Multi Stakeholder Dialogue Session at the 8th Informal Environment Ministers Meeting, Bergen, Norway
ISSUES: dialogues on water for basic needs & energy for a sustainable future; multi-stakeholder participation
GOALS: to facilitate a multi-stakeholder input and dialogue with Ministers, with a view ahead to 2002
PARTICIPATING STAKEHOLDERS: Environment Ministers (worldwide); high-ranking UN officials; leading civil society representatives (local government, trade unions, women, business & industry)
TIME FRAME: 15 September 2000 (6 months project: 5 months preparations, reporting 1 month)
MSP CONTACT DETAILS; PUBLICATIONS; URL: UNED Forum, 3 Whitehall Court, London SW1A 2EL, UK, Tel +44 20 78391784, Fax +44 20 79305893, Email email@example.com, web-site: www.earthsummit2002.org/es/2002/bergen/bergen.htm
Dialogue Sessions: Water for Basic Needs. Energy for a Sustainable Future. 8th Informal Environment Ministers Meeting, Bergen. Edited by Danielle Morley. London: UNED Forum
Government of Norway, http://odin.dep.no/md/engelsk
Type; Scope; Level of MSP
Designing the MSP
The initiative to incorporate a MSP into the usually closed ministerial meeting came from the Norwegian Government who decided that it might advance participatory discussions at the international level. UNED Forum was invited to co-ordinate the 3 hour dialogue session. It was the first time civil society participation had been allowed at this annual meeting.
Identifying the issues to be addressed in an MSP
The Steering Committee, working with stakeholders, wanted to debate poverty eradication, but chose to focus on water and energy for strategic reasons, given the target audience for MSPs was environment Ministers. The Steering Committee identified the over-arching theme and topics for dialogue according to criteria:
Specific topics and sector viewpoints were decided by participating groups in the preparatory process. These umbrella organisations represented the business, local government, trade unions, NGOs, Indigenous Peoples and women’s major groups. A methodological framework for the background papers was agreed.
Identifying relevant stakeholders
UNED Forum working with umbrella organisations via their own networks, contact and experience. Major groups approved for this meeting were limited to:
Identifying MSP participants
UNED Forum & umbrella organisations via own networks and expertise. Numbers were limited due to nature of the event and the time frame for dialogue (a 3 hour session).
Setting the goals of an MSP
This dialogue with Ministers on these issues was perceived as being a useful background and complementing forthcoming preparations for other international policy processes, e.g: International Freshwater Review Conference 2001; Earth Summit 2002, and energy at CSD-9 where multi-stakeholder dialogue sessions will take place.
Setting the agenda
Steering Group according to criteria mentioned above.
Setting the time-table
Set by timeframe of Ministerial meeting (3 hour event).
One off event, about 5 months for preparations. The preparatory process involving a range of civil society groups from various regions (Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa). Once overall themes had been chosen, these were narrowed down further. They were carefully framed to provide focus for a short dialogue to be cross-cutting and inclusive in scope so that each stakeholder group could make a positive contribution. A common methodological framework was agreed for writing the background papers allowing the positions of each group to be usefully compared. (Business and Industry diverged from this – with agreement). Preparatory papers were were prepared in consultation with others within their sector. NGOs were to absorb input from women and Indigenous Peoples. However, the timelines were too short for Indigenous Peoples to conduct consultation within their constituency, and therefore was not provided. They attended the dialogue session and representative gave input into the actual discussions.
A comparative summary of the different papers was prepared (in table format) highlighting areas of divergence and convergence. This and background papers went to all participants before the meeting.
Participants reported back that they found the preparatory process a valuable co-operative learning experience of working with other stakeholder groups. Summary tables produced by UNED clearly demonstrate that there were several points of convergence between groups, as based on the background papers.
UNED reports that given a longer preparatory process, areas of convergence and conflict highlighted in the papers could have been explored more substantially. Stakeholders – as potential agents of change – have a responsibility to continue this dialogue and to explore the common ground.
During the preparatory phase via telephone conferences and email. Face-to-face dialogue session (3 hours) with Ministers and chaired by Derek Osborn of UNED. Energy was tackled in the first half, followed by water. Sessions opened with brief presentations from civil society (business, trade union, local government, and NGO perspectives). Due to budget constraints Indigenous Peoples and Women’s groups did not prepare individual briefing papers but were absorbed into NGO group (however, Indigenous Peoples could not feed into papers due to time constraints). But both groups were represented at actual dialogue session.
Following civil society presentations, the proceedings were opened up to the Ministers and other delegates. Discussion was lively as Ministers were able to speak and participate without the need to reach a formulated outcome. They also sought input from civil society representatives as to what government strategies needed to be adopted to address the issues.
An attempt at open and genuine dialogue. Ministers were enthusiastic about the process. “This has strengthened my view that interactive debate should be the way” (Ms Siri Bjerke, Norwegian Environment Minister). There was particular interest by delegates from countries without a strong civil society presence.
Decision-making process: procedures of agreement
No formalised outcome was expected. More of a ‘preparing the ground’ and seeding topics for further discussion at relevant upcoming international meetings.
No implementation process was being aimed at.
Closing the MSP
One off event but ramifications will ripple through to future discussions/agreements at the Ministerial level.
Structures / institutions of the MSP
Steering Committee membership consisted of representatives from each of the participating stakeholder groups who hold appointed or elected coordinating positions within their groups.
UNED provided preparatory material for telephone conferences and email discussions in the preparatory process. Actual dialogue sessions were co-chaired by the Environment Minister of Norway Ms Siri Bjerke and UNED Forum Chair Derek Osborn.
The background papers and results are openly available on the web site www.earthsummit2002,org.
Whilst the remainder of the Ministers session was closed, conclusions taken from the chairpersons reports were taken by UNED, written up overnight upon consultation with stakeholder representatives present, and distributed to all Ministers the next day.
Relating to not-participating stakeholders
UNED disseminated information about the process during the preparatory phase. Stakeholder groups participating were agreed with Norwegian Government and limited from their side.
Relating to the general public
It was a specific and specialised debate. Information is available on the web. There was press coverage in Norwegian daily newspapers.
Linkage into official decision-making process
Not directly linked at this stage. The stakeholders urged ministers to consider how the process of stakeholder engagement at international meetings can be developed into a recognised, transparent mechanism which links to the decision-making process. This is of specific importance in the run-up to 2002 where openness and transparency will, to some extent, depend upon whether adequate time and resources for meaningful participation has been allocated.
Norwegian Government paid for the preparatory process and stakeholder representatives attending the meeting.
[ information gathered as of 16 February 2001 ]