“Who governs a citizens’ assembly?” The role of the governance committee in the Citizens’ Convention on Climate

By Jean-Michel Fourniau

“Who governs a citizens’ assembly?” The question raises the issue of what conditions would allow democratic processes of this type to be institutionalized and made viable in the long term. This article shows that, in France, even approaches that consider assemblies of citizens drawn by lot to be a new form of democratic representation have answered this question according to the old models of public participation. These have led to thinking of the sovereignty of the French Citizens’ Convention on Climate in terms of a steering committee that is independent from the executive, rather than as the prerogative of a citizens’ parliament. Conversely, international work on mini-publics approaches the question in terms of the autonomy of citizens’ deliberation, which must be protected by rules of operation and encouraged through facilitation. This results in very different arrangements across the different countries: in France the functions of strategic steering, scientific advice, and organization are concentrated in a governance committee, while abroad, these functions are more often distributed among the different bodies. This article traces the genesis and certain aspects of the functioning of the Convention’s governance committee. Its guiding principle is to consider how the power issues revealed by the steering and organization of a citizens’ assembly affect the way we look at these exercises—public participation in decision-making or law-making—which in turn conditions the way we approach their governance.

  • Citizens’ assembly
  • governance
  • participation
  • deliberation
  • representation
  • decision-making
  • citizen
  • legislator
  • France
  • French Citizens’ Convention on Climate
Go to the article on Cairn-int.info