4. Goals of MSPs

The Project
Principles & Checklist
Ongoing Work
MSP Examples
Scientific Research
Your Input


Part III: Building Blocks for Suggesting a Framework for Designing MSPs

To build a fundament for suggesting a framework for designing multi-stakeholder processes, several building blocks need to be assembled:

Clarify the goals of MSPs (Chapter 2)

Putting MSPs in the context of the ongoing debate on global governance and global governance reform (Chapter 3)

Clarifying the terms and definitions of various forms of stakeholder involvement and engagement (Chapter 4)

Identifying different types of MSPs (Chapter 5)

Clarifying the value and ideological basis of MSPs (Chapter 6)

Analysing scientific findings relevant to designing MSPs (Chapter 7)

Analysing existing examples of various types of MSPs (Chapter 8)

These building blocks will be addressed in the following chapters (2 8).

On that basis, Chapter 9 presents issues and questions which need to be addressed when designing MSPs, drawing conclusions from Part III.



2. Goals of Multi-stakeholder Processes

Multi-stakeholder processes are an important tool for sustainable development. Their objectives are to:

promote better decisions by means of wider input; integrate diverse viewpoints;

bring together the principal actors;

create trust through honouring each participant's contribution as a necessary component of the bigger picture;

create mutual benefits (win/win rather than win/lose solutions);

develop shared power with a partnership approach;

create commitment by enabling participants to identify with the outcome and to value it, thus increasing the likelihood of successful implementation; 

allow for groups un- or under-represented in formal governance structures to have their say in policy-making;

put issues of concern to stakeholders onto the political agenda;

allow for clear and shared definitions of responsibilities in the implementation of change;

bring into the process those who have important expertise pertaining to the issues at hand.

In a real sense, they are designed to put people into the centre of decision-finding, making and implementation.

MSP are a new species in the complex biodiversity of governance and decision-finding structures.  However they are not fully evolved or defined. The task of improving their role and effectiveness falls to all MSPs. In this regard, it is essential to experiment with MSPs for all to learn how to carry them out successfully.

Multi-stakeholder processes serve to build trust and can provide a basis for dealing with other complicated issues in the future. MSPs should be used to: look into alternative measures to develop viable frameworks of participation at all levels; increase the impact of un- or under-represented groups and protect their interests; identify stakeholders' roles in policy making and implementation; identify viable strategies of implementation of existing agreements (and MSP outcomes in-line with these agreements); develop indicators of good and bad practice; create monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and collective review procedures; enhance learning from the MSP experience; create and implement effective techniques for increasing commitment (when possible) and overcoming impediments to compliance (when necessary); and so on. By holding the potential to reach goals that would be unattainable if each participating sector worked alone, MSPs also provide a foundation for broader change. Finally, successful MSPs also help to build larger coalitions and thus create political power and advantage.

For different stakeholder groups, MSPs hold different potential: for those under-represented they offer an entry point into the political process; for governments, they offer much-needed expertise and engagement in the refining of broad policies and their implementation; for NGOs, they offer new opportunities for campaigning (towards all MSP participants; see Hohnen 2000a), for the academic community, they offer opportunities to contribute up-to-date findings into the political process.

For those wielding considerable (un-elected) power (such as industry and NGOs), MSPs offer opportunities to increase transparency, accountability and in the long run acceptance of their contentiously debated activities particularly as and if they change through such processes. Engaging in MSPs is the logical next step for corporations adopting a wider perspective which they need to in increasingly globalising markets. The fierce debate around the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Bretton Woods Institutions and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), for example, have brought inequalities and injustice to the attention of a wider public, and the pressure on Northern governments and on TNCs to address these injustices are likely to increase. The virtual vacuum of international regulation, monitoring and enforcement will not remain as large a "playing field" as it is at the moment.

MSPs are not the mechanism of choice for all situations or problems, not even all that need stakeholder participation. An essential pre-requisite is the presence of at least one common goal, or at least a reasonable probability that one will emerge as a result of the MSP. If this is not shared by everybody who should be involved, other mechanisms such as bilateral interaction, traditional lobbying and campaigning will be more appropriate.

MSPs are not a panacea for any kind of problems, contentious issues, conflicts of interests, etc. MSPs are not some kind of 'truth' nor do they develop it. They are a tool or catalyst which will be applicable in some situations and not others. Being guided by agreed principles of governance and experimenting with various forms of MSPs will help us learn when and how to best use that tool.


Contact Minu Hemmati and Felix Dodds for further information.