Presentation by Paul Hohnen

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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:

Establish a framework to monitor MSP processes. Its objective would be to help all those engaged in MSPs, and others, to understand their goals, participants and processes.

Create a MSP Learning Framework.

Give that learning hub for MSPs a permanent home as someone needs to be responsible for creation of a website, encouraging completion of data, responding to enquiries and convening meetings to exchange experience. Hereby, the UN would be the most logical site. This would be consistent with its universality, mandate and support for greater stakeholder engagement (e.g. Millennium Summit, Malmo Declaration). 

Avoid bureaucracy. MSPs maybe local, national, regional or international. There will be no “one size fits all”. Each must be independent and self-sustaining.

Secure seed funding. Money will be necessary to ensure provision of basic information and coordination mechanisms in relation to MSPs. Some MSPs may require financial assistance to ensure independence and viability.

Ensure that it is a learning process and provide for an assessment and evaluation mechanism aimed at highlighting what works, as well as what doesn’t.

Establish ground rules based on respect for others’ approaches and processes.

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”.

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Contact Minu Hemmati and Felix Dodds for further information.