Among the key aspects of Agenda 21 are the chapters
dealing with the role of Major Groups (women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, NGOs,
business & industry, workers & trade unions, science & technology,
farmers, local authorities). Agenda 21 is the first UN
document to extensively address the role of different stakeholders in the
implementation of a global agreement.
Agenda 21, in each of the chapters, outlines roles and
responsibilities of the respective stakeholder groups, and stresses their
involvement as being absolutely crucial for successful implementation of
Reflecting upon the practical implications, there are
numerous ways to design meaningful stakeholder involvement, ranging from
governments consulting stakeholders to creating multi-stakeholder dialogues and
partnerships clearly linked into official decision-making processes.
Since 1992, stakeholders have in various ways tried to
work out the norms and standards for their involvement in multi-stakeholder
processes. "One of the major achievements of the UN system both at Rio and
beyond has been the integration of global partnership principles into the
international policy process" (Murphy & Coleman 2000: 210).
Internationally, the most advanced multi-stakeholder discussions occur at the UN
Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) where there are well-prepared
multi-stakeholder dialogues each year on different topics. They have also
initiated ongoing multi-stakeholder processes.
The multi-stakeholder process at the CSD was pioneered by
UNED-UK (now part of UNED Forum) and, although still evolving, has become a
model of multi-stakeholder engagement within the UN system on sustainable
Over the last few years, multi-stakeholder processes have
also started to generate considerable interest in other fora outside the Rio /
CSD process, around intergovernmental bodies and at national levels. For
example, the World Commission on Dams has recently launched its report after 2
years of research and discussion; with the Global Compact initiative, the UN
Secretary General has embarked on developing a particular approach to
partnerships with stakeholders; the OECD as well as individual companies have
undertaken activities and organised events providing platforms for
multi-stakeholder dialogues on contentious issues in the area of biotechnology
and health care; discussions on stakeholder involvement around the UN, UNEP, the
World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, etc. abound in recent years, also as part of
efforts towards institutional reform. For example, Poverty Reductions Strategy
Papers (PRSPs) and stakeholder participation ins developing PRSPs are becoming
increasingly important at the national level for debt relief initiatives and
concessionary lending by the World Bank and the IMF.
such as the ones conducted by Wolfgang Reinicke, Francis Deng et al. (2000) on
Global Public Policy Partnerships (GPPs) have made a significant contribution to
the analysis of the role and potential of multi-sectoral networks, identifying
them as "institutional innovation in global governance" (Reinicke
2000). They have also highlighted many of the key challenges and organisational
To a large extent, however, there is still no documented
common framework or ‘practitioner’s guide’ or check-list. So far, it seems
as if the dialogues themselves, the mechanisms of feeding them into the
decision-making process and the concrete follow-up procedures – where they
take place - are mostly being
designed on an ad hoc basis. Although there is vast experience with
participation at the community level, use of this seems rather arbitrary.
Stakeholder groups have to date mostly reacted to
suggested procedures of involvement. They need now to become more pro-active in
initiating processes that bring true contributions of all to sustainability
issues. Stakeholders have to date also rather put forward their respective ideas
than discussed and agreed possible procedures amongst themselves.
is a lack of viable frameworks for multi-stakeholder processes and meaningful
participation of all. Researching and
comparing the different approaches (and there is a lot of experimenting going
on) and distilling an acceptable “template procedure” is a timely task to be
undertaken by those interested in furthering the issues of sustainable
development by addressing the necessary developments in governance structures
and processes. The reality has to match the rhetoric of Agenda 21; the latter
has to be translated into concrete suggestions on how to do it, which
will help us to put the ideals of justice, equity, high quality decision-making,
etc. into practice.
For the process towards Earth Summit 2002, the United
Nations General Assembly has decided to conduct stakeholder dialogues, panels
and round tables at all preparatory meetings, regional and international, and at
the Summit itself. In addition, "global thematic round tables" are
We believe it would be useful if stakeholders put forward
their suggestions on how such mechanisms of stakeholder involvement should be
conducted to make them as effective as possible.
There are many forms that an MSP can take. Each situation, issue or problem prompts the need for participants to design a process specifically suited to their abilities, circumstances, and needs. However, there are a number of common aspects – values and ideologies underlying the concept of MSPs, questions & issues which need to be addressed when designing an MSP, and phases of such a process. Our suggestions for a common framework / template procedure comprise such common aspects.
An Eclectic Approach
Sustainable development is a
mixed concept, comprising values (environmental protection, equity) and
strategies (healthy economic growth; stakeholder involvement; global
Related to the mixed nature of
the concept of sustainable development, one can argue issues of sustainable
development within different frameworks or discourses.
For example, one can argue
applying a value-based approach, pointing out the ethical and/or moral need for
equity, justice, equal opportunities, self-determination and democracy. This
discourse will lead to suggesting such issues as transparency, equal access to
information, mechanisms of fair communication and consensus-building, and
ensuring meaningful participation, on the grounds that these characteristics of
political realities further the realisation of such values.
One can also apply a rather
arguing that certain strategies or mechanisms have been proven to work, e.g.
bringing a multitude of perspectives into decision-making processes, certain
procedures of preparing dialogue or chairing meetings. Arguing for a
multi-stakeholder approach in this manner will simply suggest what has worked to
produce increased creativity of thinking, commitment to implementation, and
multiplying effects, in order to address problems such as
resource depletion, and human and environmental security.
Many people assert that arriving at a shared
set of values will be indispensable for human survival. Many also claim that
existing international agreements, such as the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, or the Rio Principles and Agenda 21, represent a shared set of values
which can serve as the basis of putting sustainable development into practice.
Finally, many argue that both value-based and pragmatic approaches are
intertwined as they respond to various needs of the human being. The
satisfaction of both psychological ("spiritual"?) needs and material
and social needs are pre-requisites of human
happiness, security and well-being, social cohesion, and economic justice.
Whereas psychological needs pertain to individually experienced growth based on
the realization of certain values, material and social needs pertain to
political, economic and environmental rules and regulations. The declaration and
promotion of a set of basic shared values is therefore a logical component of
the foundations of sustainable development.
However one might address this
question of a value-based or a pragmatic approach or the interdependence of the
two – we believe that proposing useful tools for the process of sustainable
development, such as MSPs, should be based on considering basic values and
ideologies related to MSPs (as a set of criteria) as well as practical
experiences and empirical knowledge of how such processes can be made to work.
We have therefore tried and used
various discourses to put together a proposed framework of issues and questions
which need to be addressed when designing MSPs. Our work is based on several
approaches – faith/belief systems, traditional and cultural values,
philosophical, theoretical, empirical-scientific, pragmatic. Analysing the
various literature – from spiritual and philosophical approaches to
"dialogue" and collaboration in diverse groups to empirical findings
in organisational psychology – conclusions in terms of practical steps seem to
converge. All mechanisms or strategies, steps of work etc. we're suggesting are
based on a careful analysis of the values being realised using those strategies
& mechanisms, and the empirical evidence with regard to likelihood of
success implementing those strategies and mechanisms. All steps and mechanisms
we are proposing are based on conclusions drawn from more than one approach.
This might be argued as representing a rather
"eclectic" approach. However, it seems to us that the appeal
of multi-stakeholder approaches is that practicing strategies designed to
fulfil the values discussed below will at the same time yield the best results
in terms of well-informed appropriate decisions and increased commitment of all
stakeholders to implementation, and therefore increased probability of solutions
being realised for the benefit of all. In other words, if there is any
"truth" in pronouncing that MSPs are well worth trying, different
approaches or discourses should be usable as bases for the approach.
Agenda 21 / Section III. Strengthening
the Role of Major Groups / Chapter
Critical to the effective implementation of the objectives, policies and
mechanisms agreed to by Governments in all programme areas of Agenda 21 will
be the commitment and genuine involvement of all social groups.
One of the fundamental prerequisites for the achievement of sustainable
development is broad public participation in decision-making. Furthermore,
in the more specific context of environment and development, the need for
new forms of participation has emerged. This includes the need of
individuals, groups and organizations to participate in environmental impact
assessment procedures and to know about and participate in decisions,
particularly those which potentially affect the communities in which they
live and work. Individuals, groups and organizations should have access to
information relevant to environment and development held by national
authorities, including information on products and activities that have or
are likely to have a significant impact on the environment, and information
on environmental protection measures.
It should also be noted that Agenda 21 is indeed identifying nine Major
Groups and talks about 'all social groups' and not just about two such
groups – such as 'civil society' and 'business' which make two parties of
the figure 'tripartite', 'tri-sectoral' or 'trilateral'. We don't believe
that using these terms is helpful as they group everybody apart from
government/intergovernmental bodies and business into one category. In
processes which involve, for example, a UN agency, businesses, and one type
of NGOs, that might be appropriate, but used in a wider sense to describe
multi-stakeholder involvement these terms are misleading.
For further definitions of the term 'stakeholder', see Annex II: Glossary
Webler (1995: 38) distinguishes between ethical-normative and
functional-analytic approaches. We call the first 'value-based' and the
and efficiency cannot be the only yardsticks in designing new governance
mechanisms; legitimacy and inclusion are equally important, not only in
terms of a Weltanschauung, but also from a strategic and political
perspective" (Reinicke et al. 2000, pp23).