Multistakeholder governance model

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The multistakeholder governance model, sometimes known as a multistakeholder initiative (MSI),[1][2] is a governance structure that seeks to bring stakeholders together to participate in the dialogue, decision making, and implementation of solutions to common problems or goals. According to Lawrence E. Strickling, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, and NTIA Administrator, "the multistakeholder process, ... involves the full involvement of all stakeholders, consensus-based decision-making and operating in an open, transparent and accountable manner."[3] A stakeholder refers to an individual, group, or organization that has a direct or indirect interest or stake in a particular organization, these may be businesses, civil society, governments, research institutions, and non-government organizations.


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. 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.[4] 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.[5]

The multistakeholder model is used in Internet governance by entities such as the ICANN and IETF[6] and has been the foundation of local governance entities such as New York City's Community Boards.

Norbert Bollow, co-coordinator on the Civil Society Internet Governance Forum distinguishes between "representative" multistakeholderism, using as examples the United Nation's MAG and ECWG and "open" multistakeholderism, as represented by the IETF and RIRs.

With "representative" multistakeholderism he refers to groups in which a limited number of seats are distributed to representatives of particular stakeholder categories who are then assumed to bring a reasonable approximation of the totality of perspectives of that stakeholder category into the discussion. In representative multistakeholderism, the selection processes are critically important. The potential problem of inappropriate "intimacy" exists not only between government officials and lobbyists, but also in the selection processes.

With "open" multistakeholderism he refers to settings which are open to anyone coming in and fully participating. The assumption is that this set of self-selected participants will bring reasonable approximation of the totality of perspectives into the discussion. In open multistakeholderism, the risk does not occur that viewpoints may get excluded because those who have power over the selection processes might want to suppress them, or might be unduly influenced e.g. by lobbyists to exclude people who happen to represent inconvenient viewpoint.


Criticism of multistakeholderism comes from Paul R. Lehto, J.D.[citation needed], who fears that in multistakeholderism, those who would be lobbyists become legislators, and nobody else has a vote. Lehto states that "In a democracy, it is a scandal when lobbyists have so much influence that they write the drafts of laws. But in multistakeholder situations they take that scandal to a whole new level: those who would be lobbyists in a democracy (corporations, experts, civil society) become the legislators themselves, and dispense with all public elections and not only write the laws but pass them, enforce them, and in some cases even set up courts of arbitration that are usually conditioned on waiving the right to go to the court system set up by democracies. A vote is just a minimum requirement of justice. Without a vote, law is just force inflicted by the wealthy and powerful. Multistakeholderism is a coup d’etat against democracy by those who would merely be lobbyists in a democratic system."[citation needed]


  1. ^ Utting, P. (2001). "Regulating Business Via Multistakeholder Initiatives: A Preliminary Assessment." (Paper prepared in late 2001 under the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) research project "Promoting Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility in Developing Countries: The Potential and Limits of Voluntary Initiatives".) Accessed 14/May/2014
  2. ^ Fuchs, D., Kalfagianni, A., & Havinga, T. (2011) "Actors in private food governance: the legitimacy of retail standards and multistakeholder initiatives with civil society participation", Agriculture and Human Values , September 2011, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 353-367.
  3. ^ Moving Together Beyond Dubai. (2013-04-02). Retrieved on 2014-04-28.
  4. ^ Michael Gurstein, Executive Director: Centre for Community Informatics Research, Development and Training
  5. ^ Anita Gurumurthy, Executive Director, IT for Change, WSIS plus 10 review by UNESCO, 27 February 2013
  6. ^ "Internet Society Questionnaire on Multistakeholder Governance Report and Summary of the Results. October 2013". Internet Society. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 

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