Second-tier Concepts: Derived Concepts & Strategies
quality solutions & concrete implementation
For sustainable development policies to be effective those who are or will be affected by the outcomes of these policies need to be involved in designing them. Bringing in a wealth of perspectives, knowledge and experience increases the likelihood of better decisions. Without stakeholder participation, commitment to solutions will be low and implementation will not work. This applies to all stakeholders who need to be part of the solution strategies.
Increasingly, there is recognition of the need for businesses to win a ‘licence to operate’ in the public domain. Against the background of continuing low public opinion poll ratings, it is not enough that businesses produce goods, services and a profit. They also need to act as responsible citizens. They need not only to show that they do ‘no harm’. They need to show that they ‘do good’. Within this framework, many commentators believe that without agreement of stakeholders to business policies and practices, businesses will not be sustainable. In short, businesses need to engage with their stakeholders to ensure their businesses success. 
More progressive sectors of business now acknowledge that business practice itself was a major contributor to environmental and social problems in the past. Business association lobbying against tougher workplace and environmental standards, and poor performance on the ground, in many cases prompted the rise of advocacy organisations seeking safer factories, cleaner production processes and less waste.
For some, this is today more obvious than for others. Corporate share values nowadays significantly depend on 'soft factors' such as social performance, environmental responsibility and management personality. Good practice achieved through pressure on large corporations (e.g. via media attention) can lead to appropriate regulation and self-regulation and thus to increased compliance also by small and medium-sized businesses whose performance is less controlled and controllable by civil society stakeholders.
Successful solutions are those
which create mutual benefits: win/win situations rather than win/lose
situations. Corporations have been very vocally advertising the virtual infinite
possibilities of creating win/win business options and it is for them to take
their role in delivering the creativity required to develop them.
Life-long learning is common to
all human beings, and a main initiating factor of change. MSPs depend upon all
participants being willing to learn from each other and be influenced by each
other and by what they learn. In a successful MSP, everybody will learn.
MSPs themselves also need to
take a learning approach. This is something that comes out very strongly
of the review of scientific literature as well as studying the examples.
Social and organisational psychology indicates that processes and mechanisms,
modes of leadership and facilitation, and means of communication have to be
flexible. MSPs need to strike a balance between a foreseeable agenda and
process, on the one hand, and the ability to flexibly respond to changing
situations, on the other.
Renn et al. (1995: 7) claim that
"it should be possible to move away from a subject-centred view of
participation to shared values and interests". Developing new values
and acting upon them is learning process triggered by sincere communication and
Learning is related to self-reflection, role-taking and change of perspective, and to the ability to embrace change. The courage to venture into "unknown territory" is essential within a dialogue / consensus-building process, not only to make it a true group process but also an individual adventure into "unexplored space" – where we find ideas and solutions which could not have emerged without the interaction process.
To enable people to embrace
change and be prepared to move out of their comfort zones; they also need to
feel secure and often be encouraged. Human values, thinking and behaviour are
very resistant to change unless the change is strongly and whole-heartedly
perceived as being beneficial.
Even then, change tends to elicit fear (of the unknown, of peer's reactions,
etc.), hence security and encouragement from a trustworthy source can be
Partnerships / Collaboration /
Individual pursuit of
self-interest coupled with the possibility of using a ‘free-ride’ position
has been a main cause for environmental degradation. By contrast, sustainable
development requires stakeholders – all of whom are polluters in some form -
to build partnerships, based on a sense of solidarity and collaboration, and
trust. Participatory approaches such as MSP should be designed "to catalyse
people into adopting an attitude that is oriented to cooperation rather than
pursuit of individual interests" (Renn et al. 1995: 365), and forge new
partnerships, even of unlikely partners.
What does a partnership approach
mean? Is "stakeholder dialogue", for example around (inter)governmental
decision-making, forging partnerships and leading to common action? Or is it
entertainment - a kind of "cathartic entertainment" or ritualistic
consultation, maybe? Are the stakeholders merely like jesters at medieval court
– the only ones able to speak of higher values and goals, of love and justice
within a "real world" of power and capital?
Invited to relieve the ones in power, to give space for articulating some
"higher thoughts", to enable decision-makers to assert they have
listened to the voices of ideals, visions and/or religion – who then return to
the negotiating table to decide, uninfluenced by what they have heard?
Sometimes, this certainly seems
to be the case, particularly in purely informing processes, which can leave
stakeholders frustrated and less inclined to contribute next time. Stakeholders'
criticism of this kind of process is not meant to say that stakeholder
participation should (always) be part of decision-making. However, for
participation realising a partnership approach, processes need to be transparent
on how stakeholders' contributions are linking into official decision-making,
how they are being considered and indeed used.
Partnerships need to be based on trust, equality, reciprocity, mutual accountability and mutual benefit. There are fundamental differences between sharing vs. personalising control and benefits; between listening vs. imposing relationships; and between creating a shared vision vs. winning and losing in a 'business relationship'. All parties face the challenge of understanding the needs and concerns of the others and of cultural and behavioural change in order to create successful partnerships.
"Common objectives or
shared interests are obviously the most powerful motives for forming a
partnership; but they are not sufficient in themselves . There are other factors
which are necessary for both creation and sustainable operation of a
partnership. These are trust, respect, ownership and equality. Without trust
between people partnership is impossible" (Mohiddin 1998). Trust is
There is a high likelihood that participants will meet again in a similar
Interaction takes place face-to-face in regular meetings over a reasonable
period of time and people have a chance to get to know each other;
Participants are able to secure independent expert advice;
Participants are free to question the sincerity of the involved parties;
Stakeholders are involved early on in the decision-making process;
All available information is made freely accessible to all involved;
The process of selecting options based on preferences is logical and
The decision-making body seriously considers or endorses the outcome of
the participation process;
Stakeholders are given some control of the format of the discourse
(agenda, rules, moderation, and decision-making procedure).
For some stakeholders, the issue
of collaboration versus co-option has emerged within the context of increasing
involvement in dialogues, policy-making fora and MSPs at the various levels.
This is a serious issue, particularly for NGOs, whose ability to effectively
play their role is largely dependent on their independence. When NGOs
participate in MSPs of any kind, they are exposed to the influence of
other participants whose political and economic powers might be used to
divide or dilute the positions taken by the advocacy community.
We argue in this report that the
attractions and advantages of mutual learning need to be an explicit part of the
motivation of people entering an MSP, on the basis that nobody holds the
ultimate truth or key to the single best solution. At the same time, what
emerges strongly from the scientific research on group dynamics and from
studying a number of MSP examples, is that groups who come together in MSPs tend
to build a group culture and identity, including a certain degree of loyalty and
commitment to the group.
The challenge for all participants, but especially for NGOs (and, one might add,
for United Nations bodies) is to strike a balance between, on the one hand, a
serious commitment to a process and its success, which imply a commitment to
mutual learning and openness
to change, and, on the other hand,
keeping their own identity – and thus maintaining the beneficial
diversity of the group
Furthermore, in some cases where
NGOs are invited to join an MSP, there is reason to suspect that the invitation
is extended to ensure a higher degree of legitimisation for the process which
might not be coupled with the willingness to take NGOs contributions fully into
account. In these cases, such suspicions should be carefully examined and
exposed as a lack of seriousness about dialogue and the idea of change.
In this context, Paul Hohnen
(2000a) has suggested as follows: "To the extent that multi-stakeholder
engagement processes sharpen the capacity to define, refine and integrate
diverse viewpoints, and bring together the principal actors, they are to be
encouraged. Where they tend to ignore, dilute, distort, or otherwise weaken
independent viewpoints, they are to be discouraged" (ibid. 9).
MSPs require transparent
communication channels. People need to be able to know who is talking to whom,
when and about what. Lobbying and bargaining behind the scenes can undermine
trust which will lead to decreased commitment by others. On the other hand,
decentralized, flexible, and spontaneous communication opportunities are
desirable, as informal modes of communication are suitable to build trust and
discover commonalities. There is a need to strike a balance between those
benefits and the need for
The procedures and methods of decision-making should be
open and transparent so that effective participation is possible. Transparency
is based on the free flow of information so that processes, institutions and
information are directly accessible to those interested in them.
the same vein, MSPs need to be as transparent as possible. Lack of disclosure of
information of any of the aspects, decisions or steps related to an MSP will
decrease its credibility and, consequently, its effectiveness. Obscure or
unclear structures and processes create an open door to abuse of processes or
accusations of abuse. It is in the interest of an inclusive process to enable
participants and non-participants to comment, question and input. Obviously the
approach taken in this report is to increase the space for stakeholders to be
involved. Individual people can work through relevant stakeholder groups but can
not participate as individuals.
At every step of an MSP, crucial
decisions need to be taken regarding which information should be available to
the public, or at least to the core constituencies involved.
Access to Information
Disclosure and access to
information is also an essential element of accountability. For MSPs to work,
equal access to information for all involved is absolutely essential. Some
examples show that there are difficulties providing equal access to information,
and some have not provided sufficient information to non-participating
stakeholders and/or to the general public.
Disclosure of all relevant
information is key. But there is also a need to carefully consider the means and
channels of information dissemination that are being used. For example, some MSP
examples studied have operated with massive use of the Internet or even complete
reliance on web-based information, including the channels for participants to
provide input. There are numerous and significant advantages of internet-based
information dissemination and communication. These include speed, low costs and
the ability to inter-connect a theoretically unlimited number of people and
However, in global processes,
involving countries and regions with limited internet connectivity, and
disadvantaged social and linguistic groups (e.g. ethnic minorities,
women, poor people), there are huge gaps regarding access to web-based
information. These gaps cross traditional divides: between South and North,
between women and men, between poor and rich, ethnic minorities and majorities,
a.s.o. (UNDP 1999, UNED Forum 2000).
MSPs rely on information
sharing. The principal, and most cost-effective source, is for participants
to bring their own information into the process. Developing a common
information base is a priority task at the beginning of each MSP and needs to be
maintained throughout the process. A common information base does not need to be
in one place, but all information needs to be accessible to everyone. Here, the
internet offers relatively easy opportunities to develop a common but varied
base through the creation of links
to all relevant sites.
Access to information enables
MSP participants to be fully competent partners. As competence of all involved
is an essential fundament of MSP success, it is in the interest of all to allow
free and equitable access to information. Financial inequalities need to be
addressed to enable there to be the effective participation of all groups (e.g.
computer equipment, communication budgets).
MSPs try to bring the main
interest groups into the process of dialogue and/or decision-making and
implementation, especially those who are usually left out, such as minority
In some processes, the public is represented by individuals from organisations
who have relevant expertise. In others, it is both more appropriate and
logistically possible for the individuals involved to attend MSP meetings in
As a general rule, MSPs should
be inclusive and not exclusive. Inclusiveness is generally beneficial as it
allows all views to be represented and increases the legitimacy and credibility
of a process. In structuring a MSP,
the question is more “have we integrated all the major viewpoints regarding
the issue?”, rather than “do we have all the important players?”. As history has amply demonstrated, major shifts (e.g.
universal suffrage) were initially catalysed by a small number of people with a
clear vision of how society might be improved.
However, there are also limits
to the breath of inclusiveness. If processes employ selection criteria for
participation, these need to be agreed by all those involved. To avoid any
suggestion of “self-selection’, the criteria and the reasons for adopting
them should be made public, and participants
need to be prepared to discuss, defend and even change them.
Size, too, is a functional
constraint. If groups are too large there is a risk that the group will not be
able to hold effective plenary discussions. As a general rule, however, caution
should be exercised where exclusion may be involved, and processes need to be
developed to deal with the challenge.
MSPs need to be perceived as
legitimate in order for the process and its outcomes to be accepted by all
concerned. Processes which do not fulfil basic requirements will be criticised
and run the risk of not being effective.
The fact that MSPs may also
create larger coalitions which may and thus enable more influence, makes the
question of their legitimacy all the more important. MSPs and their individual
participants need to reflect upon the question of their legitimate role within
the governance system, be it at the local, national or international levels. The
following are some of the pre-conditions of legitimacy:
The design of the MSP has been agreed in a democratic, transparent and
equitable manner, including the identification of stakeholder groups and
participants, the framing of agenda and work plan.
The majority of those concerned – within and without the process -
perceive the process as legitimate; minority views regarding legitimacy need to
be addressed by the process.
Participating stakeholders are perceived as having legitimacy. 
The process addresses the question of its own legitimacy and the
legitimacy of its participants.
Legitimacy and credibility of
processes and participants also depend on the competence and expertise of the
actors involved. Equitable access to information and capacity-building, where
necessary, should be provided to ensure competence on all sides.
Involvement of high-level
representatives from stakeholder groups also adds legitimacy as these people
both represent larger groups, and have the authority to implement any outcomes.
Legitimacy is an important
resource, especially in strongly communication-oriented systems like MSPs.
Actors, processes and issues which are not perceived as legitimate will - in the
long run - either be ineffective, or at least be vulnerable to undermining by
opponents (see Neuberger 1995b).
The legitimacy of a process also
needs to be evaluated in the context of the goals the process seeks to achieve.
If it is an informing process, where an organisation wants to learn about the
views of particular stakeholders, choice of issues and relevant stakeholders,
and setting the agenda, might not, by themselves, raise the question of the
legitimacy of the process. If an MSP aims to arrive at decisions on further
action and to implement them, however, the question of which strategies are
being employed to identify participants, set the agenda and so forth, become
crucial to its legitimacy.
decision-making tends to be better, because it takes a wider range of views and
experiences into account. Accountable decisions are more likely to be consistent
and rule-governed, rather than arbitrary, since they are open to challenge and
set precedents. Accountability also means that mistakes are reduced, because
decision-makers think harder before acting, and when mistakes occur, they are
more likely to be spotted and rectified. Public accountability also contributes
to greater social stability, since it is easier to identify grievances, correct
mistakes or remove officials without massive social upheavals, as occurs in
unaccountable political systems" (Alexander 2000).
MSP can increase accountability of all participants towards all, if it is being
designed and carried out based on agreements on the process by all stakeholders
participating. It can increase accountability towards all non-participating
stakeholders and the general public by making the process transparent and
understandable for everybody, and by being open to discussion about itself.
linked to access to information is the requirement that those who agree to
something must understand its implications and consequences. Any MSP needs to
ensure that individuals and the stakeholders they represent fully understand all
information exchanged and all decisions they may be asked to make.
may require making information and suggestions available in appropriate
language, Translations into other languages or 'simply' translations into
non-jargon (e.g. non-UN-ese) are examples. It seems that this can be a major
challenge for some MSPs where stakeholders experienced in such processes need to
work with others who are new. Scientific research indicates the value-added of
such mixed groups (see Chapter 7) but achieving that requires finding a common
concept also requires everybody involved to ask for explanations if something is
not understood. An open and equitable atmosphere helps people to ask what they
might perceive as "stupid questions". The general rule should be that
there are no stupid questions, only stupid people who ask no questions.
involvement and meaningful participation is a vehicle to ensure more responsible
decisions and actions. MSPs create the space to bring all concerns into the
process of planning and decision-making. Relevant information, particularly
about possible impacts of decisions, is made available to decision-makers,
enabling them to act responsibly, i.e. to take
into account concerns and effects which might otherwise be not known to
them. This can range from realising that more information needs to be provided
to stakeholders, to changing policies, or to overthrowing decisions due to new
the framework of sustainability, responsible action means to take into account
the effects of one’s actions with regard to the environment, economic
developments and social developments. It requires active investigation into
solutions which will ensure environmental protection, enable healthy and
sustained economic growth and increase social equity. Hence, it requires the
inclusion in the decision-making process of
those who might be affected economically and socially, and those who work
to ensure environmental protection – otherwise, the necessary expertise will
not be available.
is not a process which can be delivered by "experts" alone.
Industry's role and responsibility is increasingly being addressed ('corporate citizenship'), particularly with a view to corporate responsibility, as some businesses explicitly recognize the need to explicitly contribute to the good of the communities where they are operate. In many cases, industry's participation in consultation processes needs to increase and needs to be based on long-term commitments to work with advocates and those affected by their activities.
need to provide an enabling and protective legal and administrative framework
for meaningful negotiation of stakeholder agreements, e.g. between owners of
land and natural resources and those seeking access for business purposes.
Governments also have responsibilities to support full and equal participation
of under-represented groups such as women, local and indigenous communities.
The responsibility for an MSP
outcome lies with all those involved – the more equitably the process has been
conducted, the more equitably will responsibility be spread.
Modes of Stakeholder Communication
Because participation is social
interaction, we need to clarify which modes of communication and interaction are
desirable for multi-stakeholder processes. This is all the more necessary as
many MSPs gather people who often would not even talk to each other, but begin -
and end - with arguing (which, one might say, is one of their main purposes).
Sustainable development requires
dialogue and forging collaboration and partnership wherever possible. Many of
the decisions we face in the years ahead demand that we find ways to listen to
opposing points of view, find ways to accommodate deeply-held and differing
values and satisfy opposing interests. As Hohnen (2001) has argued, “business
as usual, government as usual, and possibly even protest as usual are not
working well enough”. We now need to find processes that work better.
Conventional communication and decision-making mechanisms tend to exclude rather
than include diverse interests and are not designed to cope well with the
complexity that issues of sustainability present.
systems of governance and decision-making tend to repeat the pattern of
domination that has characterized most societies throughout history: men have
dominated women; one racial or ethnic group has dominated another; and nations
have dominated nations.
contrast, MSPs bring together stakeholders of very different cultures –
businesses, for example, follow principles of profit-orientation, protection of
intellectual property, efficiency and speed, whereas many NGOs promote
principles of equity, sharing, participation and protection of vulnerable
groups, and do not see market mechanisms as the fundamental basis of societies
and their development. MSPs need to employ modes of communication that allow
clarification of cultural differences, differences in understanding of
values and information, and aim to integrate them in relation to a
major issue is the challenge of dealing with power gaps between stakeholder
groups. They clearly exist and need to be dealt with, including through
appropriate modes of communication.
are at a special disadvantage. Research on group dynamics has shown that
are less listened to and more often interrupted; that minority members tend to
speak less, and that their contributions are taken less seriously. Powerful
stakeholders and their representatives often find it difficult to 'take a back
seat'. Particularly in traditional international fora governments, donor
agencies and business representatives show difficulty in listening to other
stakeholders such as NGOs, women's groups, Indigenous Peoples.
For the sake of equity, fairness and justice, but also for the sake of allowing
real ownership of the process to develop on all sides, it is essential
that all involved be given genuine access and employ equitable modes of
communication. Ensuring this is
also an important part of the role of facilitator
of an MSP.
But how do we best conduct
stakeholder communication – stating our views, dialoguing, or
consensus-building? How do we deal with power gaps between different stakeholder
groups? What practical mechanisms, attitudes and individual behaviour is
required to ensure the potential benefits of stakeholder communication?
are numerous sources for guidance on the conduct of successful dialogue and
consensus-building, including social scientific research (see Chapter 7);
philosophical models; standards of qualitative research methodology; and models
used by faith communities, to name a few. They provide a basis for practical
conclusions about the appropriate size of consulting groups, successful ways of
chairing, facilitating and structuring meetings. They also discuss aspects of
individual attitude and behaviour which promote dialogue and successful
consensus-building. We summarise below a few of the most interesting examples.
The choice is subjective, but has been guided by their
close relevance to the needs of the MSP concept.
Juergen Habermas (e.g.
1984, 1989), a German philosopher and dominant figure in the tradition of
critical theory, developed a framework called the "ideal speech
It is an attempt to describe the presuppositions that discourse participants
must hold before communication without coercion can prosper. Habermas defines
four conditions of discourse:
All potential participants of a discourse must have the same chance to
employ communicative speech acts:
Everybody needs to have the same chance to speak.
All discourse participants must have the same chance to interpret, claim
or assert, recommend, explain, and put forth justifications; and contest,
justify, or refute any validity claim :
Everybody needs to be free to challenge whether what has been said can be verified.
The only speakers permitted in the discourse are those who have the same
chance to employ representative speech acts: everybody needs to have the same
chance to contribute regarding the issue at hand.
The only speakers permitted in the discourse are those who have the same
chance to employ regulatory speech acts: everybody needs to have the same chance
to contribute to the process of communication.
These conditions can be thought
of as "rules for discourse". Participants abiding by these rules will
produce a rationally motivated agreement (or at least understanding), as opposed
to one created through manipulation and coercion.
Habermas' normative theory
outlines an unconstrained model of discourse, where values and norms, too, can
be discussed and agreed upon, free of coercion.
Dietz (2001, FN 15) has used
Habermas' approach to define criteria of "better decisions",
considering "a good decision as one that:
makes full use of available information about the facts of the situation
and about peoples' values;
allows all those affected by a decision to have a say;
takes account of the strengths of individual and group information and
decision making; and
provides individuals and society with a chance to learn from the
Standards of qualitative
research methodology: Standards of qualitative research methodology are a
useful resource when trying to design a situation of productive dialogue (e.g.
Sommer 1987). Developed through empirical research experiences in psychology and
sociology, they are designed to create a communication situation where
researchers will most successfully be able to obtain data from research
participants (interviewees). Some general & practical rules have been
used by faith communities: e.g. the Bahá'í model of "consultation":
Individual development involves investigating truth for one's self. Continual
reflection, based on experience in applying this truth, is critical to the
process of individual (spiritual) development. For collective investigation of
truth and group decision-making, consultation,
which draws on the strength of the group and fosters unity of purpose and
action, is indispensable. Consultation
plays a major role in the communities because it is seen as the only way to get
all relevant expertise to the table; to come to consensus about future action;
and to create the commitment to implement solutions. The basic assumption is
that no member of a community has some kind of exclusive access to the
"truth", and that everybody's subjective views and knowledge have to
be integrated in order to achieve best results. Bahá'í
and elected assemblies conduct consultations on the basis of quite detailed
rules - e.g. the rule of honesty; openness and not holding back any views; group
ownership of any ideas; striving for consensus if possible and voting if not.
"The purpose of the consultation is to find the truth of any matter and, whenever possible, to achieve a consensus. This requires that individuals not hold fast to personal opinions simply in order to have their views prevail. Instead, they must approach matters with a genuine desire to determine the right course of action. If consensus cannot be achieved, the majority vote of a quorum prevails, and the decision is equally valid and binding. Every member of the community is responsible for achieving its common goals" (US Bahá'í Community).
are of course, many more guidelines being employed by faith communities which we
do not have the space to outline here. They all stress the importance of a moral
attitude, the priority of the common good over self-interest. They promote love
and respect for the human being, no matter if friend or foe, and maintain that mutual
trust and respect depends on a basic attitude of tolerance. A clear
understanding of each others' priorities, needs and requirements can indeed only
develop on the basis of careful listening.
The bases for modes of stakeholder communication outlined
above are meant to be just that: fundaments or ideals. We do not believe that an
"ideal speech situation" or indeed perfect selflessness and devotion
to a community can easily be achieved. Nor can a researcher be completely open
The concepts are rather meant as ideal rules which, if
adopted by participants, help to create a situation which is more likely to
generate successful dialogue and agreement.
Some aspects of the different normative systems outlined above contradict each other with regard to the practical recommendations that emerge from them. For example, one of the main reasons for using Habermas' theory as a basis for developing criteria of appropriate modes of stakeholder communication, is its fundamental link to the concept of individual autonomy. However, some have argued that this concept is specific to the Western, Anglo-Saxon cultural context . The criticism affects, for example, the second condition put forward above: that everybody should be able to address the question of other participants' claim to validity. In societies with strong collectivist norms, such opening questioning may not seem appropriate. The condition also contradicts other normative systems' rules of not openly questioning the honesty of discourse partners as this is seen as undermining the building of trust within the group (e.g. the Bahá'í principles of consultation). Accordingly, in our conclusions towards practical guidelines to designing MSPs (Chapter 9; Step-by-step Guide),we have suggested different options. Choices will depend on the respective cultural contexts.
We are arguing within the present economic framework; discussions about
alternatives to the currently dominant liberal market system are certainly
necessary but not part of the present document. Rather, there should be more
spaces created for deliberations of such fundamental questions as the ways
in which we want our societies and the global society to develop, including
their economic systems – for example, in a multi-stakeholder fashion.
see also Mcgee & Norton 2000, Eden & Ackermann 1998.
"The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping the old
ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every
corner of our minds" (John Maynard Keynes, Foreword quote in Frankel
Learning also includes overcoming stereotypes and prejudice; this is helped
by contact and collaboration – a desirable effect of MSPs (see 7.2.).
See Neuberger 1996 for a (very entertaining!) account of Human Resource
Management consultants as jesters and comedians at the 'court' of
corporate executive boards.
are some of the conditions of promoting trust according to Renn et al. 1996:
The preparedness of people to develop such a new aspect of their identity
(for example, as a 'member of a certain MSP') varies depending on the
strength of their previous set of social identities – the stronger the
commitments to the groups they represent, the less likely it becomes that
they develop a (additional) common identity with the new group. In turn, the
strength of previous social identities depends largely on the degree by
which the respective groups differs from the majority and on its size.
Members of relatively small social groups which are very different from the
majority tend to have a stronger social identity as a member of that group,
meaning they will not be as prepared as majority members to develop a new
Once people have developed a common group identity within the MSP, they
might agree quicker to and compromise before have exhausted all points of
discussion (see 7.4.3.).
Online discussions with large numbers of participants who take part in their
individual capacity can, however, be appropriate, for example for the
purpose of scoping those aspects which people feel are relevant to a
"Ethnic minorities. Social groups with a social and cultural identity
distinct from dominant society. They have been historically disadvantaged;
come from non-dominant sectors of society; have low social, economic and
political status; and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to
future generations their ethnic identity as the basis of their continued
existence as people" (World Commission on Dams 2000: 345 (Glossary).
We use the term 'minorities' to refer to minorities in power and/or number.
A single person can be representing the most powerful stakeholder or be the
best prepared participant and thus dominate a group; and a large number of
representatives of a powerless stakeholder group can have no influence on a
For example: The World Commission on Dams chose the format of a small and
exclusive Commission, accompanied by a large and inclusive Forum which
served as a 'sounding board'. At the Bergen Ministerial Dialogues, women
contributed to the preparatory papers of the NGO group as the number of
groups allowed to prepare papers was limited.
This would include for the group to satisfactorily answer questions such as:
Who controls the resources? Who determines the criteria? Whose institutional
capacities are developed? Who will own the history of the experience? (Patel
The issue of civil society engagement is both a very important as well as a
difficult point which needs to be addressed within the global governance
debate in general, and in MSPs in particular. The legitimacy of NGOs, for
example, has been raised a critical point by various actors, in a more or
less constructive way (see elaborate discussions by Edwards 1999, 2000).
Some of the criticism, e.g. with regard to democratic decision-making within
NGOs or the question of who they effectively represent, can equally be
raised with regard to other stakeholder groups such as business associations
or trade union federations. For the purpose of the discussion here, we want
to underline again that the legitimacy of a process depends on its
democratic, transparent, and equitable design as well as the legitimacy of
its participants. - It is also worth noting that a large number of
developments which aim to increase legitimacy of processes has been coming
from the NGO community. For example, within the CSD process, the NGO
community's preparations (dialogue background papers; selection of
participants) are widely considered to be the most transparent. NGO Issue
Caucuses’ around the CSD also employ measures of additional inclusiveness
by taking on input from Major Groups caucuses. The same applied to the
preparations for the Bergen Ministerial Dialogues. - It is also NGOs who
usually have the least problems with publishing their views and
(self-)criticism regarding a process.
For example, the Commission on Sustainable Development in 1999 brought
together stakeholders from a wide range of backgrounds to discuss
sustainable tourism for the first time at a global level. This posed a
challenge to all involved and was successful at least in the sense that it
created a dialogue where people listened to each others' viewpoints (see
Example: CSD Multi-Stakeholder Dialogues).
If traditional systems of dominance should be called "democracy" -
because they do (also) have communication and social learning at
their roots – (as done by Dietz 1995) is questionable. Our understanding
of democracy is outlined above.
The term 'minorities' can refer to smaller groups ('minority in numbers') or
groups of less status and power ('power minorities').
This has been asserted in many publications and by any interviewees we
consulted. For example, the UK Coalition Against Poverty (UKCAP) talks about
"how genuine participation demands a huge change in attitudes and
behaviour by policy makers and professionals", and a "sea change
in attitudes and behaviour by decision makers" being
Renn et al. (1995) have
based their evaluation of models of environmental discourse on the work of
Habermas. Their work provides one of the very few practical approaches to
analysing public participation mechanisms firmly rooted in state-of-the-art
theory of communication and dialogue. The book is an excellent source for
the purposes of developing design concepts for MSPs and has been a major
source for the chapter on modes of stakeholder communication. – Other
authors have also employed Habermas approach on the ideal speech situation
to develop criteria measuring the performance of public participation
discourse (see Renn et al. 1995).
Habermas refers to communicating as "communicative action" (based
on "speech act theory" by Austin 1969) to stress that he's
concerned with what people do in discourse.
 Habermas asserts that every speech act makes a "validity claim", saying that as part of the underlying normative agreement that makes speech possible, a speaker who makes an assertion implicitly presupposes that the validity claim can be verified to the satisfaction of all participants (see Webler 1995: 43pp).
Dietz (2001) adds a 5th one: making "the most efficient
possible use of resources", a "standard criteria of welfare
economics and utilitarian ethics" (ibid. FN 15).
We have chosen to use the term "consensus-building" in this report
instead of "consultation".
also strongly support consultative mechanisms of participation around
governments and intergovernmental bodies: "Institutions and those in
positions of authority would do well to create conditions amenable to the
meaningful investigation of truth, while fostering the understanding that
human happiness and the establishment of peace, justice and unity are the
ultimate goals of this investigation." BIC: Consultation
"In the tradition of critical
theory, (…) individuals ought to be free of all forms of domination. Once
they are free, people are able to enter into social relations that encourage
personal development as well as social and cultural reproduction. The key is
critical self-reflection. Habermas promotes introspection among free and
autonomous beings so that they will think about the type of society that
they want, before committing to new relations" (Renn et al. 1995: 9).
.. and there is empirical evidence supporting this view: for example,
Triandis 1989, 1995 (see Chapter 7).