Phase 1


Autumn 2020

What topics should the Citizens' Assembly "Germany's Role in the World" discuss? Various participation modules have accompanied the agenda’s development phase. Representatives of the political sphere, of the scientific world, and civil society were involved as well as citizens, who all had an influence on the design of the working program of the citizens' assembly.

The following points were taken into account in the drafting of the working program:

  • Germany's role in the world: How is Germany perceived in the world? How do citizens understand this role? What experiences, basic convictions, and values shape the understanding of the role? Should that role change?

  • Thematic fields: Which topics should the citizens' assembly look at in more detail? Which topics are particularly important in order to understand Germany's role in the world and to be able to form an opinion about that role?: The relationship to certain regions or states, peace and security, interests such as open markets, or fields of action such as security policy, sustainable development, migration, or the role in international organizations such as the EU.

  • The working program was designed to enable participants to develop guidelines as well as basic recommendations on thematic areas. Concrete day-to-day policy recommendations were not targeted, but rather, participants were free to decide how and what they ultimately chose.

  • There are countless issues related to Germany's role in the world. The working program for the citizens' assembly had to keep in mind a scope that would also be manageable by the participants. In this process of concentration and selection, the results of the various participation modules give an important indication of what is important.

In the end, five thematic areas were determined. The Citizens' Assembly "Germany's Role in the World" dealt with

  • sustainable development
  • economy and trade
  • peace and security
  • democracy and the rule of law
  • the European Union

Below is an outline of the building blocks used to identify the topics.

Building blocks in the preparatory phase

1. Input from the parliamentary groups in the Bundestag

Since the topic "Germany's role in the world" was suggested from the Bundestag to the organizers of the citizens' assembly, all parliamentary groups were first asked informally to state their ideas on what topics and issues should be discussed under this headline.

2. Questionnaire for experts from scientific and civil society organizations

Based on the feedback from the parliamentary groups, a questionnaire was developed to collect information on the understanding of the role as well as on favored topic areas and concrete examples related to the topic areas.

The survey was conducted online. Around 50 civil society organizations with special knowledge in the fields of foreign, security, foreign trade, development, and international policy were invited to participate.

3. Round of discussions with citizens

In four online discussion rounds from the 20th to the 24th of October 2020, with 23 to 26 participants each, the questions and topics for the citizens' assembly were further developed, discussed, and sorted according to importance. The citizens in the discussion rounds reflected their view of Germany's role in the world and what is important for it. This ensured that the topics dealt with in the citizens' assembly were also relevant to the participants.

Participants: The citizens were also drawn by lot for the four discussion rounds. Participants were invited from Chemnitz, Freising, Lübeck, and Völklingen - cities that represent the regions East, South, North and West and were also drawn at random. The purpose of this participation module was to find out the opinion of citizens without an expert's input as well as to gather suggestions for the working program. However, since no recommendations were submitted to the Bundestag in the discussion rounds, the procedure was much simpler than the lottery procedure for the citizens' assembly itself. You can find more about this in our concept (PDF).

4. Representative survey

In a representative, German-wide survey conducted by the opinion research institute Civey, the questions and topics collected in the preparatory agenda-setting phase were tested with the general public. From the citizens' point of view, what are important issues that a citizens' assembly should address? The questions were developed in cooperation with Civey and scientific partners. The survey took place from the 20th to the 22nd of October 2020.

5. Workshop with politicians and the civil society: Creating an agenda

Based on the overview of topics and the priorities set by the citizens, a content-based roadmap and an agenda for the citizens' assembly was developed. This agenda was finalized in a half-day workshop on 10 November 2020 with representatives from the political world and with civil social organizations.

The workshop participants ensured that all politically and socially relevant topics and issues were included in the citizens' assembly’s working program. They narrowed down topics and sorted issues according to their importance. They were also able to advise on the selection of experts and speakers for the citizens' assembly.

Participants: CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP, Greens and Left in the Bundestag, Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of the Interior, Federal Ministry of Defense, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Federal Foreign Office, Federal Chancellery, BDI, DGB, UN Youth Delegates, Greenpeace, “Paritätischer Gesamtverband”, Forum Environment and Development, “Misereor”.

All parliamentary parties in the Bundestag were invited to participate, as well as the Federal Ministry of Economics, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and other civil society actors.

The implementing institutes IFOK, IPG, and nexus ensured that the agenda works well for the members of the citizens' assembly in terms of time and content. The agenda was meant to leave enough space and flexibility for the concerns of the citizens themselves. The final decision on the agenda lied with the independent implementing institutes, who cooperated with the scientific partners.