First Global Democratic Deliberation in History
On September 26, 2009 approximately 4,000 citizens in 38 countries discussed and recognized their collective opinions on the issue of climate change. The format was an incredible example of best practices in public participation, that included:
- Random and representative participant selection
- Objective primer booklets (PDF) provided ahead of time
- Engaging information videos
- Expert panels discussions
- Extensive day long small group deliberation
- Informed participant opinion polling
- Collaborative authoring of suggestions
- Immediate publishing of results in an accessible format
- Aiming to have real impact
The "World Wide Views on Global Warming" project was organized by the highly respected and independent Danish Board of Technology (known for pioneering the consensus conference and citizen panel formats) and their carefully selected partners from each country. The event invited 100 random citizens from each participating country to learn about the topic of climate change, spend a day discussing the issues in small groups, answer a set of 12 multiple-choice questions and to give recommendations in their own words. All the data was then compiled, made available on line and will be presented as policy report to delegates at the UN Climate Change negotiations (COP15) in Copenhagen December 7 - 18, 2009.
Overall I am very impressed with the approach used and I hope this project will be the first of many to come. I can imagine WWViews will be considered an import milestone in the practice of deliberative democracy and will be studied and referenced for years to come.
The question is: will it have any impact? One thing is for certain, the delegates will at least know about it, since Connie Hedegaard, the Danish Minister of Climate and Energy, is both the formal Ambassador for WWViews and the host of the U.N. COP15 negotiations. The efforts of the National Partners and a media campaign will also try to give weight to the results, but with so many interest groups competing to sway the opinions of politicians, I am doubtful this incredible demonstration of how politics should be done will be given much attention.