CONTEXT AND GOALS
The scale of the “Yellow Vests” movement, which began in November 2018, prompted the French President to convene a Grand Débat National, which was run by the Government from January to March 2019. The debate covered four themes reflecting the major national issues: taxation and public spending, the organization of public services, the ecological transition, and democracy and citizenship. The aim was to give everyone a chance to debate issues that are crucial to the French people, who were able to take part in a number of different ways:
• locally run meetings where everyone could join in the public debate, have their say and convince others;
• online contributions via granddebat.fr.
• stands set up in stations and post offices where everyone could submit their views on the debate’s topics;
• themed national conferences, bringing together organizations representing civil society and local elected representatives;
• regional citizens’ conferences, with people selected at random in each region. Missions Publiques and Res Publica took care of the methodology and facilitated these regional citizens’ conferences.
“We wanted an open debate, one that was productive – and I insist on that word – where all the subtilities and all the possibilities could be expressed.
Prime Minister of France
Missions Publiques and Res Publica were called on to provide strategic support for the Grand Débat National (led by Sébastien Lecornu and Emmanuelle Wargon), with the design of the Regional Citizens’ Conferences (objectives, process, conditions of the debate).
The Citizens’ Conferences took the form of participatory workshops lasting a day and a half. Citizens drawn at random from different backgrounds (age, gender, socio-professional category, département of residence, size of the town) shared and discussed their ideas before drafting some joint proposals based on the Debate’s four themes: ecological transition, democracy and citizenship, taxation and public spending, and organization of the State and public services.
21 Regional Citizens’ Conferences were held in the second phase of the Debate, spanning two weekends in March (Friday and Saturday 15–16 and 22–23 March): 13 in mainland France and five in the overseas departments and regions, plus a national conference dedicated to youth. There were also two participatory workshops in the overseas collectivities (Saint Pierre and Miquelon and Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin).
The 19 regional conferences followed the same agenda, which was developed by Missions Publiques and Res publica working with the Mission du Grand Débat National. The agenda itself was the subject of an extensive exchange of views with the Panel of Guarantors.
OUR ADDED VALUE
A total 1,404 people took part in the Regional Citizens’ Conferences (around 100 citizens randomly selected for each Regional Citizens’ Conference, which met for 2 days).
It is rare for the Government and the President to convene a deliberative exercise on this kind of scale.
THE THEMES ADDRESSED
The four themes covered by the Debate are major national issues that shape the country. Citizens are rarely consulted on this kind of structural question.
On April 8, 2019, the Prime Minister Edouard Philippe presented the conclusions of several months of debate at the Grand Palais in Paris. The event was attended by half of the government, the five “guarantors” of the Debate, a hundred or so public administration directors, mayors, representatives of NGOs and social partners. Mr. Philippe delivered the findings from the 16,000 registers of grievances and freeform contributions, the 10,000 local meetings and the 1.9 million online contributions spurred by the President’s initiative.
One of the direct consequences of the Grand Débat National has been the organization of the Citizen’s Assembly on Climate, and again Missions Publiques is one of the organizers/service providers.
A summary report of each Regional Citizens’ Conference and one General Summary of the views expressed by citizens at the 21 Regional Citizens’ Conferences, the full version of which can be found on the Grand Débat National website.