An increasingly topical and global phenomenon, citizens' assemblies are formed by a randomly selected representative sample of a country’s population, mandated to draw policies on important political and legal issues. In times of severe social polarisation and distrust in political institutions, these formats are increasingly considered by public authorities as tools to restore legitimacy, generate public consent, and sometimes divert from and defuse other forms of political mobilisation.
Be they alternatives to traditional policymaking or complements to ageing representative institutions, these forms of participative and deliberative decision-making contain a promising collaborative potential and are likely to be institutionalised. That is why it is important to critically examine their mechanisms, effects, benefits, and limits.
In the framework of the Assemblies: Modern Rituals project, we have attributed the Evens Research Fellowship to political scientist Dimitri Courant (University of Lausanne and University Paris 8). Courant carries out a comparative study of recent European cases of citizens' assemblies: the French Great National Debate, the Citizens’ Convention for the Climate, and the Irish Citizens’ Assembly. Unprecedented in terms of scale, these nationwide experiments bring important elements to global research on deliberative democracy.
First empirical analyses by Courant have been published in the French review Archives de Philosophie du Droit. The article focuses on the design of these assemblies, the tension between the power of participating citizens and the control by the organisers and experts, as well as the place of these forms of citizen deliberation in our democratic systems. Read the article here