Type of initiative
Short description of the initiative
At the start of the 2019-2014 legislature, the Brussels Parliament wanted to open its doors to all Brussels citizens. It has therefore, since December 2019, included the principle of deliberative commissions in its rules.
Bringing together 45 citizens drawn by lot and 15 parliamentarians, the deliberative committees are intended to be a new space for dialogue aimed at developing, together and on an equal footing, proposals for recommendations on a particular theme.
The theme addressed by each deliberative committee itself results either from a proposal from citizens (this is the “citizen suggestion” mechanism) or from a request from one or more political groups.
When the Parliament decides to set up a deliberative commission, a first draw is made of 10,000 people over 16 years old residing on the territory of the Region. On the basis of the registrations, a second draw is made to obtain a sample of 45 people representative of the population of Brussels and to which are added the 15 parliamentarians of a committee.
The deliberative commission then takes place in different phases:
- an informative phase, both on the process of the deliberative commissions and on the theme addressed;
- a deliberation phase aimed at bringing out proposed recommendations;
- a recommendation phase to improve the initial proposals and lead to the adoption of recommendations by all the participants;
- a work presentation phase.
The parliamentarians then monitor the follow-up of the recommendations adopted and report, after 6 to 9 months, on the progress of this follow-up.
Since the implementation of the process, three deliberative commissions have been organized within the Brussels Parliament, the first devoted to the criteria for the deployment of 5G in the Brussels Region, the second which has been called upon to formulate recommendations to respond to the problem of homelessness and bad housing in the Region and a third one which has just ended looked at the issue of biodiversity in the city given the different functions of a city.
Main features of the initiative
The main features of the mechanism are:
This is the first time that a mechanism of participatory democracy has been established over time which directly associates parliamentarians and citizens drawn by lot.
Registered in the regulations of the Parliament, it relates to the parliamentary operation as such. Citizens drawn by lot and parliamentarians are now regularly called upon to debate together on an equal footing.
Inclusion is the true leitmotif of the process; this is ensured at all stages, from the drawing of lots to the follow-up.
In order to guarantee everyone the same chance of expressing themselves and being heard, Parliament has, following a public contract, appointed an experienced facilitator, paying specific attention to compliance with the principles of deliberation, equality and ‘inclusion.
The question of inclusion is posed at each phase. It is answered in particular by: the translation of the invitation into 5 languages in addition to the two official languages of the Region, a free telephone line, an information sheet, expenses, the presence of a person dedicated to well-being, specific preparation sessions, a “buddy system”, daycare, support for young people…
Information on the process and on the specific committees is provided, on the one hand at key times through traditional means of communication, on the other hand through the democratie.brussels platform, dedicated to citizen participation in the Brussels Parliament. The challenge is for all Brussels residents to use this tool.
In concrete terms, several awareness-raising actions are at work:
- a communication campaign aimed at all the media launched when the democratie.brussels platform dedicated to citizen participation in Parliament was launched;
- communication campaigns launched on social networks when invitations are sent;
- a film containing testimonies from participants in a previous process broadcast at the same time;
- the solicitation of the press during the launch, the closing and the presentation of the follow-up of the works.
Follow-up on recommendations:
In order to guarantee greater public support for the process, a follow-up procedure for the recommendations adopted was instituted, with parliamentarians being responsible, 6 to 9 months later, for reporting on their implementation.
Role of the assembly in the success of the initiative
The smooth running of the deliberative committees depends on the permanent involvement of the services of Parliament at several stages of the process;
- the support committee: made up of two parliamentary officials (the “guarantors”), four experts in citizen participation and two experts in the subject matter addressed, it meets regularly and oversees, overall, the smooth running of the process from the angles of equality, inclusion, transparency…;
- the governance committee: made up of the chairman of the deliberative committee, the guarantor, a representative of the operator in charge of facilitation and two participants drawn by lot from among the citizens, it meets at the end of each meeting and evaluates it;
- close collaboration with the designated external operator for the facilitation of the various stages of the process, which uses its experience to facilitate the process with particular attention to equality and inclusion;
The involvement of Parliament is then also important in the follow-up of the recommendations.
Indeed, the recommendations adopted by the deliberative commissions are each time the subject of a follow-up, on the one hand by the members of the commission associated with the deliberative commission for the recommendations which fall directly within their competence, on the other hand, if necessary, by the members of another committee if they fall within the competence of this committee.
Within 6 or 9 months, a report of this follow-up is drawn up and sent to all the participants of the deliberative committee. The citizens who participated in the commission are then invited to a meeting to present this report and are then brought to discuss the follow-up given to their recommendations. This follow-up can take different forms: proposal for an ordinance or resolution, interpellation of the government… Obviously, these recommendations constitute a definite aid to decision-making and all the political actors in Brussels take them up.
European orientation of the initiative
This initiative of the deliberative committees anchored in the very functioning of the Brussels Parliament is fully in line with the objectives of deliberative democracy which are promoted both at the level of the Council of Europe and the European Union. The forthcoming global evaluation that will be carried out will make it possible to refine the system which could be transposed to other assemblies. It should be noted that the Parliament of Wallonia also intends to adopt a similar mechanism. In addition, it has been proposed to present this innovation in terms of participatory democracy at the next conference of the International Observatory of Participatory Democracy which will take place next December in Grenoble.