Staff Support: Gisella Gruber
As a form of participatory democracy that builds on the other forms of democracy practiced in the world today, the variety of multistakeholder models have a promising future.
However, multistakeholderism is not monolithic, it must recognize the different roles played by different stakeholders in different issues. And that any person, alone or as part of a group should be able to contribute fully to that process according to their expertise and interests.
Furthermore, multistakeholderism is threatened by those who reject this form of democracy, oftentimes by the same states who reject democracy. This rejection of multistakeholderism finds support in all other sectors, but at this point in time those who support the model form a rough consensus in its favor.
Multistakeholderism is a form of democratic action that is still evolving and still needs a fair amount of care and attention to thrive. NETmundial has given the world one of its first examples of multistakeholder decision making modalities. This points the way forward for multistakeholderism.
The final version to be included in the Declaration and endorsed by the ALAC will be placed here.
The final draft version to be endorsed by the ATLAS II participants will be placed here.
ATLAS2 Thematic Group 1 (TG1) on "the Future of Multi-Stakeholder Models" (*)
Going forward, in considering the future of Multi-stakeholder Models (MSMs), the At-Large Community identified four overarching themes.
For the purpose of this analysis, the Group defined inclusiveness within the multi-stakeholder approach as 'the possibility for any person or entity to participate in the governance processes dealing with issues in which they have a direct or indirect stake'.
Of particular interest and concern to the Group is the role of governments within the context of the MSMs. A number of government statements during the NetMundial meeting indicated a discomfort with MSMs and a desire to revert to intra-governmental policy making, either through the ITU or a strict interpretation of WSIS declarations. Many members of the Group had encountered situations in which governments asserted that they believe that they are above the MSMs. The argument that is usually highlighted here is the fact that democratically elected bodies claim to represent the public interest. However, the Group felt not all governments are democratically elected, nor the fact that all act on public interest.
The pace, global consequences, and technical grounding of Internet governance decisions requires that all stakeholders participate directly in the processes. This assertion does not exclude governments both in their well-established role, but identifies their participation in the multistakeholder mechanisms.
The group's answer to this challenge is to assert that the consensus of national public interests does not necessarily constitute a global public interest. Other interests exist which surround political boundaries, especially in the promotion of and maintenance of openness and universally accepted standards. Furthermore, advances in communications technologies make bottom-up participation far easier than has been possible in the past.
The artificial segmentation of "interest communities" (often referred to as "silos") may be necessary for the purposes of organization, efficiency and diversity of opinions.. But the composition and number of silos should be flexible, as different policy realms may call for different groupings of communities with common interests.
The Group determined that as MSMs evolve, they require ground on which legitimacy is established. This legitimacy should be sufficiently stakeholder group balanced and inclusive. This is essential in order to attain the trust of the wider stakeholder community. While not all stakeholders will achieve all their objectives within an atmosphere of collaboration and consensus, the MSM processes should be satisfying as their views will be incorporated into the outcomes.
In order for MSMs to evolve, they must be flexible enough to allow for both democratically chosen representatives of affected, and interested parties, as a well as independent personal input. Inclusion must be the default stat, and any restriction to input must be supported by specific justification.
While the product of individual submissions may not necessarily be afforded the same priority of attention as the work of larger representative groups, which may be more deliberative, all input should be considered on its merits including independent research, dissenting opinions and minority reports. Such inclusiveness promotes democratic participation and strengthens the legitimacy of the resulting work.
In order to satisfy public confidence, a decision-making model (if this is required) such as an MSMs demands a sufficiently unrestricted membership, as well as efficient processes and clarity of scope. Meeting these requirements offers a process that cannot be legitimately excluded from consideration in government and other high-level public policy development sector.
The Group recognises that the use of the MSM, especially within the implementation context of ICANN, is more time consuming than less-inclusive approaches to decision making. However the benefits of legitimacy and inclusiveness far outweigh the difference in pace. The greater likelihood that a sufficiently-inclusive MSM will "get things right the first time" and reduce the need for remedial effort outweighs the impulse to exclude stakeholders in the name of expediency.
The Group supports reasonable measures to make MSM processes more efficient, however they must be acceptable to all stakeholders and may not impede demands for groups to be sufficiently deliberative with their communities. Also supported is periodic review of the MSM in use in any particular context, to ensure that the proceses and silo compositions adequately address the relevant decision making requirements.
The Group determined that accountability should be seen not only as a tool for transparency, but an effective way to hold intervening parties responsible of their actions. The challenge remains on designing a mechanism or structure that will be able to implement these measures in a manner that maintains (and indeed enhances) public trust.
Issues related to conflicts of interest must be addressed directly. In the ICANN model, disclosure of interests has traditionally been sufficient, enabling conflicted parties to remain as active participants in decision making that directly affects their business relationships. (Indeed, this practise has enabled some ICANN stakeholders to accused of being on "both sides of the table" during contract negotiations.)
Furthermore, in the interests of maximum clarity, declarations of potential conflict must be repeated by the affected individuals each time that a vote or gathering of consensus takes place.
(*) The Group began proceedings by changing its the name from "the Future of Multistakeholderism". The Group concurred that the use of the term "multi-stakeholderism" connotes a kind of faith or belief system, and that the concept of participation models that share policy development input amongst the various affected constituencies.