6. Values & Ideologies: Key Aspects of MSPs
As with any other problem-solving or
governance approach, there are certain ideological fundaments or value bases
underlining the promotion of multi-stakeholder approaches. In this chapter, we
will describe the values and ideologies related to multi-stakeholder processes
to enable readers to evaluate the thinking behind the proposed framework.
The list of values and ideological concepts discussed below is not meant to be exhaustive or distinct. There are overlaps between those concepts and there are certainly other, important ones which have been left out. However, we believe that discussion of the ones listed below will facilitate understanding of the thinking behind MSPs.
We have structured the list of
value / ideological concepts using a two-tiered approach: fundamental (first
tier) concepts are discussed first, followed by a set of second-tier concepts
which can be derived from the first set.
Particularly with regard to
ethical-normative bases of MSPs, we have to keep in mind that the values that
people (claim to?) believe in or respect only influence their actual behaviour
to a rather limited extent. To put values into practice, desirable behaviour
needs to be reinforced by rewards, by education, by regulation, by social
images and desirable identities, and by providing information and appropriate
First-tier Concepts: Fundamental Values of MSPs
As with any other problem-solving or governance
approach, there are certain ideological fundaments or value bases underlining
the promotion of multi-stakeholder approaches. In this chapter, we will describe
the values and ideologies related to multi-stakeholder processes to enable
readers to evaluate the thinking behind the proposed framework.
The list of values and ideological concepts discussed below is not meant to be exhaustive or distinct. They are concepts being mentioned in debates on public participation and various mechanisms of stakeholder involvement, and in the wider debate on governance, global governance and global governance reform. Many of them are also discussed in Agenda 21 and other international agreements, and closely linked with the over-arching concept of sustainable development. There are overlaps between those concepts and there are certainly other, important ones which have been left out. However, we believe that discussion of the ones listed below will facilitate understanding of the thinking behind MSPs.
We have structured the list of value /
ideological concepts using a two-tiered approach: fundamental (first tier)
concepts are discussed first, followed by a set of second-tier concepts which
can be derived from the first set.
Particularly with regard to ethical-normative
bases of MSPs, we have to keep in mind that the values that people subscribe to
only influence their actual behaviour to a rather limited extent. To put values
into practice, desirable behaviour needs
to be reinforced by rewards, by education, by regulation, by social images and
desirable identities, and by providing information and appropriate options.
Concepts: Fundamental Values of MSPs
First and foremost it is the concept of
sustainable development itself which provides the ideological under-pinning of
multi-stakeholder processes. The concept of ‘sustainable development’, which
was put forward by the Brundtland Commission and embraced by the international
community in the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, is based on the fundamental
values / principles of respect for nature, respect for an all-encompassing
interdependence of people and the planet, and of inter- and intra-generational
Among basic societal processes related to sustainability are economic and
social processes, and those of governance and political participation, such
"participation in, and the responsiveness of, decision making processes,
but also the capability of institutions to accommodate changing conditions"
(Becker et al. 1997:19).
Sustainable development requires a process of dialogue and ultimately
consensus-building of all stakeholders as partners who together define the
problems; design possible solutions; collaborate to implement them; monitor and
evaluate the outcome; and through this process develop a more appropriate
understanding and more sustainable solutions to new challenges.
In fact, the multi-stakeholder approach
reflects some of the most frequently and fervently discussed issues in
discussions on governance, democracy, equity, and justice of recent years –
e.g. transparency, accountability, corporate social responsibility, solidarity,
good governance, economic justice, gender equity and the like.
Good governance is a core concept and
comprises most of the other aspects discussed here or relates to them.
Good governance comprises the rule of
law, predictable administration, legitimate power, and responsible regulation.
Good governance is indispensable for building peaceful, prosperous and
democratic societies. It gives societies structures for balanced economic and
social development. Good governance demands the consent and participation of the
governed. Here, the full and lasting involvement of all citizens in the future
of their nations is key (see Annan 1997). Good governance creates an enabling,
non-distorting policy environment for all actors of civil society.
Participants at an international UNDP
workshop in 1996 identified the following core characteristics of good
governance systems (UNDP 1996, see Bernstein 2000):
As a new governance tool /
mechanisms, the potential of MSPs should be further developed and defined
through experimentation, particularly as regards their linkage
with (inter)governmental decision-making processes, and in the design of
their implementation phases.
"We need to understand that there is much
more to democracy than simply which candidate or party has majority support.
(…) Yes, democracy implies majority rule. But that does not mean that
minorities should be excluded from any say in decisions. Minority views should
never be silenced. The minority must always be free to state its case, so that
people can hear both sides before deciding who is right" (UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan 2000).
In this context, MSPs represent an advanced
mechanism of participation and can be described as a further development of
Democracy ensures that the people express their
agreement with their government; free and democratic elections provide
alternatives for people to choose from. However, elections only allow people to
choose between different versions of broad policies being promoted by one or the
other candidate or party. They do not allow for citizens to influence day-to-day
decision-making or the precise strategies for the implementation of broad policies. For that to happen,
there is a need for participation mechanisms.
People First, a trust promoted by Development Alternatives, India, state in their 'Earth Charter Initiative' that in "a democracy, all power flows from the people who are the sovereign power. Democracy can therefore be truly defined as how the common people would like to be governed, not how some people, including elected representatives, think they should be governed." They outline a Gandhi-inspired vision of local empowerment of grassroots democracy, effective transparency laws over the right to information, the right to be consulted through public hearings and participate in planning and other key issues, and the power to decide through referendum. Mirroring the 1992 Earth Summit outcome, People First suggest councils consisting of representatives of the disadvantaged communities, religions, women, trade unions, farmers, industry, professionals, NGOs, etc.
MSPs and multi-stakeholder institutions, such
as the National Councils on Sustainable Development (see Chapter 8 & Annex
I), are (or could be) the logical next step for implementing Agenda 21. Based on
the concept of the "Independent Sector", Agenda 21 identifies key
stakeholder groups, the so-called Major Groups, acknowledging that they need to
be involved in developing solutions and implementing them.
The National Councils on Sustainable Development (NCSDs) do vary in their
make-up and independence from government. The Earth Council has done a lot with
the National Councils to draw up guidelines on the development of NCSDs. To
some, this might be understood in a narrow sense, where governments consult
Major Groups and invite them to hearings. In the true sense of participatory
democracy, however, MSPs would go further than hearings or consultations. It can
mean that governments (or other facilitating or decision-making bodies) gather
all stakeholders for consultations, dialogue and/or consensus-building and/or
for ongoing monitoring processes. MSPs can also be called for independently of
governments or by bodies outside of but including government as participants,
e.g. when governments need to be involved in decision-making and implementation.
As noted above, there is room for interpretation – and for
experimentation with democracy in the context of MSPs.
Finally, a "distinction needs to be made
between democracy and participation (…) Democracy entitles them [the people]
to choose leaders with broad policies most acceptable to them. Participation in
public affairs enables them to influence the details of policy-legislation, and
to continuously monitor their implementation" (Mohiddin, 1998: FN 2).
Many of the decisions to be taken
along the path to sustainable development will imply significant changes in many
people's lives. Such decisions can only be effective if they receive general
support among the people affected. Participation creates ownership. By taking
part in the initial discussions and, ultimately, the decision-making process
itself, people are much more likely to take ownership of the decisions that
communication beyond statements (i.e. dialogue & consensus-building) is
revolutionary, in the sense that we haven't (inter)acted that way before. It is
not revolutionary, however, in the traditional meaning of the word, i.e. aiming
to replace one party (or group / class / person) with another one. It is part of
a democratic revolution aimed at replacing ONE power with MANY and creating a
situation where decisions taken are informed by many stakeholders - based on the
opinion that all views of stakeholders are being subjective and therefore
Unlike consultation processes, MSPs take
advantage of stakeholder participation, including a multitude of perspectives
and viewpoints, based on the assumption that different stakeholders' viewpoints
are subjective and complement each other when developing a more objective
Ultimately, the overarching vision is that of a
"world, in which every person – regardless of citizenship, country of
residence, wealth, or education – has access to the information and the
decision-making processes necessary to participate meaningfully in the
management of the natural environment that affects them. This greater and
informed public access produces more effective, legitimate, and just decisions
on projects and policies. It ensures sustainable development by acting as an
antidote to ignorance, greed and corruption and building social capital"
(World Resources Institute 2000).
Participation often seems to be very time consuming, difficult and costly. However, the investment is essential if long-term, sustainable relationships meeting each party's needs are to be built. Experiences with participation processes should be used to design effective processes adapted for each particular situation.
"Agenda 21 talked at length about the relationship between poverty and environment, a problem that is of deep concern to poor countries, but no worthwhile attempt has been made in the post-Rio period to address it. It is for this reason that the dialogue at the global level urgently needs the increased engagement of civil society groups rooted in local issues and activity. These groups, with roots in the environment and development movements, will bring to the global agenda their experiences and most importantly, their priorities for action. It is clear that globalisation will demand that instead of 'thinking globally and acting locally' we need to 'think locally and act globally'. Only then will we see global governance and its rules beginning to meet the needs of the poor and the marginalised" (Narain & Dodds 2000: 13).
If NGOs are to participate more, and more effectively, they not only need resources and capacity to do so. They will also be answerable to questions of their legitimacy – how representative, democratic, transparent and accountable are they? Should NGOs themselves or NGO bodies determine this? If so, who would watch the watchdogs?
Equity & Justice
Equity is fairness, the standard by
which each person and group is able to maximize the development of their latent
capacities. Equity differs from absolute equality in that it does not dictate
that all be treated in exactly the same way. While everyone is endowed with
talents and abilities, the full development of these capacities may require
different approaches. It is equity that ensures that access and opportunity are
fairly distributed so that this development might take place.
Equity and justice are intertwined
conditions of a functioning society. Equity is the standard by which policy and
resource commitment decisions should be made. Justice is the vehicle through
which equity is applied, its practical expression. It is only through the
exercise of justice that trust will be established among the diverse peoples,
cultures and institutions of an increasingly interdependent world.
"A consensus process provides an
opportunity for participants to work together as equals to realize acceptable
actions or outcomes without imposing the views or authority of one group over
another" (Canadian Round Tables 1993: 6). This can represent an enormous
challenge, since many MSPs bring together stakeholders of very different
perspectives and power – e.g. local or indigenous communities and
trans-national corporations (see Hemmati 2000d). To do justice to the various
perspectives, viewpoints, and interests, participants need to treat each other
as equals. This requires tolerance and mutual respect. It is ‘equity’ in
Unity in Diversity
Unity or consensus are concepts
associated with multi-stakeholder processes which include decision-making and
implementation. In a dialogue process, by contrast, a frank exchange of views
and learning about each others interests, motivations and opinions, is
sufficient. In a dialogue, ambiguity, disagreements and mutually exclusive
positions are possible. Once we want to move into common action, however, we
need to find consensus about the appropriate path of action. While we do not
have to agree on each and every point, we do need to come to a point where
everybody can live with the "whole package". In an MSP, consensus and
unity stand in contrast to uniformity – the concept is rather unity in
diversity. The MSP approach cherishes
the diversity of expertise, talents, interests, variegated experiences, cultures
and viewpoints among stakeholders and individuals inasmuch as they contribute to
a creative process of finding innovative solutions. The immense wealth of
diversity is vital to sustainable development.
The concept of unity in diversity also implies the development in the individual
of a global consciousness, a sense of ‘world citizenship’.
Maintaining and celebrating diversity
are indeed among the major reasons to embark on designing MSPs, and integration
of diverse views is the major challenge.
Diversity often implies conflict of values, goals, and interests, which can lead to highly conflictual debates, anger, frustration, mis-trust and hostility. When attempting dialogue in a conflict situation, the experience might be negative, discourage people from further interaction, and increase mis-trust. In some cases, it will therefore be advisable to work with the different groups separately at first before bringing them all together.
world has for so long been run by those who have usurped the power to run it,
and in the manner that is to their best advantage, we frequently forget that
they have no more right to do so than anyone else." (Khosla 1999)
manipulative and ‘know-it-all’ modes of leadership, which are found in all
parts of the world, tend to disempower those whom they are supposed to serve.
They exercise control by over-centralizing the decision making-making process,
thereby coercing others into agreement.
Those who wield authority bear a
great responsibility to be worthy of public / stakeholders' trust. Leaders –
including those in government, politics, business, religion, education, the
media, the arts and community organizations – must be willing to be held
accountable for the manner in which they exercise their authority.
Trustworthiness is the foundation for all leadership (as opposed to enforced
Visionary, empowering and
collaborative leadership will be necessary to inspire those in power,
stakeholders, and individuals to overcome their preoccupation with narrow-minded
interests and recognise that security and well-being of all at local and
national levels depend on global security and require sustained commitments to
long-term ecological and human security.
One of the difficulties in
thinking about leadership is that our usual orientation is that leadership is
what leaders do - they lead and followers follow. However, the emergence of
"servant" or "collaborative leadership" has contributed to a
shift in orientation, namely an orientation to leaders to serving the needs of
followers so that, paradoxically, the followers are the leaders. And, taking
that one step further, visionary leadership tends to shift our concept of
leadership away from leaders and toward shared mission (purpose) and vision
(images of success in serving purpose). When mission and vision are clearly
understood and people honestly care about them, then people can lead themselves
and work together to bring their vision into being. When that exists,
people can lead themselves.
framework of sustainable development, leadership no longer means "to issue
orders" or "to be in control". Rather, it will express itself in
service to and empowerment of others and to the community as a whole. It will
foster collective decision-making and collective action and will be motivated by
a commitment to justice and to the well-being of all humanity. MSPs
represent a model where new forms of leadership can be explored and developed.
and Public Opinion
Finally, there is a related issue in support of
MSPs. This is the need for governance processes to engage those partners who –
although not elected - enjoy wide public support , trust and credibility. For
many years, public opinion polls around the world have suggested that several
leading advocacy organisations enjoy higher public esteem that corporations or
even governments. Generally speaking, such polls indicate that the public tends
to give greater credence to information provided by organisations like
Greenpeace and Amnesty International than media or official sources.
These results tend to reinforce the MSP
approach for at least two reasons. First, as noted above, to ensure that groups
which have good information and creative ideas about how to move ahead are
brought to the table in a framework that is outcome-driven. Second, to give
those sectors which suffer (rightly or wrongly) from a lower public opinion an
opportunity to define, defend and develop their perspectives in a policy forum
where they can engage directly and
methodically on areas of difference.
If public opinion polls are any guide, the MSP
concept is likely to prove an appealing approach to the resolution of the many
outstanding sustainability issues.
Such structuring is simplistic; it is primarily put forward to simplify
presentation. Different structuring of normative-ethical and
functional-analytic arguments has been suggested, e.g. by Webler (1995: 38)
stating that those two groups of arguments fall under the meta-criteria of fairness
In case people adopt a moral attitude and act on the basis of values such as
the ones discussed here, they might make or agree with suggestions that are
not in their own self-interest but in the best interest of all. "If we
are to expect people to act morally and to cooperate, then we surely have to
provide them with processes for participation that are both fair and
competent" (Renn et al. 1995: 366).
People First go on to say that multi-stakeholder councils should become part
of the mainstream governance as the constitutional upper house at all
levels, local, state and national." They "can play a major role in
promoting sustainability" (People First, via www.devalt.org).
For a comprehensive introduction on participation in theory and practice,
see Webler & Renn 1995. Also see the principles of good practice in
participation as worked out by the NGOs in the Aarhus process.
Cognitive psychology (among other disciplines) firmly
asserts that all absorbing, processing and memorising of information of the
human cognitive systems is essentially subjective: "Objectivity is the
illusion of a subject believing it can observe without itself" (Heinz
von Foerster). This is due to perception being influenced by a multitude of
factors which are individually specific and can be shared by members of
certain groups, such as: memory (previous perception & earning),
motivation (goals of the individual), attitudes (e.g. towards the
communicator), values and emotions. For example, discriminatory experiences an individual has gone
through in the past are likely to have an impact on how s/he will perceive
communication from the discriminating person or a member of the
discriminating group. This applies to individual experiences (e.g. a woman
having been subjected to sexist behaviour by a particular man) as well as
group experiences & traditions (black people perceiving communications
of white people within the framework of racist history) (e.g. Hemmati et al.
In other words: aiming at multi-subjectivity rather than objectivity.
In many cases, this will primarily mean to mainstream civil society access
to information and participation since the private sector typically already
has access and is well represented.
The concept is related to 'world citizenship' which combines the view of the
Earth as 'one globe and one home' and the strive to preserve biological and
cultural diversity globally.
see also 7.2. Diversity and its impact in decision-making
See, for example: Environics International 1997, 1998, 1999, Environics
International & The Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum 1999, Walden Asset Management 2000, Edelman News 2000.