New Style of Dialogue Among Major Stakeholders Holds Promise For Future
Change in Global Negotiations
03 June, BALI, Indonesia
In the ten years since the Rio Earth Summit opened up the decision-making
process to include nine major groups from civil society, the process of
interactive dialogue has evolved in a manner that could serve as a new model
for future negotiations within the multilateral context.
multi-stakeholder dialogues that concluded last week featured focused
discussions on the central objective of the World Summit on Sustainable
Development, which is to promote sustainable development activities that will
achieve measurable results on the ground.
In separate sessions
covering sustainable development governance, capacity building for sustainable
development and the issue of partnerships, the representatives of major groups
voiced a wide-range of proposals to government delegates. These ranged from the
need for a legally binding convention on corporate accountability to equal
representation of women at all levels of economic decision-making, and the need
for prerequisites and principles for partnerships. (See
Chairman's Summary of the Multi-Stakeholder
The dialogues were noteworthy for the number of
government delegates who attended and participated, and PrepCom Chairman Emil
Salim said the ideas from the major groups are "important contributions and
deserve our careful consideration."
The idea of allowing
representatives of major groupsthe groups closest to people in
societyto participate in the intergovernmental discussion on sustainable
development was radical when it was proposed, but in its present incarnation of
facilitated dialogues, it is even more radical-representatives of major
stakeholders can address their concerns directly to each other, or to
As an answer to the problem of dialogues
becoming forums for lengthy statements and monotonous monologues, the Bali
multi-stakeholder dialogues used facilitators to keep the discussions moving
and on topic.
"Negotiation in the multilateral setting is broken and
needs to be fixed," according to Paul Hohnen, one of the facilitators. "Too
much time, and too much money, is spent on achieving too little."
good part of the dialogue in the sessions was interactive, and delegations were
put on the spot on occasion. But according to Ida Koppen, the other
facilitator, as long as the setting is so formal, it will be hard to get away
from people just making statements.
"I was impressed by the level of
commitment by the representatives of the major groups," Koppen said, but she
added that there were widely varying degrees of preparations. She noted that
for many major groups, meeting beforehand was prohibitively expensive.
Many major groups, she said, enter the discussions from a feeling of
powerlessness, and consequently become defensive. But through preparation, she
said, there are ways to gain power, such as coming with well prepared
Hohnen said the UN was showing leadership through the
multi-stakeholder dialogue, not only in raising issues, but also in process.
'We covered a lot of ground in a short time. This is a road to go down further
in the decision-finding process."
Both facilitators said that
dialogues could be enhanced if they could break down into smaller groups and if
the dialogues were not so closely tied to the formal negotiating sessions.
That, they said, caused many groups to assume postures from which they could
not budge in order to find common ground.
In fact, non-governmental
organizations asked at one point during the discussion on partnership, "where
is this conversation going." The NGOs said that discussing the partnership
initiatives might make it seem as if they accept the idea, when they reserved
the right to reject it altogether if governments fail to make serious
commitments in the negotiated outcome document.
The proposals put
forward by the major groups for consideration by delegations contain suggested
elements for partnerships and the means and mechanisms for monitoring the
follow-up after the Johannesburg Summit. The proposals call for partnerships
that are credible and have measurable objectives and targets, can be monitored
and have proper financing mechanism. They also called for the partnerships to
be guided by principles such as equality, transparency, the precautionary and
polluter-pays principles, and for full participation at an early stage. The
idea of respect for rights, and the idea of equity between generations, were
also stressed by the major groups.
Copyright © United
Department of Economic and
Comments and suggestions
24 August 2006