“How can we involve Walloons in decision-making, in a deliberative and permanent way, drawing inspiration from the permanent citizen dialogue that exists in the German-speaking Community, which proceeds by lot?”
This is the question that citizens and elected representatives from Wallonia are working on together in a unique setting: Deliberative Committees, which are a combination of parliamentary committees and a citizen panel.
Faced with the widening gap between elected officials and citizens, the lack of legitimacy of elected officials and abstention that continues to grow election after election, institutions are innovating and adopting new mechanisms that better integrate citizens into politics. This is the case of the Parliament of Wallonia which has just set up its very first Deliberative Committee and for which Dreamocracy, Smarter Together’s partner, was mandated.
Dreamocracy is supporting the process, working closely with an advisory group composed of 4 experts of participatory democracy: Prof. Min Reuchamps (Catholic University of Louvain), Prof. Geoffrey Grandjean (University of Liège), Dr. Céline Parotte (University of Liège), and Benoît Derenne, director of the Foundation for Future Generations.
A deliberative committe is a committee of elected representatives on the one hand, and citizens drawn by lot on the other, with the aim of deliberating on a particular subject and producing recommendations that will be submitted to Parliament. These special committees are incorporated into the ordinary activity of the parliament, alongside the traditional parliamentary committees. The process is governed by the rules of procedure of the Parliament. While its recommendations remain consultative, such institutionalization makes it possible to lay down a standard procedure to monitor how the proposals have been followed up.
Such committees can be triggered by MPs or citizens, through a petition. The relatively low threshold of signatures required gives the population real agenda-setting power.
In Wallonia, a citizens’ initiative thus needs to generate at least 2,000 valid signatures for a committee to be considered. Other criteria are meant to ensure that the proposal is admissible by the Bureau of the Parliament, notably that the topic falls within the competence of the Walloon Region, that it is phrased in the form of an open proposal, etc. If these conditions are met, the Bureau of the Parliament may vote to set up a deliberative committee.
The first petition that collected over 2,000 signatures was promoted by Cap Démocratie, a civic movement, in April 2023. Cap Démocratie campaigns for the establishment of a permanent citizens’ assembly in Wallonia. On 14 June 2023, the establishment of the first Deliberative Committee was adopted unanimously by the Parliament of Wallonia.
Dreamocracy is a consultancy that fosters collective creativity for the common good. It contributes to democracy’s reinvention and future. Dreamocracy and Smarter Together work hand in hand to disseminate democratic innovations among policy makers.
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