(2 November 2011).
For more than 500 days Belgium has been without a government. Responding to this political crisis, an independent group of Belgian citizens - from various walks of life and different parts of the country, none of them politicians, but all passionate defenders of democracy – launched the idea of organizing a large citizens’ summit called G1000. It will be the largest exercise in deliberative democracy in Belgium so far.
On 11 November 2011, the G1000 will bring together a random sample of 1000 Belgian citizens to discuss the future of Belgium. This will be done by inviting 100 tables of 10 people to talk about a number of topics that have been identified as major concerns (the identification of topics has happened through an extensive survey). The discussions will be facilitated by moderators and translators. In a later phase, 32 randomly chosen citizens will meet at regular occasions to develop the initial decisions into concrete policy proposals.
Belgium has no clear tradition of deliberative democracy yet. The past half-century, Belgian elected politicians have been so preoccupied with state reform that they seem to have forgotten all about the reform of democracy. The organizers of the G1000, however, believe that deliberative democracy offers useful methods to overcome some of the limits of representative democracy in Belgium. The G1000 doesn’t ignore the work of parliaments and parties; it rather seeks to complement it. Just as in a system of direct democracy, it aims at the large involvement of ordinary citizens, but through its careful sampling of diverse groups it also respects the spirit of representative democracy.
The organizers believe that the G1000 can show to ordinary Belgian citizens that there are still possibilities, even if the current democratic system in Belgium is in crisis. Citizens’ participation is key. Citizens’ engagement may increase public trust and, in turn, reduce the electoral stress that might lead to more political deadlocks. Deliberative democracy will not make the traditional institutions of representative democracy redundant, nor is it likely to resolve all the problems in a democratic system, but it may clearly demonstrate that, now perhaps more than ever, politicians and leaders of contemporary democracies like Belgium should be brave enough to reach out to the views and expertise of ordinary citizens.
For more information: http://www.g1000.org/en/