The Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa informs the Citizens’ Assembly of the work carried out in recent months

The Gipuzkoa Citizens’ Assembly met again today, and representatives of  Gipuzkoa Provincial Council presented the progress made in implementing the 9 recommendations proposed by the members of the Assembly. 

The Gipuzkoa Citizens’ Assembly represents an innovative deliberative procwess to address the following question: ‘How can we guarantee the agricultural activity of Gipuzkoa to face the climate emergency?’ Promoted by the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, in collaboration with Arantzazulab, a laboratory for innovation in democracy and governance; and the Telesforo Monzon eLab.  

In accordance with the commitment made, the representatives of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa met with the members of the Citizens’ Assembly of Gipuzkoa inside the Provincial Palace. The purpose of the meeti, which took place on  Wednesday 15 Novemberat 18.00, wasto present the process carried out by the Provincial Council to implement the recommendations made by the members of the Assembly.  

Eider Mendoza, Head of the Provincial Council, opened the meeting, and in her speech she reaffirmed the importance of this process. The process promotes the involvement of citizens in a meaningful way in some public policies, and considers the approach of citizens in public decisions related to the issue to be deliberated by the Assembly. “We know you are aware of the importance we attach to this initiative. We have learned a lot and we want to continue. When citizens are involved in this kind of process, their contribution is very valuable and of a very high standard. said Eider Mendoza, Head of the Gipuzkoa Provincial Council. 

After the Head of the Councill, it was the political officers of the Green Territorial Balance department who were responsible for presenting the work carried out in relation to the nine recommendations made by the Assembly. The deliberative process resulted in recommendations such as the following: making the primary sector strategic, promoting local products by adjusting tax rebates or promoting forest management through R&D and making it a strategic sector (available in Spanish).

Response to the 9 recommendations and initial reactions  

The progress made by Xabier Arruti, deputy for Green Territorial Balance, gave way to the intervention of Arantxa Ariztimuño, director general of Agriculture and Territorial Balance of the regional government. Both representatives of the regional government assured that most of the work to implement the recommendations is underway. Among the main advances made, they highlighted the creation of the new “Green Territorial Balance” department, which aims to make the primary sector strategic in order to boost the economic development of Gipuzkoa and protect and preserve its natural environment. Work has also begun to promote a Green Balance Reference Centre in Gipuzkoa, through a feasibility study to be carried out by a consultancy firm. With regard to measures to rejuvenate the primary sector, Gaztenek Berri has carried out a pilot project with Mondragon Unibertsitatea. The Provincial Council is also working on various subsidy programmes to promote professional mixed baserri. The document with all the progress that was shared with the citizens during the devolution session can be found here (available in Spanish).

“The first step in considering the primary sector as strategic was the creation of the Green Territorial Balance department. This reflects the importance we attach to the primary sector. In addition, we need to think in terms that go from the farm to society, what the farm contributes to society,” stressed Xabier Arruti, deputy for Green Territorial Balance. For her part, Arantxa Ariztimuño, Director General of Agriculture and Territorial Balance, stated that “The Sustainable Food Mission promoted by the Provincial Council  itself states that by 2040 Gipuzkoa will have a sustainable, healthy, accessible and competitive food system that maximises local production capacity.

After the presentation, the members of the Assembly met in small groupsto reflect on the explanations given. They also shared their initial reactions, concerns and doubts with the representatives of the Gipuzkoa Provincial Council. In general, they were satisfied with the implementation of the work in most of their recommendations. 

Next, theheadsof the two laboratories promoting the Gipuzkoa Citizens’ Assembly, Naiara Goia, Arantzazulab’s Managing Director, and Malen Dominguez, part of the TMeLab team, presented the next steps, which will give continuity to the implementation of the recommendations. In the same way, both laboratories shared the work being carried out to sytematise and consolidate these processes of democratic innovation in the institutions of the Basque Country. One of these tasks is the design of the Basque Country Citizens’ Assembly, as well as carrying out interviews for the institutionalisation of these processes in the main institutions. “It is not enough to return to the practices of the past, traditional practices, once these processes have been carried out and concluded. If we really want to involve citizens in important public decisions, these processes mustbe extended and established on a regular basis in the different institutions. We are now activating these conversations with the Basque institutions”.

To close the session, the political leaders of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa underlined the importance of the process and expressed their interest in maintaining a continuous dialogue with the Gipuzkoa Citizens’ Assembly  on the implementation of the recommendations, proposing to its members to hold an unscheduled devolution session in May 2024,  as the coming months will see the implementation of actions that could not be carried out so far. In order to report on upcoming progress, they have proposed a new devolution session to be held before the one planned since the beginning of the process in October 2024.  

Background: the history of the Gipuzkoa Citizens’ Assembly  

The Gipuzkoa Citizens’ Assembly is a process that puts deliberative democracy into practice and, together with the Tolosa Citizens’ Assembly, is the second initiative of this type promoted by Arantzazulab in the territory. It is promoted by the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, the Telesforo Monzon elab laboratory and Arantzazulab, with the collaboration of the Deliberativa consultancy. Based on the principles of good practice defined by the OECD, the Gipuzkoa Citizens’ Assembly began in November 2022. After almost a year of design work, 32 citizens of Gipuzkoa were selected randomly or by civic lottery, according to different criteria representing the diversity of the territory (age, gender, educational level, linguistic knowledge, place of residence or the importance they attached to local products).  

The 32 selected citizens participated in a 40-hour deliberative process between November 2022 and January 2023. The participants, who met for 4 weekends to answer the challenge posed by the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, were assisted by experts in the field to receive information and make recommendations.  

The results of the process have been very positive: it has been observed that these deliberation processes offer a tool for deepening collaborative governance, bringing citizens closer to decision-making and contributing to increasing citizens’ trust in public institutions. This process has been possible thanks to the collaboration of: promoters (Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, Arantzazulab, TMelab), expert advice (Deliberativa, OECD), process facilitators (Aztiker, Artaziak), and external evaluators (Parte-Hartuz research group of the UPV/EHU).  

The final objective of Arantzazulab with these two initiatives is to develop knowledge on deliberative democracy, create local capacities and create the conditions for the institutionalisation of deliberative processes in Basque institutions, permanently incorporating this deliberative tool for the involvement of citizens in public decisions in the institutions.