The G1000 Citizensí Summit - a democratic example for Europe?

For decades theorists have argued that democracy should not just be based on votes but also on the incorporation of public debate – in the last few years we have seen a rising number of practical initiatives aimed at realizing this theoretical claim. Notable examples are We the Citizens in Ireland, the Icelandic Constitutional Council, the British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly, the Dutch Citizens’ Forum, and the Belgian G1000 Citizen Summit. The G1000 was a citizens' summit held in Brussels on 11 November 2011, based on the idea that Belgium's political crisis – the country had, at that time, been without a government for more than 500 days - was not only a national crisis, but a wider crisis for democracy.


The G1000 relied on a process that consisted of three phases. It started in June 2011 with a broad online survey, which served to detect relevant topics. During the second phase the G1000 Citizens' Summit was held. During the summit no less than 704 people discussed several key themes. One of the questions raised at the G1000 Citizens' Summit was: are politicians the only ones able to deal with the crisis sweeping Europe? The 1,000 randomly selected citizens who gathered, debated in all freedom the future of Belgium and the themes they felt were most important: social security, immigration and prosperity in times of financial crisis.


To conclude the entire participative process, a citizens' panel of 32 people was organized, which was the third phase. This group of 32 delegates was designated to draw up the most detailed propositions. The 32 participants were fully in charge of their own process; this meant that they had been given the freedom to determine the topics on which they wanted to focus. After the analysis and the summary was completed in April 2012, the 32 participants selected the following main question for their discussions: how to deal with labour issues and unemployment in our society?


The G1000 project succeeded in one important thing: its ideas and its methods stirred public opinion and set in motion a debate about the quality and organization of democracy. It offered a new way of thinking about politics, it proposed a new way of doing and living politics.


From 22 to 25 May 2014, elections to the European Parliament will be held in all member states of the European Union (EU). One of the challenges in participation in the EU is, what is often called “the democratic deficit” – the gap between decision-makers and ordinary citizens. European politicians and the European institutions should enable active citizenship by developing and experimenting with new forms of more direct and interactive democratic processes. Can the G1000 process be applied in order to help revive European democracy? Follow the Summer Foundation in May 2014 for this and more questions on democracy. Leave your comments below and let us hear your thoughts, visions and ideas on democracy during our “Democracy Month”.


Elske van der Horst

April 2014




Watch the YouTube video below to see Prof. Peter Vermeersch (University of Leuven, Belgium) and David Van Reybrouck talk about the G1000 project.




Elske  |  2014 05 02  |  Permalink  |  Share


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