Multi-Stakeholder Processes: Why, and Where Next?
(Paul Hohnen, Former Director Greenpeace International and Advisor to international NGOs, organisations and corporations)
Paul Hohnen outlined the political context of MSPs, stating that there is a democratic deficit in global forums that are not accountable to elected representatives and in which agendas are inconsistent with sustainability (UNCED, WTO). The process of globalisation is being equalled with un-sustainability, corporate control and a reduced government role. Various gaps, such as the governance gap, the implementation gap and the policy gap need to be bridged.
The question is whether MSPs can help to bridge that gap? Government, business and protest as usual are not achieving sustainability. Adversarial approaches might be good at problem identification, but not always at advancing solutions. MSPs address part of the democratic deficit, by engaging and harnessing the creativity from a wide and balanced cross-section of stakeholders. MSPs can provide leadership and action on key issues neglected by governments and thus help to bridge the governance gap.
He asked whether governments will see MSPs as a challenge to sovereign authority to determine policy, or as a tool to enhance democratic dialogue? Will mainstream business see MSPs as a threat to ‘business as usual’, or an opportunity to identify trends and partners supporting their transition to sustainability? Will NGOs see MSPs as a threat to traditional independence of thought and action, or an opportunity to take their message to a wider audience? Will MSPs be able to make measurable, accepted and recognised progress within meaningful timeframes, and thus maintain stakeholder and public support?
Paul Hohnen made several recommendations for the future of MSPs:
He finally remarked that MSPs are a new species in the political eco-system. They will make mistakes. They will not solve all problems to everyone’s satisfaction. MSPs should not and will not provide an alternative to good government. But they might help it – and the rest of us - make the necessary progress towards sustainability. He concluded his presentation by giving an alternative definition of MSPs: “Making the Sum greater than the Parts”.