Extinction Rebellion’s third demand is for the Government to create and be directed by the decisions of a national citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice. Extinction Rebellion uses other deliberative democracy processes, such as people’s assemblies, in order to model deliberative democracy within the movement, generate ideas, gather feedback and make decisions.
Both citizens’ assemblies and people’s assemblies are forms of deliberative democracy wherein people have the opportunity to discuss and reflect in a way that ensures everyone’s voice is heard equally. Professional facilitators provide structure to the discussion and ensure no one dominates. However the purpose and structure of both citizens’ and people’s assemblies very different.
The key differences are that members of citizens’ assemblies are randomly selected from the population (i.e. sortition). Demographic quotas ensure assembly members are representative of the population in terms of key characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity, education level and geography. This means they will likely represent and reflect the interests of the entire population. They also have a structured learning phase wherein members hear from experts and stakeholders. Citizens’ assemblies are usually focused on informing political policy and are particularly useful on issues that may be too controversial or long-term for politicians to deal with successfully by themselves. It is a formal process that takes months to plan, and the assembly itself can last from a few months to over a year.
In contrast, people’s assemblies are organized discussion forums open to anyone who would like to attend (i.e. self-selected). A people’s assembly is a way to structure meetings with a large number of people and can be used to generate ideas, deliberate and make decisions. People’s assemblies can last between one and four hours and can take place anywhere — such as in occupied spaces such as roads and city squares — and have often been used in revolutionary movements, for example, Occupy, the Arab Spring, and the Gilets Jaunes. This method was used throughout XR’s April Rebellion to discuss a wide range of issues, from innovations in democracy and inclusivity to how to end the April Rebellion.