Citizen assemblies, in Swedish; "medborgarförsamlingar," have gained significant attention as a new* form of democratic decision-making. These assemblies consist of a randomly selected group of citizens who gather to discuss, evaluate, and recommend solutions to political and societal issues. Citizen assemblies aim to provide ordinary citizens with the opportunity to participate directly in politics and influence decisions, creating a more inclusive and equitable democratic process. In various parts of the world, citizen assemblies have been implemented in slightly different ways, and on this page, we will explore how we can do this in Sweden as well.

Functional principles of citizen assemblies:

  • Random selection: Citizens are chosen through a random process to ensure a representative group that reflects the diversity of society in terms of age, gender, profession, socioeconomic background, and geographical location.
  • Information and education: Participants are provided with objective and balanced information from experts and interest groups. They also receive training in decision-making, deliberation, and critical thinking to effectively participate in discussions.
  • Deliberation and discussion: Citizen assemblies are organized into smaller groups to promote in-depth discussions and consensus-building. Moderators ensure that all participants have the opportunity to express their opinions and that discussions are respectful and constructive.
  • Recommendations and decision-making: After the discussions, participants' conclusions and recommendations are compiled. These are presented to decision-makers and can serve as the basis for political decisions or legislation.

Advantages of citizen assemblies:

  • Increased democratic legitimacy: By including citizens from diverse backgrounds and experiences, the decision-making process becomes more representative and equitable.
  • Quality in decision-making: Citizen assemblies provide the opportunity to discuss and evaluate various options thoroughly, which can lead to more thoughtful and sustainable solutions.
  • Political neutrality: Randomly selected citizens are less likely to hold strong partisan views, reducing the risk of polarization and biased decisions.
  • Increased political awareness: Citizen assemblies can also serve as an educational platform, raising participants' political awareness, which can lead to increased engagement and understanding of political processes.

Citizen assemblies represent a promising development in democratic decision-making. By providing a platform for citizens to participate directly in political processes and decisions, citizen assemblies can contribute to strengthening the foundations of democracy and creating a more equitable and sustainable future for all.

* Citizen assemblies have their roots in ancient Greece, where they formed a fundamental part of Athenian democracy. The most famous of these was the Ekklesia, a gathering of citizens who participated in decision-making on laws and policies. This direct democracy meant that citizens themselves made decisions, in contrast to today's representative democracies where decisions are made by elected representatives.
However, citizen assemblies in ancient Greece were not entirely representative, as only free men over 18 years of age who were Athenian citizens could participate. Women, slaves, and inhabitants of non-Athenian origin were excluded from participation.
Despite these limitations, ancient Greece laid the groundwork for citizen assemblies as a potential democratic model. The concept has since evolved and adapted over time, and citizen assemblies have reappeared in various forms and contexts throughout history. In modern times, they have gained increased attention as a way to involve citizens directly in political decisions and address complex societal issues.