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<nettime> In Defense of Multistakeholder Processes
michael gurstein on Thu, 28 Mar 2013 00:19:49 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> In Defense of Multistakeholder Processes

(the se/pre-quel...

In Defense of Multistakeholder Processes

by Michael Gurstein gurstein {AT} gmail.com

(with links)

I believe in multistakeholder processes.

I think along with my community informatics colleagues, that decisions
should be made as close to those impacted as possible. I think that
those impacted by decisions should be involved in those decisions. I
think that multistakeholder processes potentially provide a means for
the otherwise voiceless to have a voice in broader policy and programme

What I don't believe in are multistakeholder processes that are
surrogates for transferring additional power to self-appointed elites or
insiders. What I don't believe in are processes of decision making which
are done without transparency, accountability, explicit procedures, or
even-handedness in governance. What I don't believe in is the transfer
of otherwise democratic processes of decision making to multistakeholder
processes because it seems easier to talk with a small group than with a
larger one, to deal with one's friends rather than with outsiders, to
make decisions among those with explicit private interests rather than
basing decisions on due and inclusive considerations that recognize and
incorporate the public interest and the general good.

I'm currently, with others, working on behalf of the e-Africa
Directorate of the African Union to find ways of further enabling the
broadest base of participation in a series of multistakeholder processes
which I consider to be very successful in their domain. I consider these
to be successful because they are locally anchored and are
re-nationalizing planning processes which had, to a considerable degree,
been taken over by external donors; they have clear and transparent
processes of internal operation and inclusion; they work to be
representative and broadly based within contexts where this is extremely
difficult do achieve.  These processes aren't perfect by any means but
they are striving towards improvement and are willing to engage in

I think these processes are consistent with Anita Gurumurthy's comments
to the WSIS +10 where she said:

	Multistakeholderism is a framework and means of engagement, it is not a
means of legitimization. Legitimization comes from people, from work
with and among people. We need to use this occasion of the WSIS plus 10
review to go back to the the touchstone of legitimacy ¯- engage
with people and communities to find out the conditions of their material
reality and what seems to lie ahead in the information society. From
here we need to build our perspectives and then come to multistakeholder
spaces and fight and fight hard for those who cannot be present here.

Multistakeholder processes could and should enhance democracy by
increasing opportunities for effective participation by those most
directly impacted by decisions and particularly those at the grassroots
who so often are voiceless in these processes. It should enhance
democracy by ensuring that decisions made are reflective of and
responsive to local concerns and to the broadest range of those who must
bear the consequences. It should enhance democracy by making democratic
processes more flexible and responsive, able to adjust to changing
contexts circumstances, technologies, impacted populations.

To do this means shifting away from multistakeholderism as a "means of
legitimation" to being one among many strategies for making democracy
more workable in this era of enhanced communications, enhanced
interactivity and accelerated change. But in order to do this these
processes must be even more vigilant about ensuring that they operate
within all of the requirements for effective democracy.  They must be
representative and inclusive, they must be transparent to a fault, they
must accept the highest standards of accountability. With sufficient
creativity and imagination, digital and Internet based technologies I
believe can provide additional means for achieving all of this even in
ever larger contexts and ever more complex domains. It will take time
and immense good will, but the outcome should be strengthened structures
of democratic governance rather than hollowed out shells replaced by
governance by self-perpetuating special interests.


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