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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Deliberative Democracy and Citizen Assemblies

Since the 1980s, a wave of such citizens’ assemblies has been building, and it has been gaining momentum since 2010. Over the past four decades, hundreds of thousands of people around the world have received invitations from heads of state, ministers, mayors and other public authorities to serve as members of over 500 citizens’ assemblies and other deliberative processes to inform policy making. Important decisions have been shaped by everyday people about 10-year, $5 billion strategic plans, 30-year infrastructure investment strategies, tackling online hate speech and harassment, taking preventative action against increased flood risks, improving air quality, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and many other issues.


While the Parisian Citizens’ Assembly stands out for the extent of its competencies, it is not the only example of citizen representation and deliberation being institutionalized. In my recent OECD policy paper, I have outlined eight models of institutionalization, with examples spanning the globe and levels of government, from Bogotá to Toronto, Oregon to Brussels, Vorarlberg to New South Wales, Victoria, and more. Reflections in more places are taking place.


Other models including standing citizens’ advisory panels, such as the two-year Toronto Planning Review Panel, where residents are chosen by lot to provide input on planning issues after an initial series of learning sessions. In Brussels, the Austrian state of Vorarlberg and in numerous Polish cities, regulations give citizens the right to trigger the establishment of a citizens’ assembly if a petition collects enough signatures. The Australian state of Victoria has taken yet another path by embedding representative deliberative processes in local strategic planning through its Local Government Act 2020.