I’ve been asked how a CA would be democratic. I explained that it would be recommending action, thus reducing the burden on government but that didn’t address the question really. I’ve read about how a CA should be formed but not how it maintains a mandate.
thanks for joining us and asking a very important question about Citizens’ Assemblies!
Your question forces me to go back to the general concept of Democracy and the terminology behind it. Democracy in itself just means the “will of the people” and doesn’t necessarily make any reference to how the will of the people is translated into action. Elections are one form of (representative) democracy, which is the most popular and most practiced form of democracy we find across the globe, but it doesn’t mean it is the only possible form of democracy.
The vast majority of democratic process in today’s world are based on the concept of representative democracy. [The only exception may be referenda, which however are limited to simple yes-no questions and are therefore often criticized for their lack of ability to compromise or explore details of complex issues.] The idea of representative democracy is based on the problem that in any large community of people (town / state / nation) we have to give power to a smaller number of people who will make decisions that represent the interests and opinions of everybody else. In electoral democracy, citizens elect politicians to represent their interests, whereas in the Sortition (i.e. the concept behind Citizens’ Assemblies) the representatives are selected randomly from the people. It is assumed that a sufficiently-large random sample of the population is representative enough to make good decisions in the interest of all people.
In that sense, Citizens’ Assemblies are a democratic process, as they yield decisions made in the interest of all people but are clearly achieved in a different way to how eg Parliament works.
In the majority of to-date examples, a Citizens’ Assembly only has an advisory role and the final decision rests with the elected representatives. There are however also experiments in eg Belgium or Spain where a body of randomly-selected citizens is given the power to make decisions itself (see links below).
Does this answer your question?
Most citizen assembly experiments today are only consultatives. In the end, it is always the elected representatives who have the last word, except in a few cases,such as in Ireland, where referendums are used.
The only experience of a permanent assembly that has just been set up is in the Parliament of the German community of Belgium.
On the other hand, there are many citizen proposals for permanent assemblies, for exemple :
In France :