Magali Plovie is the president of the French-speaking Brussels Parliament (1). It was she who spurred the creation of deliberative committees where parliamentarians and citizens jointly submit recommendations to Parliament. How do elected officials and residents chosen by lot work together? What subjects are covered? Magali Plovie enlightens us on an inspiring and evolving device.
Public Missions. You have been president of the French-speaking Brussels Parliament since July 2019. What was your background and the path that led you to propose these deliberative committees? Magali Plovie . For nearly 10 years, I worked in the office of the Brussels environmental minister Evelyne Huytebroeck before moving to the Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region as deputy. When I arrived in Parliament, my head was full of idealistic ideas about human rights, democracy and the common good. The reality is more complex: the weight of the parties, the power of the executive over the legislature, the media pressure to be visible padlock a certain democratic liveliness. So I was a little disillusioned: how do we deal with today's challenges (globalization, environment, social) if we continue to work in this way? Then, David Van Reybrouck's book “Against Elections” (2) was a turning point. Within the Ecolo party as an activist, I then began to explore questions of participation and at the same time, I joined the Service for the Fight against Poverty, a service responsible for carrying out an evaluation of public policies on the subject. When I returned to Parliament in 2017, the combination of all these issues pushed me to develop other modes of cooperation between MPs while remaining within the framework of representative democracy. Public Missions. A deliberative committee is therefore a place of debate between parliamentarians and citizens drawn by lot. When and why does it meet? How does it work ? How is the draw going? Magali Plovie. This committee is made up of a quarter of parliamentarians, and three quarters of citizens to deal with a very specific theme that can be proposed by the people of Brussels (citizen suggestion supported by 1,000 people aged 16) and residing in the Brussels-Capital Region) or by parliamentarians. After several meetings, they collectively propose recommendations which will be dealt with in Parliament. These can lead to legislation or questions put to the Government. In total, the deliberative committees have 60 members, ie 15 parliamentarians and 45 citizens. The citizens' draw takes place in two stages. First, 10,000 invitations are sent by post to residents of the Brussels-Capital Region (regardless of their nationality). Those who wish to respond positively to the invitation and register for the second draw can do so on the platform democratie.brussels or on the free number 0800 which appears in the personal invitation letter. In a second step, a second drawing of lots is carried out among the people who responded positively to the invitations sent during the first drawing of lots. These people drawn by lot, who will sit on the deliberative committee, will be representative of the diversity of the population of Brussels. It is by taking into account the socio-demographic characteristics provided by respondents when registering that Parliament ensures the representativeness of each deliberative committee.
"For parliamentarians, work in a deliberative committee is a radical change in their role but also their power.
Speaker of Parliament French speaking Brussels
Public Missions. How do you manage to convince parliamentarians to change their working habits? Magali Plovie . It is not easy for a parliamentarian to adopt the right position in these deliberative committees: between being wait-and-see, passive or getting involved at the risk of being too active ... and sometimes finding himself in an expert position on a subject . In Parliament, we are on positions, amendments, reversals of votes ... and it is not possible to adopt this position with citizens or we recreate the usual splits. Regardless, I sense a growing interest on the part of parliamentarians in changing working methods. In the process that we propose in these commissions, co-construction holds a central place. The citizens selected by the two successive draws and the deputies follow a preparatory session to familiarize themselves with the process. Then, parliamentarians and citizens attend an information session presented by various experts on the topic addressed. This preparation allows everyone to debate and make recommendations. In the end, citizens and parliamentarians will vote on these recommendations. Parliamentarians then have an obligation to follow up within six months and publish a rationale if they do not follow through. This work in a deliberative committee is a radical change in their role but also their power. Public Missions. How do you assess the work of the deliberative committees? Magali Plovie. We have set up a support committee made up of 4 experts (from citizen participation, democracy, etc.) and two members of parliamentary services. This hard core of 6 people is set up for two years and is responsible for evaluating the process over time. Two experts in the specific topic are chosen by this support committee to support the support committee in dealing with the issue. The choice is made by the 6 members of the support committee to avoid parliamentary bias ... Between the second and the third committee, we reoriented our work on two points: we had too many recommendations, which is a hindrance for the committee. follow-up and recommendations were worked out in isolation by group and not sufficiently shared by the whole group. We are therefore going to modify these elements for the next deliberative committee, which will take place in October 2021, and which will focus on citizen participation in times of crisis. Public Missions. There are 3 deliberative committees per year. In 2021, a deliberative committee met on the 5G, another on homelessness and the third will focus on citizen participation in times of crisis. Are there more relevant topics than others to deliberate in these committees? Magali Plovie. The themes can neither be too broad nor too precise because the commissions look at a subject during 4 to 6 days, 7 maximum. Subjects that are too broad or too technical would require several months of work. Nor can it be a debate that boils down to “yes or no” or “for or against”. On 5G, for example, it was more a question of deepening the conditions of acceptability, of developing recommendations. The subjects must be complex, sometimes divisive and always topical so that the material provided can be reused by NGOs, the associative sector, unions, mutual funds and so that these actors bring the subject to life with their members and their activists. . This is a way of thinking about the link between the mini and the maxi public so that these issues are carried by the whole of Brussels society. It's not so much the topic as the way the question is asked. It is obvious that a citizen cannot have the same precision or finesse in his proposals as associations which have been working on a subject for 20 years. What interests us is to observe the orientation driven by the citizens, working with the deputies, on the basis of good common information. The idea is to capture the shared political purpose behind a topic. With regard to homelessness, for example, it emerged a great openness to undocumented migrants and a priority for public housing policies to welcome everyone. This is a message that is not trivial. Public Missions. You have a fairly high positive response rate from citizens. It's encouraging. And yet a deliberative commission takes place every weekend for a month… Magali Plovie. This is why I want a citizenship leave to be created on the model of the Belgian jury. It’s a dice model
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