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Towards citizen legislators: an international online conference on 19, 20 and 21 May 2021

Do you want to know if citizens can write the law?

You might think that through his elected representatives, the citizen is already a legislator, even indirectly. Yet what citizen today thinks of himself as such? Don't our contemporaries have the impression that public decisions are taken without them having much to do with them? Haven't they had the feeling, for decades for some, that the law is made without them? Beyond the law, those who propose and vote on it, those who impose it, are also perceived as people apart, who don't know "our life", who don't consider us or even don't care about us. This is how the divide between ordinary citizens and the elected representatives, who should be 'their representatives', is expressed. The increase in abstention is the most direct and oldest consequence of this rupture; the downgrading of political parties and their disintegration is also a consequence, as is the populist temptation.

Meanwhile, the "house is burning" and the same citizen is becoming increasingly aware of this. Climate change has become widely known, even to the most inattentive, and has begun to arouse many anxieties. What will happen? What will happen to us? How can we cope? Is it not already too late? If young people are mobilising for the climate, it is because they will have to suffer the most serious consequences of climate change. But they are not the only ones: older people are worried about the legacy they will leave behind, either because they have been burning fossils without conscience for so long (boomers), or because they are doing nothing or not much at the right time, i.e. now (children of boomers).

Consultation Cherbourg

The Citizens' Climate Convention and other randomly selected citizens' assemblies that are being implemented in several countries are all experiments that aim to find a way to restore meaning to political debate, to revitalize the collective search for solutions to collective problems, to transform the way in which laws are made and decisions are taken that orient and organize public action. The French Conference created many hopes and generated great frustration because of the number of filters that were interposed between the Convention 's proposals and the decisions finally taken by the government and parliament. But it showed that "ordinary" citizens are capable of proposing a coherent, realistic and implementable political program. This is no mean feat!

The drawing of lots of its members is one of the explanations for this good news, as well as their impressive involvement or their fierce will to "make it" to prove that citizens are not the inconsistent or minor beings they seem to guess in the eyes of political leaders. Other factors of success counted: the organisation of the work, the original articulation of the work of the CCC members with the experts, the facilitation of the work, etc.

Do citizens' assemblies such as the French Convention make it possible to make the citizen a legislator or quasi-legislator? Under what conditions would this be possible in the long term? What institutional form should be given to this type of assembly? What can the various international experiences (in Ireland, Scotland, England, Denmark, Poland, Taiwan, etc.) contribute to this reflection? Is a model emerging?

A researcher who observed it and a team of consultation specialists who participated in the design and facilitation of the Citizens' Climate Convention wanted to launch this discussion during an international conference that will take place online on 19, 20 and 21 May 2021. Hélène Landemore from Yale University and Res publica invite you to participate in this conference. The debates will be held in French and English and will benefit from simultaneous translation. They will bring together a dozen members of the CCC, researchers, promoters of other European citizens' assemblies and a large number of participants from North and South America, Asia and Africa.

So, if you too want to know if the citizen can write the law, sign up here.

Gilles-Laurent RAYSSAC, Sophie GUILLAIN, Tania DESFOSSEZ,
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