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The CSD's unique participatory mechanism, the multi-stakeholder dialogue, has become a significant component of the sustainable development process, and was an important feature of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and its PrepComs.

Multi-stakeholder dialogues enable direct interactions between governments and major groups on specific topics, and have been increasingly accepted as part of the official inter-governmental process, rather than as an ancillary event taking place on the margins of negotiations. The dialogues provide opportunities for major groups to share their concerns, experiences and proposals in specific areas and discuss them in detail with governments. Such exchanges help to promote meaningful participation among major groups and governments in the intergovernmental decision-making process. Preparations for multi-stakeholder dialogues are also conducted in a multi-stakeholder environment, through a steering committee composed of key major group networks and the CSD Secretariat.

A multi-stakeholder panel was held at the beginning of PrepCom I (30 April - 2 May 2001, UN Headquarters, New York), to allow major group representatives to bring to the organizational discussion the views of their major group constituencies. Statements were made by representatives of each major group, and a report on the expected contributions of major groups to the WSSD was submitted for consideration at PrepCom II.

A two-day multi-stakeholder dialogue including representatives from all nine major groups was held during the course of PrepCom II (28 January - 8 February 2002, UN Headquarters, New York). Dialogue papers were submitted by each major group prior to the meeting, addressing the topic of sustainable development implementation and providing a basis for discussion. The Chair's Summary of this dialogue segment was included in the final report of the meeting.

PrepCom III (25 March - 5 April 2002, UN Headquarters, New York) did not include a multi-stakeholder dialogue segment.

During Prepcom IV (27 May - 7 June 2002, Bali, Indonesia), another two-day multi-stakeholder dialogue took place, including all major groups and focusing on issues relevant to capacity building and partnerships for implementation. Dialogue papers were submitted and during the parallel sessions a facilitator was introduced to increase the coherence of the discussions. The Chair's Summary of this dialogue segment was included in the final report of the meeting.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (24 August - 4 September 2002, Johannesburg, South Africa), major groups were invited to participate in a more fully integrated way in a number of Plenary sessions and other official events. More than 8,000 accredited major groups participants were in attendance. On the final day of the Summit, a one-hour multi-stakeholder event took place during which representatives from each major group offered statements reiterating their commitment to implementing sustainable development. The summary of this event was included in the Report of the WSSD.

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24 August 2006