaper Trouw suggested they may be “the way we can win back trust in politics.” And in France, an editorial in Le Monde called for a greater embrace of “this new way of exercising power and drawing on collective intelligence.”…(More)”.