CONTEXT AND GOALS
The Assembly is a response to the conclusions of the Grand Débat National, and was launched in a mission statement from the Prime Minister on July 2, 2019.
The Assembly is overseen by a governance committee, technical and legal experts and professionals experienced in collective discussion and participatory democracy. Three guarantors ensure the neutrality and sincerity of the debates. It is organized by the CESE (the French economic, social, and environmental council), a constitutionally independent institution.
“Our role is to provide the citizens with high-quality information, to ensure the smooth running and independence of the debates and to help them formulate their proposals, but the citizens are the people who will write the outcome of this Assembly.
Joint chairman of the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate
The deliberative process is led by a coalition (Eurogroup, Missions Publiques and Res publica) whose aim is to help the 150 participants achieve progress together, access a diverse array of information, and formulate their proposals jointly.
The governance committee first received strategic and methodological support to determine the criteria for the random draw (produced by Harris Interactive), the logical progression of the sessions, and the facilitation methods (during and between sessions). There was then more tangible guidance on methodology to make sure that the sessions gave all the citizens the chance to express themselves, to learn more and to hear from stakeholders before building their collective viewpoints.
Missions Publiques and our partners make sure that the sessions held at the CESE (plenary sessions and thematic groups) run smoothly and we also facilitate the intersessional work via webinars and the digital platform (Jenparle). This means that the 150 participants can stay in touch with one another and make progress with the process on an equal footing as possible. There is also individualized follow-up of the participants to make sure they all remain fully on-board regardless of how confident they are with the digital tools.
OUR ADDED VALUE
In many respects, this approach is unprecedented in France and Europe. Firstly, given its duration and its depth: the Citizens’ Assembly, made up of 150 citizens, comes together at six sessions lasting two and a half days and spread over more than 8 months.
Secondly, because the participants are asked to answer an urgent and complex question: “How can greenhouse gas emissions be reduced by at least 40% by 2030, in a spirit of social justice?” The citizens are tackling issues that are important but divisive in French society and need to come up with viable and socially acceptable solutions.
“Citizens have asked for more democracy because they do not simply want to be the people who respect laws: they now want to take part in developing laws themselves.
President of the French Republic
Thirdly, the Assembly in underpinned by a strong and assertive commitment from the Government, which “will respond publicly to the proposals emanating from the Citizens’ Assembly*”. This commitment to transparency, and to considering and following up on citizens’ recommendations is unprecedented at the national level (and still exceedingly rare more locally).
Finally, the initiative is unique in terms of the level of media coverage and public accountability (the sessions that take place in the CESE amphitheater are open to the public). A high number of French and foreign researchers have come to observe the sessions and the workings of the event.
The Assembly is engineered with its members and is giving rise to a series of innovative methodologies: members of the Assembly sit on the governance committee (chosen by random draw and taking turns), while members’ requests are given full consideration and used to make significant changes to the session agendas, the intersession procedures, and so on.
*Letter from Prime Minister Edouard Philippe
This project will lead to proposals for legislative or regulatory measures or referendum ideas drafted by citizens (originally planned for April 2020 but postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic).