All democracy is a matter of institutional design. I argue that there are designs that hark back to ancient Athens, deliberating random samples of a population, that can make an important contribution to modern policy making. Deliberative Polling is a modern version that has been proven in 27 countries in more than 100 projects in both the developed and the developing world. The design responds to the key question: what would the people think under good conditions for thinking about the issue?
The combination of small group discussion, balanced briefing materials, questions to competing experts and confidential questionnaires before and after deliberation define the process of Deliberative Polling. Various applications will be discussed, including the first application of the recent “Law on Deliberative Polling” in Mongolia which was used in April for proposed constitutional amendments. Why would governments use such a process to make important decisions? Why would people participate? Are the people competent to be involved in complex decisions? These are some of the questions I will focus on.
Democracy is confronted to a huge transformation, both in the Global North and in the Global South. It has to face new challenges: a globalized world that gives always more power to private corporations and technocratic international organizations, growing levels of inequalities, the ecological crisis, new modes of socialization linked with Internet, the decay of mass political parties… Deliberative democracy, as far as it enables lay citizens to discuss in good conditions, is a powerful tool that could help to face these challenges. However, it cannot rest only on top-down mini-publics, as it has mostly been the case until now. Deliberative should be part of a much broader social and political change. This cannot be achieved only through deliberative democracy. Social movements and grassroots democracy are necessary in order to make it possible. Deliberative democracy has to spread in real politics, instead of being confined in artificial bodies. Deliberative mini-publics should be part of a broader democratic movement. Following this path, deliberative democracy could influence street politics, NGOs and political organizations, and multilateral international bodies such as the Conference of Parties (COP) on Climate Change. Recent experiments have shown that this is a “real utopia”.
We need to convince our governments to create better conditions for deliberation, as collective intelligence and cognitive diversity can lead to more effective governance.
At the same time, we have to remind ourselves that democracy is the best regime to make collective intelligence emerge.
Intern within the secretariat of the MOST programme in UNESCO, as a part of the credited PhD course work at Graduate School of Advanced Integrated Studies of Human Survivability of Kyoto University
Following discussions surrounding issues that were addressed between successions of development policies devised by an international community, from structural adjustment policies to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it would be hard to dismiss an overall gradual shift of the focus from the one on mere economic development to the one embracing a more comprehensive development. (Read more)