David Van Reybrouck interviewed on national Dutch public TV

Submitted by webmaster on Sun, 24-05-2020 - 19:39

On May 24th, 2020 David Van Reybrouck, was interviewed on one of the main current affairs TV programs, Buitenhof, that airs on Sunday afternoons. It was his first visit since september 2013, when he was interviewed on his book Against Elections and introduced the concept of sortition to a larger Dutch audience.

The main subject of this interview was a citizens' assembly on climate change, in the Netherlands that is, but that subject was in fact touched only at the very end of the interview; the need for sortition in general, and citizens' assemblies on climate change abroad, were discussed first.

The interview starts off considering the difficulty of integrating climate science into policy measures, because of the shortsightedness of politicians due to elections. The response of the general public to the corona virus measures shows Van Reybrouck that "people are often smarter as citizens, than when they behave like voters (...) it actually leads one to conclude that elections are not the only, and perhaps not the best way, to let the people have its say."

When the interviewer mentions Van Reybrouck's visit to the program seven years ago - the book cover showing the words 'Tegen Verkiezingen' (Against Elections) is projected in the background - Van Reybrouck quickly points out that back then it was only an idea on paper, but by now sortition is becoming a reality: "at the local level in the Netherlands, but in countries like Ireland, France, Spain, Denmark, at this moment, at the national level, citizens' panels, random samples of citizens, are drawn by lot, and they are asked to join the conversation on how to go about making climate policy. And that seems a bit of a detour, but sometimes the detour is the shortest possible way", referring the the French yellow vest movement as an example of what can happen when the people are left out of the decision making process.

Then the interviewer wants to know more on how Van Reybrouck managed to sell the concept of sortition to the French president, Mr. Macron. Van Reybrouck already told about this in the interview on BNR Newsradio a year ago, but now we get to hear some additional details. When one of the guests at the lunch table points out to Macron that Van Reybrouck is working on 'a revolutionary model for democracy', Macron immediately gets very interested, forgets about the food on his plate, and concludes after a thirty-minute conversation with Van Reybrouck on sortition: "C'est formidable! C'est formidable!" (That's wonderful! That's wonderful!) and expresses "Merci, merci infiniment!" (Thank you so much!) at the end of the conversation. Two weeks later, his prime minister started talking about sortition-based citizens' assemblies on tv, resulting in the Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat, the French Citizens' Assmembly (CA) on Climate Change.

Van Reybrouck is not in direct contact with president Macron, but one of Van Reybrouck's friends is involved in the CA as one of the three neutral experts monitoring the independence of the process, and Macron appears to have pushed through the CA against the will of his cabinet - he really believes in it. Van Reybrouck further explains that Macron is considering reforming the French 'third chamber', the CESE (economic, social, and environmental council) into a kind of sortition-based third parliamentary chamber, next to the two elected chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

For a Dutch Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change, Van Reybrouck proposes a familiar sortition recipe: drafting 150 citizens by lot using stratification, having them assemble to inform themselves using experts, and letting them deliberate in smaller groups around tables chaired by moderators. Van Reybrouck ends the interview stressing that he hopes that Dutch politicians will follow Marcon's courageous example in promising to submit the CA's proposals directly - and unchanged - to the population (referendum) and to parliament.

Source: The interview in Dutch on Buitenhof, May 24th, 2020