Deliberation in law making procedures. Enhancing Trust in modern democracies


The Deliberation in law making procedures: Enhancing Trust in modern democracies workshop saw 17 papers presented across four panels addressing critical issues from Mini Publics and Legitimacy to Deliberation and Deliberation in Law making. The workshop hosted in DCU welcomed delegates from Universities and Research Institutes across Europe, Canada and had many international aspects too.  Papers presented at the workshop were of a very high level of academic work, engaging in scholarly analysis either departing from a theoretical standpoint or following empirical research results.

The four panels approached and analysed in depth different modes of citizens’ engagement in law making procedures. Many papers have concentrated in the study of mini publics, their design, their potential and limitations and most importantly the challenges in implementing decisions taken in mini publics to maxi public. Other papers have focused on issues of legitimacy and the impact of  democratic innovations on decision making and legitimacy while a number of scholars have specifically analyzed the relation between legislative procedures (online and offline)with deliberative democratic principles and design.

More particularly, at the first panel entitled “Deliberation, Legitimacy, Impact” the four presentations focusing- as the theme of the panel reveals- on issues of legitimacy and the larger impact of deliberative practices on non participants in the context of mini publics. S. Marien et al.  (KU Leuven, Belgium) J. Garry an J. Pow et al (Queens University Belfast, UCD Ireland, and Jesus College Oxford) and V. Liston (DCU Ireland) have reported experimental research findings that suggest that mini publics can increase perceived legitimacy and fairness to the public. The last paper from M. Setala (UTU, Finland) has demonstrated the impact of deliberation in parliamentary decision-making process on a critical topic such as euthanasia. 

The second panel focused more specifically, on how deliberative principles can operate in law making, basically in an online environment. A. Deligiaouri and J. Suiter (DCU, Ireland) have presented law-making process on line in the EU as this takes place under the Better Regulation Agenda and Y. Belinskaya (Univ. of Vienna, Austria) in her co-authored paper has provided findings on relevant initiatives in Russia. At the same panel J. Benoit Pilet (Univ. Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium) has provided initial findings and ideas on the study of the effects of democratic innovation on non participants, while Peter Stone (TCD, Ireland) in his co-authored paper deployed the argument that decision making bodies can benefit if they encourage ‘imagined deliberation’. 

The third and fourth panels were devoted to detailed analysis of mini publics from many different angles and viewpoints providing a cross-country perspective.  To this extent we had presentations from Laura Devaney and her co-authors (DCU, Ireland) on the Irish Citizens Assembly on climate change, and three authors, R. Van Crombrugge, J. Vrydagh and S.Devillers (with a co-authored paper) have presented case studies from different areas of Belgium providing important insights on the effects of small participatory initiatives on public policy and how these democratic innovations interplay with new modes of governance and their actors. 

Commencing the fourth and last panel of the workshop A. Renwick (UCL, UK) presented his co-authored research for the importance of the composition of mini publics in relation to the best possible representativeness required something that can be better achieved, as the author proposed, by stratification on the basis of political values and behaviors. St. Elstub (Newcastle Univ. UK) has presented the case of Select Committees in the British Parliament and how mini publics could diversify the evidence base and facilitate public scrutiny in them. The case study from M. Back (Abo Akademi, Finland) and her co-authors presented ongoing research about a municipal merger in Finland examining if and how deliberative procedures can have an effect and can be productive in highly polarized topics. The last paper presented by J. Rose (Queen’s University, Canada) was concerned with issues of governance commitment and responsiveness to deliberative exercises while analyzing two different cases of citizen-led bodies in Canada 

Law is the main instrument by which policies are exercised and policies are put forward and implemented. Deliberation in legislative procedures is a way of enhancing legitimacy and trust in modern decision making while enabling citizens to have a direct say in all these laws and policies that will be realized and will have an impact on their life. The workshop has indicated that deliberation, and in general, democratic innovations, which enhance civic participation, can address in a positive way legitimacy gaps acknowledged in modern democracies, insert public demands in legislative procedures and yield consent in policy making. Thus, deliberation can be the answer to the problems that modern representative democracy is facing by reinstituting people at the center of decision-making process. However, studies show that this is not easily achieved and that several variables pertaining either to the design and composition of these small participatory initiatives or to other factors such as the topic under question and the political environment can influence or alter the expected result.  Papers have also demonstrated how different political and social contexts employ and apply deliberative procedures and how perceptions for the effects of them vary, reaching however, an overarching conclusion that despite the discrepancies detected in different initiatives there is, overall, a positive influence of deliberative procedures in increasing legitimacy perception levels among the publics.  

The workshop entitled “Deliberation in law making procedures. Enhancing Truth in modern democracies” was organized by Dr Anastasia Deligiaouri (Marie Curie Experienced Research Fellow at DCU), Dr Jane Suiter (Associate Professor at DCU, Director of the Study for Future Media and Journalism) and Prof. David Farrell (Professor and Head of the Department of Politics and International Relation at UCD) in the context of the project “Promoting E-Rulemaking in the EU through Deliberative procedures” (PEREDEP) which is funded by Horizon2020 under the MSCA-IF scheme. 

The workshop took place in May 9th, 2019 at the School of Communications at Dublin City University with the support of PSAI Democratic Innovations research group and CiviQ.

This workshop was organized in the context of the project “PEREDEP” (“Promoting E-Rulemaking in the EU through Deliberative Procedures”) which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the        Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 798502