The Dutch G1000 banner with slogan: Towards another democracy
The G1000 in Belgium, held in late 2011, was an impressive event. In less than six months the small group of organisers, including David Van Reybrouck, author of Against Elections, raised nearly half a million euros to invite a random selection of 1000 people to come together for one day to deliberate on Belgium’s political problems and potential solutions.
The agenda was set after a broad online consultation, and the large gathering prioritised issues and solutions, and selected a group of thirty-two people to further develop and refine the propositions before presenting them to the government.
Although the extent of its political impact is debatable, there is one thing that is sure: the people attending were overwhelmingly impressed by the experience and it showed, yet again, that ordinary people are not only willing to discuss contentious issues with each other, but that they can do so in an atmosphere of respect and openness.
To the south of Belgium the idea has also taken hold: a group in France has formed to hold a G1000 in Paris, although this appears to be in the planning phase at the moment.
Whatever the outcome of these events – and often these citizen-led assemblies do not have the direct political impact hoped for – it is certain that they are demonstrating a different way of doing democracy, and uncovering a public thirst for this kind of deliberative event where people not only talk to each other about politics and solutions to political problems, but come up with reasonable proposals. In Australia, the newDemocracy Foundation held an Australian Citizens’ Parliament in 2009 which, although a smaller event than the G1000, also used random selection to choose participants. A few years later various local, state, and recently the national government of Australia, has approached them to hold similar forums to get the public’s judgement – and legitimacy implied by the process – on various policy options.
So who knows – perhaps this spread of various G1000s across borders will, in a few years, lead to empowered assemblies of randomly selected citizens making policy in a few places across Europe? We can dare to hope.