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Citizens' Assemblies for Democracy in Europe
At the Prague Assembly, members discussed, amended and approved the following proposal (among others) to improve DiEM25’s work and its potential in the coming year. Please evaluate it carefully, especially the amendments compared to the pre-Prague version (highlighted in green), and decide whether this is something DiEM25 should invest its limited energy into.
Citizens' Assemblies for Democracy in Europe
Influencing and Winning (suggestions for campaigns the movement can run or connect to, either local or Europe-wide; other initiatives to confront the Establishment; how to better influence elections and politicians with our agenda etc.)
We request that DiEM25, firstly, help us promote citizens’ assemblies as an integral part of a democratic way out of our Brexit crisis. Many different UK organizations are organizing around this idea at the moment, most of them concentrating on one UK-wide citizens’ assembly. We propose a rolling programme of citizens assemblies to finally give every nation in the UK and also every English region, a voice, and we would like DiEM25 to support this project.
The UK is in the middle of a constitutional crisis unlike any other in modern history. The suspension of parliament by Boris Johnson in the name of democracy was the ultimate paradox in a crisis that has tested the limits of the UK’s political institutions for over 3 years. There are elements on both sides of the Brexit divide that would now sacrifice democracy for their own gain. We believe, on the contrary, that the way out of this crisis must be more democratic than the way in, and this is why we see a defence of the deliberative element of our democracy which is most under attack in our society, in the dual form of a renewal of parliamentary representation, and an investment in popular sovereignty through citizens’ assemblies including the possibility of a permanent citizens assembly as a new house of parliament. This is the only legitimate and truly democratic way forward for the UK.
Citizens’ assemblies are a form of deliberative democracy, and while this is necessarily a slow process, for us this is the only way to bring together Leavers and Remainers, people from all regions and nations of the UK, and people who have been disenfranchised (including migrants, UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK and young people) in a spirit of reconciliation.
How will this proposal help DiEM25 achieve its goals?
This proposal is not only about the UK. On the contrary, we want to draw attention to the potential for citizens’ assemblies to help overcome moments of deep democratic crisis. In the UK, the democratic challenge cannot afford to ignore Brexit, or hope for a solution which doesn’t involve a fundamental overhaul of the UK’s unwritten constitution.
Nevertheless, many countries across Europe are polarised with large populations who feel that they political system they live in is dysfunctional. In this sense, the UK is a contributor to a wider DiEM25 discussion.
Ultimately, Britain’s democratic crisis is only a more extreme version of the kind of democratic crises we are seeing elsewhere in Europe. Supporting a democratic resolution of Brexit also helps us renew our ambitions for rethinking and transforming European democracy as a whole. Having followed closely the British discussions around deliberative democracy, we have no doubts about the potential for citizens’ assemblies to create a more democratic way of engaging people who have been left out of politics. With this proposal, we also want to endorse deliberative democracy as a key part of DiEM25’s campaign strategy from here on, either alongside or as an alternative to DiEM25’s electoral strategy.
How will your proposal be implemented (timeline and steps)?
DiEM25 has a responsibility to critically assess all forms of democracy. Emerging forms of democracy, such as Citizens’ Assemblies, must be assessed in a feedback loop that takes into account knowledge from all stages of a democratic process: from the initial movement that calls for change, through a platform to facilitate deliberation (CA) to political change or implementation and eventual institutionalisation of this form of democracy.
1. Each DiEM25 NC to look into the practice of citizens’ assemblies and deliberative democratic forums in their respective country, and share any useful information about useful institutions and campaigns to be in touch with, as well as experience of best practice. In countries with no NC, the DSC(s) can ally with an NC of their choice. We will seek dialogue and engagement with as many current and pending examples of Citizens’ Assemblies including XR, MeRA25 and the Irish Citizens’ Assembly in the recent abortion debate. We would welcome recommendations of other successful instances of Citizen Assemblies.
2. Thematic DSC’s to be encouraged to set themselves up on this theme, to increase literacy on these mini-publics and how they work in our societies. This can be at the local, regional, national or transnational level, and on whatever themes most matter to people. If we just create an appetite for debate around some of the issues people most care about, we will be paving the way for a better appreciation of citizens’ assemblies, building a new perspective on democracy, and hopefully building our movement too.
3. For DiEM25 to build relationships and contribute to networks of support with existing organizations involved in this field, with a view to construct a list of speakers with practical experience and in-depth knowledge, both within DiEM25 and outside it.
4. For DiEM25 to develop a policy position on Citizens’ Assemblies and deliberative democracy as a part of the European Constitution pillar. DiEM25 should push for Citizens’ Assemblies to be not just advocative but structural, to ensure that Citizens’ Assemblies oblige the executive formally to consider its recommendations.
You will know your proposal has succeeded when:
1. DiEM25 is actively taking part in discussions and campaigns promoting deliberative democracy as a way of addressing important political issues from the ground up across Europe.
2. DiEM25 members are broadly aware of DiEM25’s support for citizens’ assemblies, and can easily find ways to get involved in such campaigns if they wish, or start a DSC on these issues if there isn’t one in their region.
3. Explicit support for citizens’ assemblies campaigns and processes is seen as a serious and legitimate complement to an electoral wing in countries (such as the UK) where DiEM25’s electoral presence is unrealistic.
Should DiEM25 invest energy and resources into this?