What is a Global Citizens’ Assembly?
Citizens’ assemblies (and citizens’ juries) are examples of a deliberative processes involving a randomly selected group of ordinary citizens who come together to deliberate on a particular issue. Participants are expected to listen and weigh information and arguments provided by experts and advocates, exchange arguments among their peers, and render a judgment—in this case, a recommendation after five days of deliberation.
Learn more about citizens’ assemblies here, and citizens’ juries here.
Read about a proposal for a global citizens’ assembly here
How many people are part of the citizens’ assembly?
The size of the Global Citizens’ Assembly will depend in part on the level of funding support. However, we know from empirical evidence that it is possible to represent the main different types of opinions across citizens with relatively small numbers — referred to as discursive representation. The marginal benefit of greater numbers in terms of deliberative quality is small. Statistical representativeness will also be achieved by benchmarking the deliberative effects against population level survey data. At least twenty-four citizens representing all continents from countries, including those most affected by genome editing, will take part in the process.
How are the participants for the global assembly selected? Will they have enough competencies to take part in such a demanding event?
The group will be chosen based on stratified sampling to capture the diversity of social characteristics and opinions on the issue. The idea is to build a microcosm of the global community in terms types of opinion regarding genomic technologies as well as age, gender, educational level, race, and geographic location of residency. If the eventual size is at the smaller end of the scale, greater emphasis will be given to ensuring representation of opinions, although in many cases these also correlate to demographic characteristics. Selection will only be done after careful study of the range of opinions that exist in countries that participants are sourced from.
In the lead-up to the Global Citizens’ Assembly (funding and timeframe permitting) the project team will organise country-level deliberative forums held in at least one country per continent. For now, the project team is focused on developing partnerships in the North America, Brazil, China, France, Australia, and Africa who can convene the country-level deliberations. The country focus may change depending on contingencies.
The purpose of these country-level deliberations is two-fold. First, country-level deliberations aim to jumpstart a conversation about the appropriate applications and regulatory mechanisms for genome-editing technologies. It is possible that national juries focus on a specialised topic germane to their contexts like genome editing of mosquitos to beat malaria (West Africa) or crops to enhance their flavour and nutrients (South America) or humans to provide the permanent cure to sickle-cell disease (USA). Second, these country-level deliberations will feed into the design of the global citizens’ juries. Some participants in the global assembly will be drafted from national deliberative forums. The expectation is that as citizens take part in deliberations in their home countries, they will build confidence and capacity to engage in the demanding task of evaluating evidence, exchanging reasons and relating to a diverse group of people in a formal context.
What will happen over five days of the Global Citizens Assembly?
Participants in the Global Citizens’ Assembly will be charged with a simple but crucial task: to identify the crucial ethical issues from a citizens’ perspective and develop a set of global principles for the governance of genome editing. To achieve this aim, the event will take place over five days, with some days focusing on issues associated to the application of genetic technologies for plants, animals, humans.
Day 1: Norm-building and issue-setting. The first day will be spent building group norms to develop rapport and familiarity among participants. Participants from national juries will report the outcomes of their deliberations in the plenary.
Days 2-4: Issue deliberations. The second, third, and fourth days will be allocated to deliberations on animal, plant, and human applications. Experts will be available to provide testimonies and on-the-spot expert advice in large and small group deliberations.
Day 5: Drafting recommendations. The fifth and final day will be the time for participants to develop their recommendations and produce a document that can be handed over to key sites of decision-making.
What are the desired outcomes of the Global Citizens Assembly?
The Global Citizen Assembly will
• tell us what the public thinks, after careful deliberation, and how different sets of values translate into
certain views on the use of genomic technology when these are worked through a deliberative process.
• provide insight into differences in this view across different national settings
• find out if it is possible to imagine a ‘global’ considered view that emerges during the deliberative
process. If differences remain, the project will identify these contours.
• provide practical advice to decision makers and a wider community of scientists, scholars and ethics
scholars regarding the ethical and regulatory issues that are raised from a deliberated public view. This
will inform subsequent decision making, and communication strategies regarding the issue.
The project team will set up and implement a global Dissemination aiming at bringing the results of the Assembly when and where it matters. We will for example focus on global events during which the topic will be addressed, but will also work with the network of national partners to bring the voices of the Citizens to key decision makers from Governments, International Organizations, Industry and Research and Academia.
Where will it take place?
The organizing team is currently scouting locations for the Global Citizens’ Assembly. Options being considered are cities where headquarters of global organisations are based, such as Geneva, the Hague or New York. Suggestions welcome!
Who is running this project?
The Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra is leading this project. With over twenty years of experience in conceptualising, implementing, and assessing deliberative forums, and running large research grants, the Centre aims to take a step further and convene the world’s first Global Citizens’ Assembly.
Learn more about the team here.
How can we collaborate with the project team?
We are looking for funding partners, volunteer experts and research collaborators. Visit this link for more information.