Deliberative democracy: citizens' juries

Citizens’ juries can foster greater inclusion and democratic pluralism in policymaking. This project looked at citizens’ juries in Mali and India to find out how they can influence policymaking.


Citizens' juries are processes that aim to link local voices and visions with national and international policymaking. The idea of making a decision or judgement based on an often randomly selected group of members of society has been accepted in many countries for hundreds of years. The composition of a jury and the way jurors are chosen varies considerably from country to country.

A citizens' jury can be a good model of participatory decision making that allows the voices of the most marginalised, and yet most affected by development policies, to be heard and included. But to be truly valuable and to ensure that the citizens’ jury successfully influences policy, it must be set up with painstaking efforts to ensure its integrity, inclusiveness and credibility.

In any given society it is important to ask whose perspectives, knowledge and aspirations are embedded in policies, and whose are excluded. Recognising that policies usually reflect and reinforce the interests of the powerful, citizens’ juries are attempts to foster greater inclusion and democratic pluralism in policymaking.

What IIED did

This project aimed to shed light on the process of policymaking and how a citizens’ jury can influence it. It looked at the policy impacts of citizens’ juries in Mali and India, and highlighted the factors that enabled civil society empowerment to change policy.

Citizens' jury in Mali

Citizens Space for Democratic Deliberation on GMOs and the future of farming in Mali: as indicated by its name, this citizens' jury was a space to share knowledge and dialogue, and to inform decisions, on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in relation to the future of farming in Mali. This event involved farmers – men and women – from all districts of the Sikasso region in Mali. It took place in Sikasso from 25-29 January 2006.

The event was organised by the Regional Assembly of Sikasso, with conceptual and methodological support by the Réseau Interdisciplinaire Biosécurité (RIBios) of the Institut Universitaire d’Etudes du Développement in Geneva and IIED.

A steering committee was set up in June 2005 to develop and plan the citizens' jury. This steering committee was made of approximately 15 members representing the following institutions:

  • Regional Assembly of Sikasso
  • Centre Djoliba
  • Jubilé 2000
  • Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER)/Comité Régional de la Recherche Agronomique (CRRA)
  • Compagnie Malienne de Développement des Textiles (CMDT)
  • Association des Organisations Professionnelles Paysannes (AOPP)
  • Union Rurale des Radios et Télévisions (URTEL)/Radio Kene
  • Comité Régional de Concertation des Ruraux (CRCR)
  • Coordination Régionale des ONG (CR/ONG)
  • Jekasy/Intercoopération
  • Chambre d’agriculture
  • Commission Régionale des Utilisateurs de la Recherche (CRU)
  • Syndicat des Producteurs de coton et vivriers (SYCOV)
  • Syndicat pour la Valorisation des Cultures Cotonnières et Vivrières (SYVAC)
  • International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) de Londres, and
  • Réseau Interdisciplinaire Biosécurité (RIBios)/IUED Genève.

Citizen's jury in India

The project also looked at the impact of Prajateerpu, a citizens' jury initiative on the future of food and farming in Andhra Pradesh, India.

Additional resources

A citizens’ space for democratic deliberation on GMOs and the future of farming in Mali: background information for an IIED critical theme (PDF), Michel Pimbert, July 2007

Media: Resistance continues to GM crops. Mali: not on my farm, Le Monde diplomatique (2006) English | French 

Media: African farmers say no to GMO cotton, The Ecologist, April 2006

Media: Mali farmers reject GM crops as attack on their way of life, Independent, 31 January 2006

Media: Interpellation démocratique sur les OGM à Sikasso (PDF), L’Indépendant du Mali 6 February 2006

Media: Le Tribunal des OGM s'installe à Sikasso, Les Echos, 26 January 2006

Media: Un jury citoyen dit non aux OGM (Adels Revue Territoires) (French only)


Institute of Development Studies

Citizens' jury in India: Andhra Pradesh Coalition in defence of Diversity, University of Hyderabad and the National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan

Citizens' jury in Mali :Regional Assembly of Sikasso, the Réseau Interdisciplinaire Biosécurité (RIBios) of the Institut Universitaire d’Etudes du Développement