Examples of Citizens’ Assemblies

Citizen’s assemblies have previously been used by governments around the world. They allow governing bodies make progress on complex issues by involving discussion and deliberation amongst a randomly-selected group of participating citizens.

There are many examples in global politics where ordinary citizens are involved in this process, each of which highlight the fact that citizens’ assemblies are an established, legitimate and fully democratic tool for making swift and necessary changes in government.

British Columbia and Ontario, Canada both held citizens’ assemblies to propose replacing their provincial electoral systems in 2004 and 2005 (respectively) 1 2, who were also followed by the Netherlands in 2006 3.

Ireland has implemented citizen’s assemblies for political reform since 2011 and created a citizens’ assembly in 2016 to deliberate on matters of abortion, fixed term parliaments, referendums, population ageing, and climate change 4.

Poland started a citizens’ assembly in 2016 which was purposed to deal with the lack of governmental response to flooding 5.

Belgium started voluntary initiative which invited 1,000 citizens to join an assembly in 2011 to discuss 25 themes which were deemed important through online surveys 6.

The UK recently implemented a citizens’ assembly to tackle issues regarding adult social care 7 and several groups have suggested creating citizens’ assemblies for matters regarding Brexit and Scottish Independence 8 9.

Citizens’ assemblies are an example of sortition – taking random samples of the population to engage in matters of governance. The roots of citizens’ assemblies stem from Athenian Democracy and emphasises the broad participation of constituents – otherwise known as Participatory Democracy, except with an emphasis on deliberation and discourse within the decision-making process. For a deeper discussion on how a proposed Climate Citizens’ Assembly would work in Scotland, read our FAQ.

Through establishing a Climate Citizens’ Assembly, Scotland has the potential to become the global forerunner in democracy and climate action. The proven track record of citizens’ assemblies in allowing democratic participation of ordinary citizens, coupled with their ability to tackle complex issues, means that with enough support we can begin to make the radical changes in government which are necessary to halt the 6th mass extinction.

  1. citizensassembly.arts.ubc.ca/resources/final_report.pdf
  2. www.ontla.on.ca/committee-proceedings/transcripts/files_pdf/2005-10-06_pdfER004.pdf
  3. ww.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199567843.001.0001/acprof-9780199567843
  4. www.citizensassembly.ie/en/
  5. https://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-11-22/solutions-how-the-poles-are-making-democracy-work-again-in-gdansk/
  6. http://www.g1000.org/en/
  7. https://www.involve.org.uk/our-work/our-projects/practice/how-can-we-find-sustainable-solution-funding-adult-social-care
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jan/09/what-is-a-citizens-assembly-brexit-explainer




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