5. Different Types of MSPs
"Opportunities for using consensus processes exist at all stages of decision-making involving issues of sustainability – from the establishment of broad policies and regulations, to long range planning, to allocating land resources, to resolving specific disputes, to licensing, monitoring, and enforcement" (Canadian Round Tables 1993: 5)
MSPs vary with regard to their scope, level and
diversity of stakeholder groups involved. They range from informing processes to
monitoring processes and mechanisms, implementation processes, and what we call
'advanced multi-stakeholder processes' which include not only dialogues but
consensus-building, decision-making and implementation. MSPs can also be
conducted at different levels: local, national, or international, with some
processes including sub-processes at different levels. Finally, MSPs can involve
different numbers of stakeholder groups und thus vary in diversity, with
increased diversity posing specific challenges as well as opportunities.
The different types of MSPs
described below do not represent distinct categories. The categories overlap,
and some processes will evolve over time.
1. Informing processes
MSPs can be designed to inform a
governmental or intergovernmental decision-making process, or decision-making
processes within other entities such as businesses, trade union associations,
NGOs, etc. This we would call a "multi-stakeholder dialogue" or an
"informing MSP". It can be designed as a one-off event or as an
ongoing process. Such a process does not need to come to consensus decisions but
be used to help lay out the view points, interests, arguments and experiences of
the various groups which are being put forward to the decision-making body. The
expectation is that the decision-making body will make a more informed decision.
The advantage as opposed to separate hearings with different stakeholder groups
is that a dialogue allows the stakeholders to debate the pro's and con's of
their analysis and suggestions, clearly a value added for (inter)governmental
decision-makers. In hearings, stakeholders are often reluctant or unable to
outline the shortcomings of their suggestions; debating them with other groups
who hold different views is more likely to clarify pro's and con's.
This kind of process obtaining
information of various stakeholder views, common grounds or differences should
begin before the decision-making processes commences as it otherwise becomes a
‘fig-leaf’ or token exercise, often perceived to be instituted as a process
to "rubber stamp" a decision after it has been taken.
Most of the examples we have
looked at are informing processes. Others seem to begin with developing
information, such as the corporate guidelines being developed in the Global
Reporting Initiative (GRI), but could develop into implementation or monitoring
2. Monitoring processes
Decision-making bodies can
establish an on-going process of dialogue with stakeholders to obtain
information on the effects of implementation. This can be developed into
accountability mechanisms, where decision-making bodies are being monitored and
evaluated regarding the effects of their decisions being implemented.
governmental or intergovernmental decision-making bodies should be obliged to
continually evaluate their work and pursue ongoing dialogue / consensus-building
with the wider community – in the form of multi-stakeholder dialogues -
to assess and, if necessary, revise their decisions.
the local level, participatory monitoring and evaluation has been developed over
more than 20 years to "shift emphasis away from externally controlled
data-seeking evaluations towards recognition of locally-relevant or
stakeholder-based processes for gathering, analysing, and using
information" (Estrella 2000).
At the international level,
SocialWatch is an excellent example of an advanced monitoring process.
SocialWatch regularly updates its research on progress made towards implementing
the agreements of the Copenhagen Social Summit and the Fourth World Conference
on Women. However, this monitoring is being conducted by an NGO cooperating with
other NGOs and with women's organisations, it is not a multi-stakeholder effort
where very different viewpoints form the basis of a monitoring effort.
To monitor labelling schemes,
stakeholders could get together to independently from governments set standards
(e.g. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)).
The UN Global Compact, initiated
by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, comprises business associations &
individual companies; trade union associations and NGOs as partners in the
Compact with the United Nations. The UN Global Compact process might offer an
opportunity to develop multi-stakeholder monitoring efforts, looking at the
implementation of international agreements in the areas being addressed by the
Compact (human rights; workplace; environment).
3. Implementation Processes
MSPs can also be employed to
pursue the implementation of existing agreements and policies, including those
which have not come out of an MSP. The international community has over the last
years increasingly included recommendations not only to governments and
intergovernmental bodies in their resolutions and agreements, but also to a
range of stakeholders such as business & industry, trade unions, local
authorities, and NGOs. Many international agreements, e.g. the CBD agreements on
access and benefit-sharing or the CSD-7 decision on sustainable tourism, need
the collaboration of various stakeholders to put them into practice in joint
At the local level, Local Agenda
21 processes can include not only participatory planning mechanisms but also
components of joint implementation. At the international level, UNED Forum's
planned Implementation Conference after the 2002 Summit provides an example of
an implementation MSP. The conference plans to gather key stakeholders to review
the agreements reached at the Summit and to work out what roles stakeholders at
the local, national and international levels will take in implementing the
agreements, and what tools and processes might be needed.
4. Advanced Multi-stakeholder Processes
We call 'advanced full
multi-stakeholder process' those which include decision-making and
implementation using the same preparation, communication and consensus-building
mechanisms. However, for agreement and action to be possible, a diversity of
views needs to be integrated into consensus decisions. Therefore, participants
need to agree on how to make decisions and which rules to follow once a decision
has been taken. Certain principles of stakeholder communication and
implementation, which are not necessary for dialogue processes, need to be
considered in a MSP which involves decision-making and common action.
Advanced MSPs are designed to
ensure that they allow parties involved to design processes of communication,
decision-making and implementation appropriate to their special circumstances
and needs. All significant interests need to be are represented and respected
and given an effective voice to all participants. Advanced MSPs need to provide
a forum that forges new partnerships and fosters co-operative problem solving in
the search for innovative solutions that maximize all interests and promote
Advanced MSPs need to be
answerable to questions of democratic legitimacy and accountability. They cannot
replace democratically elected bodies or governing councils to make decisions,
but they can supplement and complement (inter)governmental decision-making
processes. Wherever MSPs touch upon areas where the involvement, guidance and/r
control of governments are required, these bodies need to be part of the process
from the beginning.
MSPs can be conducted at different levels: local, national, or international. Some MSPs will, over time, encompass several of these levels. For example, the ongoing international multi-stakeholder process on tourism which came out of CSD-7 may inspire or directly spark off MSPs at national (national sustainable tourism development plans) or local levels (planning of individual resorts).
Designing MSPs so
that involve several levels can be a useful option.
In addition, building
in feedback loops between different levels (e.g. local, national, regional,
international) should be an important part of the strategy. An important goal of
MSP, for instance, could be to build on perspectives from lower levels to inform
dialogue or decision making at higher levels and to go back to the lower levels
with higher level decisions, perspectives etc.
MSPs can involve different
numbers of stakeholder groups of different degrees of diversity. They should
involve at least three stakeholder groups, as this causes the groups to dialogue
and not two parties to confront. The number can rise, depending on the
respective issues, purposes, resources, and definitions of various stakeholder
groups being used. With increasing diversity, stakeholder communications become
more difficult, but processes can also be more powerful, if they work well.
Making effective use of diversity is an important goal and purpose of MSPs – that is, making use of all resources available to a group. Decisions taken by a large number of groups enjoy higher credibility, particularly if the groups are highly diverse.
To make effective use of the potential benefits of diversity requires careful group composition, transparency, equity, agreed procedures of communication and decision-making, and a first stage of carefully identifying all views.
Local Agenda 21 processes should ideally involve all Major Groups as of Agenda 21; Stakeholder Dialogues at the Commission on Sustainable Development have involved four or five stakeholder groups (plus governments). The Ministerial Dialogues in Bergen, Norway (September 2000) involved four stakeholder groups during the preparations (local authorities, business, trade unions, NGOs) – with women providing input into the NGO paper, and six stakeholder groups at the Dialogues themselves (local authorities, business, trade unions, NGOs, women, Indigenous Peoples), plus governments.
As issues of sustainable development are of high levels of complexity and affect a great number of stakeholders, a high degree of diversity of MSPs is desirable. However, there are practical limitations with regard to numbers of groups and representatives participating at meetings. Decisions on size and composition need to be dealt with creatively and constructively, guided by the focus and objective of the MSP.
Finally, when designing MSPs one needs to keep in mind that stakeholder groups are by no means homogenous social categories. Women, for example, differ with regard to region, profession, income level, age and political viewpoints. NGOs differ with regard to the issues they are working on, their size and the level at which they operate (some engage in advocacy while others do practical work), and their preparedness to engage in multi-stakeholder processes. The same applies more or less to all stakeholder groups. Identifying MSP participants should therefore not be designed merely on the basis of the nine Major Groups as of Agenda 21. In many cases, "customised" definitions of the group relevant stakeholders should be developed to take account of these and related differences.
see Canadian Round-tables 1993:7