Eleven essentials about the citizens' assemblies
- What are the citizens’ assemblies ?
- Who participates in the citizens’ assemblies ?
- How were the citizens’ assemblies born ?
- What goals do the citizens’ assemblies rest on ?
- What aims do the citizens’ assemblies follow ?
- Is the Citizens’ Assembly a new institution ? Does it have legal status ?
- What are the stages in which the different citizens’ assemblies are performed ??
- What financial resources do the assemblies have ?
- What are the links between the citizens’ assemblies and other kinds of Citizens’ movements like the World Social Forum ?
- What are the singularities and specificities of the citizens’ assemblies
- What am I if am neither a political party, nor a parliament, nor a social forum ? In fact, what am I not ?
❖ What are the citizens’ assemblies?
The citizens’ assemblies are social, open and participative processes, which mobilize citizens and organizations to a scale of a big global region. Its aim is to renew democratic practices and to construct capacity of action towards mutations which happen at different range and which are undergone by societies of our planet. The Assemblies organise symmetric and respectful dialogues among multiple actors who make up society, and propose to start with local issues and current concerns so as to gradually draw common viewpoints and strategies towards collective action.
There are five initiatives of regional assemblies implemented in Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean, the Southern Cone of America, and the Sahelo-Saharan region.
❖ Who participates in the citizens’ assemblies ?
Students, teachers, graduated professionals, social leaders, union leaders, artists, managers from all over the world, commit themselves to deal with any and every issue whose full scope concerns all peoples and each citizen.
Students, teachers, researchers, artists, officials, CEOs, social and union leaders, craftsmen and craftswomen, members of religious orders, politicians, manufactures and farmers are involved in the citizens’ assemblies. Any and every individual or organization can participate ever since he sympathises with the purposes of this project, commits himself to contribute to the assembly’s aims, and accepts the conditions of a respectful, real and symmetric dialogue with others.
❖ How were the citizens’ assemblies born ?
The citizens’ assemblies search for a new paradigms, a challenge which started in 1993 together with the Platform for a Responsible and United World; then, in 1994, the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World, and finally, in 2001, the World Citizens’ Assembly. These initiatives have constituted international dynamics which are to lead and advance in reflections and means of action so as to act onto the contemporary challenges and common issues according to professional fields and the different regions all throughout the world.
❖ What goals do the citizens’ assemblies rest on ?
Four convictions feed the imaginary of the Citizens’ Assemblies: to contribute to institute communities, to articulate unity and diversity, to revitalize democracy and overcome traditional ways of relations among societies.
To contribute to institute communities because the existing institutions and structures do no ensure legitimacy and a feeling of belonging to such a community; instituting processes are the only ones which are able to strengthen a community and said feeling of belonging.
To articulate unity and diversity as joint prospects may be drawn and dealt with at local level, starting from those domestic issues which can progressively construct joint prospects and strategies, towards a global level. Therefore, it is necessary to move from specific issues to general ones; from local level to a global one; that is, to move from one to another level interactively.
To revitalize democracy because the usual democratic means and approaches are outmoded as regards the society situation and because it is necessary to allow citizens be responsible for the society challenges, and understand and give their opinion of these matters openly.
- To overcome the traditional ways of relations among societies because the vision of human communities by national or regional frontier reflects less and less the nature of interdependencies; so, it is necessary to reinvent authentic ways of discussion among different regions of the World and to dealt with those sharing problems and challenges.
❖ What aims do the citizens’ assemblies follow ?
A regional Citizens’ Assembly wants, in the long run, different kinds of actors of the society at a big regional scale to dialogue, and to allow confrontation as regards viewpoints or concerns to arise, and to construct transformation or proposals which may permit any and all citizen to be part of the collective fate.
❖ Is the Citizens’ Assembly a new institution? Does it have legal status ?
A Citizens’ Assembly is, first and foremost, an informal social process where relations of dialogue and cooperation among different actors of a certain regions are developed. These are horizontal and inclusive relations, without a hierarchy, fostered by common ethics. It is neither a new kind of parliament nor similar to traditional political structure. A Citizens’ Assembly is a learning and participation process, which a maximum number of individuals and of organizations whose modalities are well defined by these actors, themselves, are associated into debates. This does not prevent the assemblies from eventually having an article of incorporation, and a management board, or a coordination board, if such resorts represent an express requirement, if actors fully participate to achieve the Assembly’s aims and if all this ensures the Assembly’s continuance.
❖ What are the stages in which the different citizens’ assemblies are performed ??
The progression of these five citizens’ assemblies varies from one to another. Some are running on the first stages, such as those from the Sahelo-Saharan region, Europe, and the Mediterranean (obviously, this does not mean that there are not other citizens’ dynamics being developed in these regions).
Others have been on the way for a year or two; that is the case of the Southern Cone of Latin America and Asia; workshops, working-teams, meetings have already been made, and they have constructed alliances, networks, and yielded thoughtful analyses.
❖ What financial resources do the assemblies have ?
The regional Citizens’ Assemblies rely on the support of its own participants as regards their time, intellectual and logistic resources and even financial ones. Besides, the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Human, whose history can not be left aside from the Citizens’ Assemblies, promotes a methodological and financial supporting policy to finance part of its operations and development. Of course, looking for diversifies financing has become a significant challenge for his organization and for its continuity.
❖ What are the links between the citizens’ assemblies and other kinds of citizens’ movements like the World Social Forum ?
The citizens’ assemblies and the social forums are part of the same family of initiatives that civilians of the world must construct to participate in a world of new rules. Both of them assert that not only possible another world is possible, but also that this is already being constructed. Therefore, citizens get organized to invent other alternatives. And both differences, as well as similarities -between citizens’ assemblies and world social forums- are part of their historic construction and their approaches, respectively. Assemblies can account for themselves as long as they are organized at a regional scale and led continuously along the time. A great international meeting does not constitute an aim in itself. The assemblies arise as result of a developing process along the time, of almost fifteen years. Its global dimension will be achieved, mainly, gathering rhythms, methodological and as well as labour means from each Assembly held. They emphasize initiatives that mobilize all kind of diversity in the community, and create ties of cooperation through alliances and networks, and sound works. They also point out comradeships and informality of the way of work, as well as severity in the proposals.
❖ What are the singularities and specificities of the citizens’ assemblies ?
Let’s point at four main features that characterize the citizens’ assemblies :
- Transversality and openness of diversity: assemblies are bound to connect among themselves with different community elements, to work at scale in different regions of the World, and to identify common priorities based on local concerns. The Assemblies combine thus, “three diversities” of society.
Relation with the power, and horizontal dialogues: assemblies are aware of how important to create a collective power and commitment, it is. Their organization may temporaly rely on a restricted group of people so as in this way, to guarantee royalty to the Project, and to its first steps. However, in the mid and long run, the assemblies’ aim at working on the grounds of confidence and of initiatives launched by participants. The people who have a particular responsibility within the assembly agree and commit themselves to provide with evidence of transparency, active listening, and undergo their action to be evaluated by everone. Likewise, the assemblies support the idea that a real dialogue relies on the possibility of discussing on an equal footing, under active listening conditions, taking the floor and accessing to information, similarly.
Importante of a process and the performance of a collective adventure along the time: creating confidence, transforming perceptions and opinions, learning new ways of relating and of cooperation among the society actors require proximity and patient work of deconstruction-construction both at individual and collective levels. Because of this, the Assemblies are consolidated along the time.
Severity in methodologies applied: the assemblies rely on the substantial intercultural experience of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and Supportive World, started in 1994. Such an experience becomes a comparative advantage with the assemblies. They grant a real methodological capital that may provide with the organization of at-a-distance dialogues, shared storage and management of information, treatment of ideas and concept complexity, conception of a meeting organization, construction of proposals as well as change strategies.
❖ What am I if am neither a political party, nor a parliament, nor a social forum? In fact, what am I not ?
I am neither a new member of the parliament, nor of a union, nor a political party in the traditional conception of such a term, nor a think-tank, nor an international solidarity organization, nor an annual meeting of thousands of civilians’ organization, nor a movement for a cultural revolution inspired in the previous century, nor a new revolutionary utopia happily fallen from the clouds. But, honestly, I am a bit of all these at the same time. So, What am I?
I am a dream which is performed with widely opened eyes, a utopia carrying a Project, and international social movement in emergency, a process of horizontal, open and participative dialogue organized at a scale of a big region of the World, an elaboration process of proposals and strategies of change, constructed beginning from confronting experiences and viewpoints of such actors. Then, I am a Citizen’s Assembly !!