Exploring the Dimensions of Multistakeholderism

25 October 2013 - A Workshop on Multistakeholderism in Bali, Indonesia


Starting with the present focus on Internet governance, the multistakeholder approach is emerging as a new organizational structure that shows great promise for enhancing inclusivity in governance and in furthering democratic participation.

Yet there is not one fixed multistakeholder model for the multiplicity of possible applications of the approach.  There are many existing organizations that are either governed by multistakeholder approaches or whose governance comes sufficiently close to be an object of interest for study.  

The purpose of the discussion will be to shed light on the multiple dimensions of the multistakeholder approach, to understand its advantages and problems, and to develop an understanding of the conditions that permit the best exploitation of the approach.  While attention will be given to specific application to Internet governance, its primary purpose will be to expose the more general phenomenon of multistakeholderism in a broader context.   
The questions specifically address the dimensions of multistakeholderism and explore the various issues that such an approach needs to consider.  Given a specific candidate area for a multistakeholder approach, examples of relevant questions include:

How are the stakeholder groups decided upon?  How many shall there be, and how are their claims to legitimate interest adjudicated.  Are there tests that can confirm or question both the adequacy and the composition of the stakeholder groups?  How does voting interact with multi-stakeholder organizations, and how does one avoid the "tyranny of the majority?"

Are there sets of circumstances that lead to an apparent need to rebalance the stakeholder groups in terms of number, composition and interests?  If so, how can this be done in a way that is accepted by the organization before the change.  Are there tests that can be defined in advance that provide signals that the composition of the process should be re-examined.

How is the adjudication of differences among stakeholders handled?  What are the options?  Is there an appeal to an ultimate decision mechanism, and if so, how and when must it be defined and implemented?  In the absence of a decision mechanism, what issues arise from a decision not to decide?

Do processes exist that assist stakeholders in coming together?  Can they be defined in advance, or are they only identifiable on the basis of their particular experience?  Are there limits to the transparency of the process or the accountability of participants?  If so, under what circumstances, if any, are they justified?
Such an examination of the more general aspects of the multistakeholder approach may yield useful lessons for its more specific application to the INternet governance space.