It is obvious that we are facing a series of unprecedented environmental challenges: climate change, declining biodiversity, alarming levels of pollution. Despite warnings from scientists about the state of health of our planet (and ours), we are faced with a standstill at institutional level. Is our democracy also in crisis? And could it be a key element in helping us emerge from these crises?
The idea of a citizens' assembly is gaining ground, both at home and elsewhere in Europe. In Ireland, citizens managed to settle the abortion issue through such a body. In France, President Macron has launched a citizens' convention on climate change. The citizens of the Netherlands have just made the same appeal to their government. And the German-speaking region of Belgium can boast of having established the world's first permanent people's assembly.
At the federal level, three proposals for citizens' assemblies on the environmental emergency are on the table. Each proposal wants to involve not only a panel of "general public citizens", representing the diversity of the population, but also people from associations, different economic sectors, trade unions and the academic world:
- The Citizens' Parliament, supported by a coalition of more than thirty association movements.
- Transition Forum, supported by more than thirty organizations and individuals from three different sectors (academia, business and non-profit)
- A third proposal, initiated by the Resilient Management Group (as part of the Sophia Plan supported by more than 100 scientists and 182 companies of the KAYA coalition).
This topic is currently being discussed in a Senate Committee on "Democratic Renewal and Citizenship", which met in the first half of 2020 and whose mission was to reflect on "the need to modernize our democratic system by complementing representative democracy with more citizen participation in decision-making at the different levels of power as well as in society." At the federal level, the majority agreement makes this topic one of its priorities under the title "Democratic renewal" (see report of the formateurs Paul Magnette & Alexander De Croo, pp. 70-72).
Focusing on one of the three proposals - that of a "Citizens' Parliament" - this webinar will give the floor to the different actors involved in this proposal and will allow for an open debate with participants from all walks of life.