Citizens' dialogue on national security

21. July 2022
Regionalfernsehen Deutschland GmbH

In developing a new national security strategy for Germany, the Federal Foreign Ministry is relying on sortition. In June and July 2022, citizens' dialogues were taking place in seven different cities throughout Germany with randomly selected people.

Of the workshops that took place for this purpose in Bremen, Görlitz, Gronau, Hof, Karlsruhe, Munich and Ravensburg, each had a different focus. The topics ranged from cyber security to the NATO security and defence alliance to climate and resource security, from democracy and human rights to the future of the German army.

Representation of the population

Each of the workshops was attended by 50 citizens. They were randomly selected from the population registers of the municipalities. The aim was to create as representative a small sample as possible of the entire population of the respective region or city. The aim was to take into account as many perspectives of citizens as possible so that the national security strategy reflects a broad social consensus.

In Bremen and Munich, the participants of the workshops had the opportunity to discuss their results with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in front of a large audience. The small group work was followed by a large town hall meeting with the Foreign Minister.

"Everyday experts"

Most citizens asked about the domestic aspects of foreign policy, the things that have to do with their everyday lives. The Foreign Minister called the randomly selected citizens "experts of everyday life". Baerbock went from table to table at the workshop and answered the questions.

"I have a young son. Security also includes the climate. The 1.5 degree target is not realistic. How do you establish energy security?" asks a young woman participating. A young man asks about the gas crisis: the market for hydrogen has been bought dry, the expansion of renewable energies still needs years. How does the federal government want to get through the winter?

Experts take citizens' suggestions with them

Another question was how NATO's strategy of nuclear deterrence is compatible with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. How do we deal with China? How will we ensure that even the poorest people in Germany will be able to heat their homes in winter if gas becomes scarce? In Karlsruhe, the topics included the possibility of reintroducing compulsory military service, how to deal with Syria and how to deal with racism.

The German army must be an attractive employer, say the workshop participants in Karlsruhe. It must reflect society and be well equipped digitally. The experts from the Foreign Ministry took these suggestions with them from the workshop.

Results flow into security strategy

All the results of the citizens' dialogues will be incorporated into the National Security Strategy. Selected representatives from each workshop will be invited to discuss their key findings and ideas in Berlin with the people who are writing and implementing the Security Strategy. These include experts from the Bundestag, the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of Defence and other ministries, think tanks and civil society organisations.

The results of the dialogue process will also be recorded on the website of the Federal Foreign Office. This gives all interested parties the opportunity to follow what is happening.

Lead responsibility at the Federal Foreign Office

The Federal Foreign Office is in charge of the security strategy, but all ministries concerned with security are involved. The concept is to take three dimensions into account: security against war and violence, strengthening democracy and the security of livelihoods. The new strategy should be in place by the beginning of 2023 at the latest.

As early as 2021, randomly selected citizens gave thought to Germany's foreign and security policy within the framework of the Citizens' Assembly "Germany's Role in the World". The recommendations were handed over to the then Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble and representatives of the Bundestag parliamentary groups on 19 March 2021.

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