An important milestone has been reached for the first Citizens' Assembly of the German Bundestag. The Bundestag administration was able to win a service provider specialised in participation procedures in a Europe-wide tender.
The Bundestag administration announced on 31 March 2023 that the specialist association Mehr Demokratie (More Democracy), together with the participation companies nexus, ifok and Institut für Partizipatives Gestalten (Institute for Participatory Design), will prepare and accompany the first citizens' assembly commissioned by the Bundestag after the summer break in 2023. This involves looking after the participants and organising and facilitating the entire process, as well as supporting the public relations work of the Bundestag..
"Now we can really take off"
"I am very pleased that we have now been awarded the contract for the implementation of citizens' assembly in this legislative period. Now we can really take off with the preparations for the first citizens' assembly in autumn," says Bundestag President Bärbel Bas.
"With citizens' assemblies, we want to strengthen our parliamentary democracy and enable more participation. People want more dialogue. Citizens' assemblies offer a strong opportunity to have a better say. It is crucial for the success story of citizens' assemblies that they represent society as broadly as possible - and deal with concrete issues that affect people in their everyday lives," emphasises the Bundestag President.
Citizens' assemblies: "Regular and institutionalised"
"It is crucial for the success of citizens' assemblies that they take place regularly and in an institutionalised manner," Bundestag President Bas had stated on 30 March 2023 at the event "How Citizens' Assemblies Strengthen Democracy - Experiences from the Politics of Being Heard" in Berlin.
"Citizens' assemblies have the potential to make good decisions because citizens often think outside the box." The deliberative format increases the chance of balanced and broadly accepted proposals, she said. "Our debates are becoming more heated. Especially in the social media, some people are losing all their inhibitions. The harsher the tone, the greater the attention - and the louder the applause. Citizens' assemblies, on the other hand, create a space where participants can exchange ideas respectfully."
The association Mehr Demokratie is delighted about the order: "We are pleased that we have been awarded the contract for the implementation of the first citizens' assembly commissioned by the Bundestag. With our partners nexus, IFOK and IPG, we form a versatile and well-coordinated team that can build on its previous experience with citizens' assemblies," says Claudine Nierth, spokesperson for the federal executive board, commenting on the decision of the Bundestag administration.
Topic: Nutrition in Transition
The topic of the first Citizens' Assembly will be: "Nutrition in Transition: Between Private Concerns and State Responsibilities". The decision was made by the Bundestag on 10 May 2023. Afterwards the random selection of 160 participants from all over Germany has begun. The aim is to have as comprehensive a representation of the population as possible. The actual consultations are to start at the end of September 2023.
In April 2022, the Council of Elders of the Bundestag had already decided to hold up to three citizens' assemblies in the current legislative period. The 160 participants will be randomly selected. With the help of neutral expertise and neutral moderation, they discuss a topic specified by the German Bundestag for about 40 hours. Finally, they draw up a citizens' report with concrete recommendations for policy, which the German Bundestag can take up in the parliamentary process.
Citizens' assemblies from civil society and ministries
Although there have already been seven nationwide citizens' assemblies since 2019, these did not take place on behalf of the Bundestag. Rather, the sponsors were civil society organisations or individual federal ministries. Therefore, the upcoming citizens' assemblies are the first with a direct link to the elected members of parliament.