Meet Colette and Francis, randomly-selected citizens

The French Occitanie Citizens’ Convention began in mid-September. 104 citizens were randomly drawn by lot to reflect on a fairer and more sustainable territory. This region is a land of contrasts that brings together 13 departments, two large cities – Toulouse and Montpellier -, a Mediterranean coastline and sparsely populated rural areas. The participants in the Convention come from different backgrounds, representing all socio-professional categories, all ages… Here are a two portraits that illustrate the richness and complexity of this land. Meet Colette, a 66-year old retired teacher and Francis, a 71-year-old retired policeman.

Colette has always lived in the Ariège and its mountains. At the age of 66, this retired teacher, a sportswoman, saxophone player and Red Cross volunteer has resumed her studies and obtained a master’s degree in regional planning. Enthusiastic at the idea of having been drawn by lot, this former popular education activist did not hesitate to take part in the Citizens’ Convention of her region with the initial objective of “defending the rightful place of NGOs as well as that of elected representatives of the territory”.

After the first session, she is a little reserved about the content of the proposals: “we played the good pupils. Reading the list of the first proposals (230!), I find that we didn’t have the opportunity to express what we had in depth, and many proposals seem to me to have already been made or are in progress. I’m waiting to see what happens next.” On the other hand, Colette judges the innovative approach and underlines the merit of the Region to organise the meeting of these citizens coming from very different backgrounds and to anchor the reflections in the daily life of the inhabitants: “Hats off for getting all these exchanges to take place in such a spirit of conviviality, with so few clashes and a lot of benevolence. It is very strong and I can say that I have made progress in listening to others. For Colette, the approach will be a success, if conventions or consultations “last and multiply”.

 

Francis, 70 years old, is a former French policeman. He lives in a small town in the Gers where he distils Armagnac. Like many citizens drawn by lot to take part in the Occitanie Citizen’s Convention, Francis initially thought it was a hoax. He checked with the Region, reflected on participating and accepted the to join the adventure. What does he think of the French Citizens’ Convention for Climate? “Nothing at all! “says Francis, for whom “climate is not the business of human beings, it’s a question of cycle”. As he is very skeptical about our responsibility in climate change, of course, he complies with the draw that he considers “fair” as well as the principle of the convention which is “useful” in his eyes “since we’re not here to vote for one person”. The regional scale takes on its full meaning and it is this proximity to the daily life of the inhabitants of this South-Western region that makes Francis optimistic about the process. After a first day full of information and interventions (but not educational enough to his taste), the participants started to dive deep into the proposals.

The co-construction seems to have been a revelation for Francis, who was very enthusiastic after talking with his table mates. “What I particularly appreciate is that we always come up with a valid solution. We are looking for consensus”. As for the citizens’ vote, which begins on 12 October, Francis hopes that many people in Occitanie will vote on the proposals resulting from the Convention. He certainly will!

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