“Governing Citizens’ Assemblies” Conference

photo of French Citizens' Assembly in session
Event time: 
Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 9:00am through 5:30pm
Sterling Memorial Library Lecture Hall
120 High Street
New Haven, CT
Event description: 


In recent years, citizens’ assemblies — large randomly selected bodies of citizens convened to deliberate about political issues — have become a popular way for governments to address governance and legitimacy issues. These bodies of ordinary people are entrusted with the goal of generating policy recommendations and, sometimes, even legislative proposals on issues such as electoral reform, abortion, same-sex marriage, climate justice, and assisted suicide. As citizens’ assemblies may come to occupy a larger role in democratic governance, important questions need to be addressed: Who holds power within and over citizens’ assemblies? And who should? Citizens’ assemblies have so far been governed from the outside by government officials, experts, and professional facilitators. How much of the power belongs and should belong to the citizen participants themselves?

This day-long conference will bring together academics, political leaders, and practitioners to explore these critical questions. The focus will be on the recent French Citizens Conventions, respectively on Climate and End of Life, which explicitly thematized the question of governance. Each had an appointed “governance committee” running the process as well as some effort to include citizens in the internal decision-making process.


CONFERENCE SCHEDULE: Wednesday, February 28, 2024

9:00-10:50 AM

Who Governed the French Conventions?

  • Sandrine Rui: “What Does Governing a Citizens’ Assembly Mean: Power and Contingency at the Citizens’ Convention on End of Life”
  • Jean-Michel Fourniau on the Citizens Convention for Climate (CCC): “Political Mandate and Governance of a Citizens’ Assembly”
  • Chloé Santoro: “Voting in a Deliberative Process”
  • Hélène Landemore and Théophile Pénigaud: “The Case for Self-ruling Citizens’ Assemblies: Governance, Representation, and Citizen Leadership in the French Conventions”
  • Reaction by Claire Thoury and Nathalie Berriau

Moderated by: Antonin Lacelle-Webster, Postdoctoral Associate with the Democratic Innovations Program at ISPS, Yale University

10:50-11:00 AM Coffee Break
11:00-12:40 PM

Citizens Voice and Minorities Representation in the French Citizens’ Conventions

  • Christiane Rafidinarivo: “Representation of Minorities Within Citizens’ Assemblies: the Experience of the Citizens’ Convention for Climate”
  • Miguel Von Fedakz: “Stories of Discontent: Moments of Tension and Distrust in the French Convention on the End of Life”
  • Marjan Ehsassi: “Blueprint for Activated Citizenship: Designing for Legitimacy & Transformative Change”
  • Reaction from online participants: Mathieu Sanchez (member of the Citizens Convention for Climate), Harry Alzire, Martial Breton, Soline Castel, and Léo Van Nieuwenhove (members of the Citizens’ Convention on End-of-Life Issues)

Moderated by: Jane Suiter, Professor of Political Communication at Dublin City University

12:40-2:00 PM Lunch Break
2:00-3:45 PM

International Perspective on Citizens’ Assemblies and other Democratic Innovations Governance

  • Jane Suiter: “The Ongoing Internal Evolution of Citizens’ Assemblies in Ireland”
  • Antoine Vergne: “Governing Citizens’ Assemblies: A Reflective Approach Leading to Two Blueprints”
  • Min Reuchamps: “Governing Permanent Citizens’ Assemblies in Belgium”
  • Claire Mellier-Wilson: TBD
  • Reaction by Claudia Chwalisz and Gaëtane Ricard-Nihoul

Moderated by: Colin Scicluna, Head of Cabinet to the Vice President for Democracy & Demography, European Commission

3:45-4:00 PM Coffee Break
4:00-5:30 PM

Roundtable: Should Citizens’ Assemblies be More like Sovereign Parliaments, or Not?

  • Thierry Beaudet, President of the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council
  • Cristina Lafont, Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University
  • Hélène Landemore, Professor of Political Science, Yale University; Distinguished Researcher, Oxford University Institute for Ethics in AI
  • Myriam Souami, Former Participant of the Citizens’ Convention on End of Life

Moderated by: Alexandra Cirone, Assistant Professor of Government at Cornell University and Visiting fellow at the Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies

5:30 PM Adjournment
The conference “Governing Citizens’ Assemblies” is funded by the Institution for Social & Policy Studies’ Democratic Innovations program and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University with support from the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund.
Open to: 
Yale Community Only