On February 25, 2019 the Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft Belgien (DG) Parliament of the small German-speaking region of Eupen, Belgium passed the use of a Permanent Sortition program for the upcoming election.
Problems and Purpose
On February 25, 2019, a small German speaking region of Belgium located in Eupen adopted the use of a Permanent Sortition program for the upcoming election. Concerned with the strength of citizen deliberative processes in policy making, the Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft Belgian (DG) Parliament asked the G1000 and the Foundation for Future Generations for help.
Background History and Context
In the 1960s, Belgium was separated into four distinct linguistic regions which in 1973 became three regions with political autonomy: the Flemish, French, and German-speaking regions, with the German-speaking region being the easternmost region.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The G1000 with the Foundation for Future Generations gathered a group of experts in Belgium to create a model for a permanent citizen intitiative for policy making. In July 2018, experts from Belgium and international sources gathered in Eupen and created a model for the Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft Belgien (DG) Parliament. The model included three parts: a citizens council (CC), citizen assemblies (CA), and a permenant secretariat (PS). The model broke down each part as well as what the cost would be for the entire model. The CC was estimated to cost 32,000 euros. The CA was estimated to cost 23,102 euros and the PS was estimated to cost 19,002 euros yearly. When the model was accepted by the DG, the DG approved a starting budget of 140,000 euros for the program.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Selection for the CC and CA will be random. The citizens will be randomly mailed and of those who respond, a selection of 24 with a diverse background over the age of 17 will be chosen for the CC. Another 25-50 will then be selected the same way for the CA. The size of the CA will be determined by members of the Citizen Council. The Permanent Secretariat will be a full time employee of the parliament selected specifically for that position.
Methods and Tools Used
The model accepted by the Parliament will include three parts: The Citizens Council, the Citizens Assemblies, and the Permanent Secretariat.
The Citizens Council will be one set of 24 randomly selected citizens that will serve for 18 months. The Citizens Assembly will be a randomly selected group of citizens varying in size from 25 to 50 citizens as decided by the CC. Both are deliberative bodies charged with proposing, discussing, and voting on recommendations to various topics and issues of public interest.
The Permenant Secretariat will provide logistical assistance to the council and assembly.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The Citizens Council will serve for 18 months and choose topics and set the agenda for the Citizens Assemblies for each year. Topics will usually be around matters of public interest such as education and aid. Members of the public outside the council can recommend topics if they gather 100 signatures. The Citizens Assembly will meet a maximum of three times each year to discuss topics set by the CC. After a 4/5 majority vote on each topic, the CA will give recommendations to the DG parliament.
Overseeing the process is the Permanent Secretariat, charged with managing the budget and providing other logistical assistance, such as assigning people to CA's, recruiting facilitators, and organizing catering and facilities.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Recommendations on each of the topics will be sent by the two citizen bodies to Parliament which is obligated to discuss those that reach a 4/5 majority support in the citizen assembly. The Parliament is also obligated to provide justification for its decision to follow or reject the proposals.
The full influence, outcome, and effects of this model has not been examined as the model has just only been accepted by the parliament and will first see its implementation in the upcoming fall 2019 elections.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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