Following an innovative experiment in British Columbia almost two decades ago, we have seen a growing use of Citizens’ Assemblies.

Citizens’ Assemblies (CAs) can be seen as reviving the practice of sortition that was central to ancient Athenian democracy and to some later city-state republics.

Some theorists have argued that CAs or other sortition-based assemblies offer a means for the renewal of democracy on republican and/or deliberative democratic terms. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has championed CAs as part of what it calls ‘the deliberative wave’ of democratic reform. It has identified eight models from existing practice for policy-makers to consider.

At the same time the climate justice campaign, Extinction Rebellion (XR), has put forward as its ‘Third Demand’ that governments create and follow the lead of a CA on ‘climate and ecological justice’, and in the last few years there has been a number of CAs around the world on climate issues.

So are CAs the way forward for democracy? Can they address problems that the usual processes of representative democracy seem unable to address (such as climate justice)?


* Working paper by

Stuart White, Jesus College, Oxford


ENA Centre for Political Theory | Co-ordinator: Yiannis Kouris