Citizens' Assembly topics have been set

Many have contributed, and now the phase of identifying the topics for the Citizens' Assembly "Germany's Role in the World" has been completed. In order to find out which topics would be important the implementation institutes, ifok, IPG, and Nexus used various methods to gather the opinions of the population, parliamentarians, experts, and civil society organisations at the Citizens' Assembly "Germany's Role in the World".

In addition to an online survey conducted by the polling company Civey, there were four online discussions rounds with randomly selected citizens from four German cities. At the same time, Members of Parliament and representatives of important civil society organisations were asked which topics they thought should be dealt with in the citizens' assembly. Experts from institutes and foundations also contributed to the preparatory phase of the citizens' assembly.

In the end, five topics were determined. The Citizens' Assembly "Germany's Role in the World" will focus on

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

The following is an overview of building blocks for identifying topics.

Input from the parliamentary groups in the Bundestag

Since the topic of "Germany's role in the world" was brought by the Bundestag to the organisers of the citizens' assembly, all parliamentary groups were first asked informally to share their ideas on which issues would be important under this topic. Issues mentioned included Germany's responsibility in the world, foreign and security policy interests and challenges, embedding German foreign policy in European structures, disarmament, arms control and confidence building, international terrorism, migration, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, the market economy, development cooperation, the fight against poverty, a just world economic order, climate protection, the United Nations, and lessons from German history.

Expert survey

Experts from institutes and foundations dealing with foreign policy issues were also asked to help shape the topics. Questionnaires were sent to the German Council on Foreign Relations, the German United Nations Association, the German Foundation for Peace Research, party-affiliated foundations, and other institutions. According to the experts, important issues for the citizens' assembly include asylum, flight and migration, the future of Europe, civil society and cultural cooperation, and a possible European army and defense union.

A total of 27 institutions participated in the survey.

Discussion rounds with citizens

A total of 83 people had participated in four randomly drawn online discussion rounds regarding the citizens' assembly from October 20 to 24, 2020. They came from Chemnitz, Freising, Lübeck and Völklingen - four places that represent the north, east, south, and west of Germany. The participants defined the most important fields of action as energy/climate/environment, sustainable development, security and peace, and rule of law and democracy. The regions named as most important were Europe, Africa, Russia, Asia, and the USA.

Representative survey

In a representative survey of 2,501 participants, which took place from October 20 to 22, 2020 one of the questions asked was, in the future, which topics the respondents thought Germany should be most recognized around the world. In this context, 45 percent named the topic of human rights, 35 percent climate and environmental protection, and 30.9 percent national security and political stability.

37.6 percent of the participants were of the opinion that Germany should assume more responsibility for resolving international conflicts in the future, 32.2 percent were in favour of assuming less responsibility, and 28.7 percent were in favour of keeping responsibility the same. 70.3 percent saw the importance of German history for Germany's role in international politics today as "rather important" or "very important".

When it comes to foreign policy issues, Germany should, according to Civey, work primarily for democracy and human rights (41.8%), peacekeeping and internal security (45.9 %), as well as climate and environmental protection (40.3%). When it came to the foreign policy means, 57.3% were in favour of diplomacy and peace mediation, 40.8% for the promotion of trade relations, and 39.5% for development cooperation and humanitarian aid. Europe and the European Union is considered as a priority by most respondents, where Germany should engage.

Topic-finding Workshop

On November 10, 2020, Members of Parliament from the CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP, Left Party, and the Greens introduced the points important to them in a topic-finding workshop. Associates from the Federal Ministries of Finance, Domestic, Defense and Environment, as well as from the Foreign Office and the Federal Chancellery, were also present. Also present were representatives of the Federation of German Industries, the DGB, UN youth delegates from Greenpeace, and the Paritätischer Gesamtverband, Forum Environment & Development as well as from 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 guiding question was: On which aspects do you see a need for change in Germany's role in the world? The discussion included the question who we are economically, diplomatically, militarily, and geopolitically, and who we want to be. What interests do we have and what can Germany's contribution be to strengthening human rights, the rule of law, and democracy? One of the topics was a conflict between values and interests, for example, in relation to China, where human rights are seen just as important as trade issues. It also dealt with questions of military operations abroad and civil crisis prevention.

In relation to the citizens' assembly, the question was: which specific topics or legislative proposals have a particular political relevance for you? Which issues are particularly controversial in your view in the Bundestag? Which legislative proposals are currently on the political agenda or will be in the near future? In which specific issues or legislative projects are you particularly interested in the views of citizens? There were numerous answers to this question, ranging from the protection of human rights, arms control, trade agreements, supply chain regulation, biodiversity and climate change, to cooperation in the European Union.