For the first time, five citizens' assembly experiments took place simultaneously in Brazil in 2021. In this way, citizens in different locations were involved in political decision-making processes. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, not an easy undertaking for the "Decidadania" project of "Delibera Brasil".
Citizens' assembly on cultural access in Belo Horizonte
"I arrived happy to participate, and I'm leaving very happy and satisfied for having participated in this Minipublic, a true exercise of participative and propositional democracy. It was great to meet new people, and a lot of people," says Angelo Dias, a member of a citizens' assembly on better access to culture in Belo Horizonte. More opportunities to access funding for the cultural sector in the city of Belo Horizonte was one of the four topics discussed by this citizens' assembly. The assembly was coordinated by the Movimentação Juventude Negra Política (JNP) with the support of the Tide Setubal Foundation.
The randomly selected participants took part in online workshops for two days and deliberated on nine proposals for democratising access to culture. The topics were Communicating and Acting, Educating and Empowering, Articulating and Stimulating, and Making Accessible and Simplifying. The JNP handed over the resulting assembly recommendations to members of the Belo Horizonte City Council.
Citizens' Assembly on the Right to Education in the Pandemic
Establishing and implementing policies and strategies to guarantee the right to education for primary school students during the Corona pandemic was the theme of the Citizens' Assembly on the Right to Education in the Pandemic, organised by Avante in the Cidade Baixa in Salvador, which included 14 neighbourhoods. A citizens' assembly on the same topic was held in Belo Horizonte. In order to publicise the Citizens' Assembly in Salvador, a coffee-mobile with loudspeaker announcements drove through the alleys and streets of the city districts. The drawing of the assembly members was broadcasted live on YouTube. Seven online workshops were held in June and July 2021 to formulate the assembly recommendations. These were given to the Municipal Education Council, the Forum of Leaders of the Municipal Education Network of Salvador, the Forum for Child Education of Bahia, the Minister of Education of Salvador, the Bahia Committee of the National Campaign for the Right to Education and the Education Committee of the City Council.
At the meeting of the Bahia Committee of the National Campaign for the Right to Education on 26 August 2021, the recommendations were officially recognised as the basis for the elaboration of actions related to the resumption of schooling. "What can we take from this Minipublic framework as lessons learned? The letter has important, robust contributions, and the public administration needs to give feedback to the community. A qualified listening session was held, allowing the administration to incorporate the Minipublic's recommendations. We gave back to society a robust document, fruit of what we believe, that it was built by listening to the school community," explained Councillor Silvio Humberto.
Citizens' Assembly on waiting times for medical treatment
What are the medically and socially acceptable waiting times in SUS services in the Porto Alegre metropolitan area in terms of care and treatment in cases of emergency care, chronic kidney disease and femoral fractures? This was the topic of another citizens' assembly in Porto Alegre.
Four workshops were held online on this topic, resulting in recommendations that were presented to the health councils, city councils and town halls of the municipalities in the Porto Alegre metropolitan region, as well as the state health council, the parliament and the government of Rio Grande do Sul.
Citizens' Assembly on Remuneration for Environmental Water Services in Amazonia
The remuneration of environmental water services that contribute to the conservation of the Amazon is an issue being deliberated by a citizens' assembly that took place there. The assembly is coordinated by FAS - Fundação Amazônia Sustentável in partnership with ICLEI Governos Locais para Sustentabilidade. In addition to remuneration, it is also about the best form of governance to achieve the goal.
The citizens' assemblies are viewed positively by all participants. "What impressed me most was the 'bursting of bubbles'. Having worked for some time in these processes of formation and discussion, it was the first time I saw people from such different backgrounds discussing a common issue. And that moves us. We who work in civil society organisations have this search, this longing to break through these blockages so that we don't get stuck in the same groups. It was gratifying to have accompanied this project and the lives it affected," says, for example, Mariana Evaristo dos Santos of the Instituto Pensamentos e Ações para Defesa da Democracia (Institute for Thought and Action in Defence of Democracy).
In this sense, we wish Brazil many more citizens' assemblies.
Read more: Project „Decidadania“ by Delibera Brasil