Citizens, Assemble! Deliberative Democracy in 3 Minutes

Citizens, Assemble! Deliberative Democracy in 3 Minutes


After decades of expansion of democracy,
cracks have begun to appear. Today, in country after country
we are seeing people lose faith in democracy. There is declining trust in politicians
and increased polarization. Instead of democratic debate and compromise, people are hunkering down in their positions
and talking past each other. Some countries have turned inward and many citizens dismiss
factual reporting and expert opinion. Others have put their faith in strongmen
unconcerned with democratic principles who promise to solve their problems. Democracy is struggling to meet these challenges. But this form of governance
has been around for thousands of years, constantly evolving and adapting
to the needs of society. Is it time for democracy to evolve again? Some countries are experimenting
with new forms of governance. Canada, Australia and Iceland have tried putting together deliberative mini-publics to discuss national issues. But what are these? And how are they new? Well, democracy can be done in many different ways. We are most familiar with representative democracy, where citizens vote for politicians
to represent their interests in parliament. On the other end of the spectrum is direct democracy, with referendums held to decide major issues. Deliberative mini-publics are somewhere in the middle. It’s an assembly of citizens, demographically representative of the larger population, brought together to learn and deliberate on a topic in order to inform public opinion and decision-making. These forums create space for regular people
to discuss different sides of an issue. They invite real dialogue while drawing the rest of the country in to listen
to their fellow citizens debate. One version is particularly exciting. Since 2016, Ireland has been working
on a citizens assembly – a model where 99 randomly selected individuals,
under the guidance of a chairperson, take time out of their weekends
to talk about tough issues – climate change, abortion and constitutional reform. Disagreements occur, but after roundtable discussions
and consultations with experts, the group finds a consensus,
and submits their recommendations
to the Irish Parliament. But is it working? Do people feel like their voice is being heard? Are countries with
these kinds of deliberative mini-publics making policies that resonate with citizens? We went to Ireland to find out. Our team talked to everyone
from scholars, politicians and members of civil society to your average guy and gal at the Irish pub. If you’re interested in what they had to say,
check out our podcast! And if you’re further interested in the topic,
check out our findings on the link below.

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    Bruce Thorpe

    lots of unqualified generalisations , democracy, if it means every adult having equal vote is not an historically common form of politics. Lots of meetings for decision making have worked along the lines of a majority support, but in most occasions the meeting is not widely representative of all members of society. Even greek democracy was only male free citizens, and recent times have been the most democratic. I quite like the idea of representation by lot, to committeees/workshops which then weight the information of experts and proponents of a particular solution, but there would be plenty of rogue selections.

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