Citizens’ Climate Assembly in Westminster City

It is interesting to consider why allotted assemblies for discussing and making recommendations regarding climate policies, and in particular at the municipal level, are such a widespread phenomenon. The City of Westminster in London is about to hold one of those as well.

Westminster Citizens’ Climate Assembly

We are holding the Citizens’ Climate Assembly across June and July 2023 because we are committed to improving the representation of residents’ views in how we tackle the climate emergency.

50 Westminster residents will be selected at random to attend assembly sessions and address the following issue:

How can we overcome the main barriers to Westminster becoming a net zero city by 2040 together? How do we ensure this is delivered in the fairest way?

Members will attend four sessions between June and July 2023 to learn about climate issues, discuss them and make recommendations.

These recommendations will then be reported to the council and will inform an updated version of our Climate Emergency Action Plan.

Westminster informs those interested in participating that this is an invitation-only event:

If you haven’t receive a postal invitation you can’t apply to be an assembly member.

There are lots of other ways to be involved in opportunities across Westminster. Find out more about Our Westminster.

Keep up to date with the Citizens’ Climate Assembly by signing up to the Environment Newsletter and visiting this webpage which will be updated throughout the assembly process.

Random citizens’ panel to advise on German food policy

Julia Dahm writes in EURACTIV Germany about the decision by the German parliament to convene an allotted body to “bring the citizens’ perspective into the political debate” about food policy. Even at this early stage (the proposal was only adopted a few days ago), it seems all the expected elements of such a situation – familiar from the going-ons around the French Citizen Climate Convention, for example – are there: a government elected promising to act on a certain set of do-good principles, established powers pushing against any change, conservatives claiming that citizen assemblies are a sign of weakness and a shirking of authority, and the inevitable suspicions and accusation of manipulation by the organizers.

The German parliament has decided to launch a panel of randomly selected citizens set to advise lawmakers on food and nutrition policies, in an effort to help navigate the thorny issue of the state interfering in dietary choices.

The motion to set up a citizens’ panel on diets and nutrition had been tabled by the three government parties – the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens, and the Liberals (FDP) – and was adopted by the Bundestag on Wednesday evening (10 May).

The first-ever citizens’ council put in place by the German parliament s set to “focus on the radical dietary changes that are already taking place in our day-to-day” and should “bring the citizens’ perspective into the political debate”.
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Sortition Foundation answers criticism regarding the Herefordshire Climate Assembly

Tom Lord, the director of the Sortition Foundation, responds in a letter to the editor of the Hereford Times to an earlier letter to the editor claiming that the makeup of the Herefordshire Climate Assembly, whose members were selected by the Sortition Foundation, was biased.

This is how we chose Herefordshire Climate Assembly members

FRANK Myers raises concerns (Who are they? April 22) that participants in the Herefordshire Citizens’ Climate Assembly had preconceived ideas about climate change.

The reason that over 80 per cent of participants had preexisting concerns about climate change is simply because that reflects the broader population’s views at the time, according to national statistics gathered every three months.

This issue of the potential for some people to be more likely to sign up than others is exactly why we asked people about their existing opinion about climate change when registering.
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Another Herefordshire citizen council letter to the editor

The Herefordshire citizen council for the climate has been the subject of a couple of critical letters to the editor of the Hereford Times last year. In a new letter, Frank Myers MBE from Ross-on-Wye is critical of the process as well, and in particular is unhappy about the fact that the identities of the members of the council are not made public.

Why won’t Herefordshire Council name Climate Assembly members?

LAST year a Citizen’s Climate Assembly was formed. Some 50 or so members were recruited and each were paid £300 for their participation.

The group was chosen, with the help of the infamous Sortition Foundation, in such a way that almost 90 per cent had preconceived concerns about climate change.

As we approach the local elections I think it is important to know how many of these people have put themselves forward for election for posts where they are paid nothing.

So I asked Herefordshire Council for their names and the council refused to disclose them.

So we are not allowed to know but Councillor Ellie Chowns, the leader of the Greens, who chaired the foundation proceedings, obviously knows their identity and has had the opportunity to share the Green message with them.

Is this democracy?

Beaudet: Let us push the frontiers of democracy

Thierry Beaudet is the President of the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE), the body which organized the French allotted bodies which discussed environmental policy and end-of-life policy. He has now published a book in which he advocates the use of sortition as a tool of democracy. The book is described by the publisher as follows:

The trappings of our democracy are falling apart: elections are no longer adequate for the task, and there is general distrust toward every authority and every power. Facing this crisis, new political practices assert themselves, practices which engage and refer to the citizen body. Citizen participation, still in its beginning in our country, must develop, through sortition, the exercising of collective deliberation, the systematic collaborative construction of public policy. Thierry Beaudet, the President of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, proposes that we learn how to remake democracy and to discuss together substantive issues rather than keep rehashing divisions in a vacuum.

The Times alarmed about the radical proposals of the Sortition Foundation

The Times writes:

Group that wants to abolish MPs wins government cash

Even Extinction Rebellion believes the Sortition Foundation’s ideas are too radical

The taxpayer has been funding a group that campaigns for the end of parliamentary democracy and which even Extinction Rebellion considers to be too radical.

The Sortition Foundation has provided recruitment services for parliament and other governmental bodies, helping them to organise “citizens’ assemblies” that are used to inform decision makers on issues such as climate change.

Participants are paid to take part and chosen through a process of “stratified random selection” so that assemblies, made up of between 20 to 200 people, are representative of communities in the UK and can be used to guide government policy.

The not-for-profit company was awarded £26,000 by the Department for Environment, was among the beneficiaries of a £120,000 contract from the House of Commons and received £10,000.

Electoral body members selected via sortition in Mexico

A sortition procedure was used in Mexico to select the president and three council members of the Mexican National Electoral Institute, reports Mexico News Daily:

[Guadalupe Taddei Zavala] will replace Lorenzo Córdova at the helm of Mexico’s electoral agency next week after her name was drawn out of a transparent lottery box in the Chamber of Deputies in the early hours of Friday morning.

If that sounds like an unusual way to appoint the country’s electoral chief, that’s because it is.

Party leaders decided to use sortition – also known as selection by lottery and selection by lot – to elect the new INE president and three new electoral councilors since none of the candidates had the support of the required two-thirds of lawmakers in the lower house of Congress.

An agreement between the parties that would have allowed that level of support for four consensus candidates never materialized. As a result, sortition was used to elect an INE president and councilors for the first time.

The Morena party, which along with its allies has a simple majority in the Chamber of Deputies, were likely happy to resort to drawing lots because the majority of the 20 candidates for the four positions – all of whom were nominated by a “technical committee” earlier this month – are close to their party, the newspaper El País reported.

A democratic rock bottom

Guillaume Drago, a law professor at Université Panthéon-Assas Paris II writes [original in French] the following in the Catholic monthly journal La Nef.

A democratic rock bottom

It is the time, it seems, of “participative democracy”, which has been described as “the collection of methods aiming to involve the citizens in the process of political decision making” [L. Blondiaux, on the site], and which could be defined as the direct participation of citizens in the creation of rules, and in particular legislation. It surely involves that when it concerns the “Citizen Conventions” for the climate and for the end-of-life question.

The composition of these “conventions” is the product of allotment which is supposed to be representative of the French population. The institution which organizes these conventions is the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE, pronounced “se-zeh”), with a “governance committee” which, it is easily understood, is there to steer the discussions in the desired directions and an “oversight body”, for the end-of-life convention [The role of the oversight body is defined on the site of the “convention”: “The oversight body is tasked with ensuring respect for the essential principles of the Citizen Convention: sincerity, equality, transparency, respect for the speech of the citizens. The body also verify that the conditions guarantee the independence of the Citizen Convention”.] The assessment of a legal scholar of the use of “citizen conventions” cannot avoid being severely negative, for several reasons.

The first is that these bodies are neither constitutionally nor legally recognized. No provision of our constitution discusses such a device for preparing or for participating in deciding laws or regulations. The law is silent on this type of device and it is unclear why the members of parliament would wish to give up some of their legislative power in favor of the citizens whereas those citizens have duly elected the members of parliament in order to represent them… For those two “conventions”, a simple letter of the prime minister to the president of the CESE is all that justifies their existence. They are then associated with what one of the sites of the “conventions” calls the “third Assembly of the Republic, and a legitimate player acting as an independent constitutional assembly, whose task is to be a juncture of citizen participation”. Good heavens! Such responsibility!
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Letter to President Zelenskyy

Mr. Volodymyr Zelenskyy
President of Ukraine
11 Bankova St. 01220 Kyiv, Ukraine

Re: A proposal to fight corruption with local citizen assemblies

Dear President Zelenskyy:

First, thank you for your remarkable leadership. I wish you all the best in defending, restoring and advancing the well-being of Ukraine and its brave people.

I am writing with a suggestion that, if adopted, has the potential to advance Ukraine as a leading innovator in democratic governance. The proposal would also counteract the criticisms of American politicians who question ongoing funding for your nation — often citing government corruption as one of the justifications for curbing that support.

Perhaps you are aware of growing European interest in “citizens’ assemblies” whose members are chosen by sortition, a democratic lottery process, rather than by election. Ireland, for example, has successfully used citizen assemblies to resolve some of its most politically divisive issues: abortion, same-sex marriage, climate change. Two of Belgium’s regional parliaments (German-speaking Ostbelgien and the Brussels-Capital region) have established permanent sortition-selected citizens’ assemblies to counterbalance the power of professional politicians in the elected assemblies.

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Using sortition to select Board Directors

Democracy Without Elections uses sortition to select all directors of its governing board since the beginning, December 2020. Are there any other boards that exclusively use sortition? Is sortition used to choose members of governing bodies in nonprofits, education or business anywhere else? Are there examples of using sortition to select some members?