Tuesday, November 15, 2011

G1000: Belgium’s Citizens’ Summit

On November 11, 800 citizens from across Belgium were brought together to discuss the future of their country. G1000 was conceived a few months ago by a small group of Belgian citizens (the key player is a prominent author and columnist, David van Reybrouck; the others are a mix of academics, journalists, and civil society activists) who were concerned about the failure of their political system to get to grips with the economic crisis.

Exercised in particular by the inability of Belgium’s politicians to form a government and the resulting political limbo, the opening line of the group’s manifesto, states: ‘if the politicians can’t find a solution let the citizens’. G1000 seeks to show the country’s political leaders that they should engage with the citizens in seeking a way out of the mess. Their principal objectives are both to show that deliberative democracy can work, and to produce concrete proposals for the government to consider.

Making use of every means possible to mobilize interest (briefings around the country, media interviews and newspaper articles, website and social media) they put out a call to the wider Belgian public to propose policy issues for discussion. This resulted in over 5,000 proposals, which the organizers than aggregated into 25 key topic areas, ranging from detailed proposals for political reform through to key economic and social policies. Belgian citizens were then invited to vote on-line for the topic area that most concerned them, resulting in the three topic areas that were discussed at the Citizens’ Summit: social security; wealth inequality and the economy; and immigration policy (in a final session of the day the tables were each invited to select a topic from the remaining 25 key topic areas and discuss that).

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