Example: CSD Dialogues

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UN Commission on Sustainable Development Multi-stakeholder Dialogues (MSD)


ISSUES: Various, depending on the UN CSD agenda (1998: industry; 1999: tourism; 2000: sustainable agriculture)


GOALS: Inform the UN CSD negotiations


PARTICIPATING STAKEHOLDERS: Over the past four years (1997 - 2000) trade unions, industry, local government, NGOs (including women and indigenous peoples, farmers)


TIME FRAME: Dialogue over two days on four issues each year - with six-month preparatory period


MSP CONTACT DETAILS; URL: UN Division for Sustainable Development, UNDESA, website: www.un.org/dsd and www.un.org/esa/sustdev

Each stakeholder group may put it on their web site, e.g. NGOs at www.csdngo.org/csdngo.org



Type: Informing

Level: International


Procedural Aspects:

Designing the MSP

In consultation with stakeholder groups. The Secretariat presented it to the Bureau for agreement. Representatives of the stakeholder groups (multi-stakeholder steering committee) before the first, second, third MSP were involved in redesigning the process (NGOs recommendations are the basis for present design).


Identifying the issues to be addressed in an MSP

The issues in the second MSD were defined by the stakeholders and agreed by the Bureau, the third were proposed by the Secretariat and comments by stakeholder groups, the fourth was done by the Secretariat. In each case that is on a broad description of issues but not the substance of subjects to be discussed. Generally the Secretariat recommends to the Bureau.


Identifying relevant stakeholders

The Secretariat recommends to the Bureau - no consultation.


Identifying MSP participants

The participants are identified by the relevant stakeholder groups under their own processes. NGOs through consultation, with criteria such as exptesie, gender and regional balance. Trade Unions on the basis of case studies submitted and on gender and regioal balance.


Setting the goals of an MSP

If the goals develop over time (e.g. from informing towards collaboration projects), it is done by the stakeholders working together. In the third MSD the Chair and this staff took a role in facilitating this. They tried to find common ground and build on this to make the MSD move into concrete areas of action beyond the 'dialogue'. For the fourth dialogue the chair looked at disagreements and that impacted on the possibility of moving forward together.

Prior to the Dialogues there is considerable consultation with constituencies. For the third dialogues the NGOs discussed to agree or not to the proposed basic outcomes the day before the dialogues started. Trade Unions set their goals through international working party.


Setting the agenda

The agenda is set by the Bureau and the chair and also depends on the approach the chair takes. For the third dialogue there was considerable consultation with the stakeholders. Some stakeholders regularly submit suggestions. 


Setting the time-table

The timetable is set by the UN (UNGASS 1997 defined the ultimate timetable and then everyone has worked to this).


Preparatory process

When the topics are agreed each stakeholder group consults with their constituency to prepare. Stakeholder groups employ various mechanisms of drafting and re-drafting. By November/December groups complete draft papers for peer review before handing the paper into the UN Secretariat in mid-January (dialogues are in April). The co-ordinating bodies monitor what is happening within stakeholder groups. There is limited monitoring by the CSD Secretariat. The NGOs put anything out in the public domain but they are the only group to do so.


Communication process

Various channels of communication are used. Most is done by email. Periodic telephone conferences are held regularly to update on preparation. One or two face-to-face meetings per year. Power gaps are addressed by giving each group the same number of seats and for the NGOs and Trade Unions there is some travel funding.


Decision-making process: procedures of agreement

This depends on the chair. For the second and third MSD there was agreement sought. For the fourth (2000) the chair was looking at this disagreements. The chair takes the role of doing this although finding agreement is depending on the dialogues discussion among the stakeholders by themselves.

The process is mostly geared towards influencing the chair to in turn impact the subsequent negotiations, and influecning participating governments.


Implementation process

The CSD decisions following the MSDs in 1998 2000 did set up ongoing processes to implement parts of the agreements. The agreement to do this was taken by governments and the requirement is to report back to governments. The co-ordination is given to particular UN agencies to co-ordinate.


Closing the MSP

Closure is fixed in advance but processes carry on informally. MSDs often form the beginning of an informal process. MSD follow-ups as of CSD decisions have formal reporting back processes.


Structural Aspects:

Structures / institutions of the MSP

The CSD Secretariat facilitates the dialogues in consultation with stakeholder groups. But as these can change each year it puts the Secretariat in a strong position.



The CSD Secretariat facilities the interface between the stakeholders and the CSD Bureau. It facilitates the stakeholder preparations with each other and the dialogues themselves with the CSD chair.

The Secretariat takes the stakeholders' background papers and produces them into a UN document and distributes it. The minutes from the Dialogue Sessions are taken by the Secretariat and produced into a chairs text. In many cases, the chair also has someone who shadows this.



The CSD chairs chair the dialogues. The summaries come out in their name, usually for the high level ministerial meeting; if not, then for the negotiations the following week, which should draw from the chairs summary and the governmental intersessional meeting outcome.


Relating to not-participating stakeholders

Information about the MSDs is available to other stakeholders if they are aware of the CSD information on the UN web site and other web sites of stakeholders and sometimes the chair.

Information on the CSD website and stakeholders' websites are publicly available. CSD Secretariat also produces a printed newsletter.


Relating to the general public

As above. The NGOs have open access to listen on the list servers preparing for the dialogues. The public cannot comment as it is a dialogue between stakeholder groups.

Information on the CSD website and stakeholders' websites are publicly available. CSD Secretariat also produces a printed newsletter.


Linkage into official decision-making process

The MDS are linked to the CSD official process, through the high level ministerial meeting and/or the negotiations the following week, which should draw from the chairs summary and the governmental intersessional meeting outcome. These linkage mechanisms are not transparent and there is no note to stakeholder groups or the chair - it depends on the Secretariat to tell them. This puts stakeholder groups who are new to the process into a disadvantageous position. Stakeholders can impact if they understand the timetable and work on the government members of the Bureau. For example, this happened for the third dialogue session only (1999) and was successful.



CSD Secretariat bears the costs; there is limited funding for stakeholders to attend the dialogues.


[ information as of 2 March 2001 ]


Contact Minu Hemmati and Felix Dodds for further information.