Citizens' assemblies around the world
Citizens’ assemblies and similar approaches such as citizens’ juries are becoming more popular across the world. From local to national level, citizens are becoming part of the decision-making process and having the opportunity to engage in serious, informed reflection on important policy issues.
This page highlights previous and ongoing assemblies and their outcomes.
Climate Assembly UK, 2020
Climate Assembly UK discussed and deliberated on how to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The assembly met in person for the first three weekends. The fourth and final meeting was disrupted by Covid-19 which resulted in it being taken online and split over a further three weekends.
The assembly considered how we use energy, land, materials, and negative emissions technology, with the final report due to be released in September 2020. An interim report has been published, outlining the Assembly’s views on the Covid-19 pandemic and its implications for reaching net-zero. The results showed that:
- 79% of members agreed that, “Steps taken by the government to help the economy recover should be designed to help achieve net-zero”;
- 93% agreed that, “As lockdown eases, government, employers and/or others should take steps to encourage lifestyles to change to be more compatible with reaching net-zero.”
Convention Citoyenne pour le Climate, France 2020
The Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat considered “How to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in France by at least 40% (in relation to 1990’s levels) by 2030, in the spirit of social justice?”. The members were split into five groups covering transport, food, consumption, work, and production and housing.
With many citizens’ assemblies, policy-makers are only required to consider recommendations but are under no obligation to enact them after this consideration. However, the Convention has a direct line to policy-making. Proposals put forward by the Convention will either be directly enacted, put to a national referendum, or put to a parliamentary vote.
Assembly members voted on the assembly’s final proposals in April 2020. Foremost among these was criminalising ecocide – the destruction of nature deliberately or by negligence. Members were 99% in favour of this proposal, with 63% in favour of putting it to a national referendum.
Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland, 2019-2020
The Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland is ongoing and seeks to address three questions:
- What kind of country are we seeking to build?
- How best can we overcome the challenges Scotland and the world face in the 21st century, including those arising from Brexit?
- What further work should be carried out to give us the information we need to make informed choices about the future of the country?
- The Assembly intended to meet six times between October 2019 and April 2020, however the final two meetings have been postponed due to Covid-19. Following the example set by the French and UK climate assemblies, the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland plans to reconvene online later this year.
National Assembly for Wales, 2019
Welsh citizens came together to form an assembly on how people in Wales can shape their future. Members discussed what areas they felt were working well in Wales and also what key challenges they felt they faced. A prominent focus was how can the public engage with decision makers at the National Assembly. Interestingly, an overwhelming majority of participants agreed that citizens’ assemblies should be used in the future.
Citizens’ Assembly on Social Care, England 2018
The Citizens’ Assembly on Social Care considered how adult social care should be funded in England. The Assembly put forward a number of principles needed to guide social care funding arrangements, including being fair and universal. The Assembly proposed social care should be publicly funded and outline set of arrangements that would cap private financing. The findings from the Assembly later influenced the work of the Government’s Green Paper.
Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit, UK 2017
The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit faced the challenge of addressing what the UK’s post-Brexit relations with the European Union should be, focusing on trade and migration. On trade, members preferred a bespoke trade deal and a customs union that would allow the UK to conduct its own international trade policy while maintaining a frictionless UK/EU border. On migration, the Assembly voted to retain free movement of labour, but with the UK government exercising all available controls to prevent abuse of the system. Members decided if a deal cannot be reached, it preferred to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union to no deal at all.
The Citizens’ Assembly, Republic of Ireland 2016 - 2018
The Citizens’ Assembly of Ireland considered five separate issues, the ban on abortion, aging population, fixed term parliaments, referendums, and climate change. One of the Assembly’s most significant recommendations was to repeal the ban on abortion, a politically contentious issue at the time. Of the Assembly members, 64% voted in favour of “terminations without restrictions”. This was reflected in a national referendum, in which the wider society also voted in favour of legalising abortion, with a 66.4% majority.
Convention on the Constitution, Republic of Ireland 2012
The Convention on the Constitution (similar to a citizens’ assembly), deliberated nine issues of which three have been put to referendum. Two took place in 2015, to legalise same-sex marriage and to reduce the age of eligibility for presidency from 35 to 21. The marriage equality legislation was passed by a majority of 62.1%. In 2018, a third referendum passed to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.