Workshop A2: After WSIS. Exploring multistakeholderism

Multistakeholderism needs evaluation, often this happens in focus groups. The session is build up as a focus group, a discussion on the issue of Multistakeholderism. Below some statements that were being made during the session…

Statement: “The south can not be represented by the North”

There should be resources for people in the south to decide themselves.

Not such a provocative statement, off course the North can’t represent the south. There seems to be more debate on for instance WSIS in the south. But there can be an exchange of experience. What we can do is making it possible for some actors to participate. For instance by funding.

Not even the people from the South can represent the south in WSIS. There are plenty of difficulties. e.g. No Spanish activities The mailinglists, the discussions are all in English. Latin America was almost absent.
But there is some good thing, they are more visible, they can go lobbying, because they were there.

Statement: “South can not represent the South”

Some NGOs can start some networks and can represent a large amount of people.

The issue of representation is a trap. There should be mechanism to have some transparency. We need to know who are the people who say they represent.
The government is also a form of representation.

Representation also has a shadow. Politics has become something that is invisible, which is not so bad. It is a process. Multistakeholderism should be a process not an “issue” of representation.

Is it an issue and where does it come from? Global spaces need some civil legitimacy by calling upon a thing called civil society. But it can be a hoax. There can be an artificial effort to give an air of legitimacy. (Show business).

Indeed, multistakeholderism should be looked at as a process. The value of civil society comes in from their knowledge and fresh look at things. You should try to look at a way to incorporate this value up to the end, to the top of lobbying mechanisms.

NGO participation, very few recognize that legitimacy is a scare resroicre that can be mobilzes in a tactical way. As a conceptual framework the concern with legitimacy can take us not so far. Multistake shoul mobilze ther legit.

In the end it became clear that the summit would be a failure. But they saw the importance multistakeholderism. They were using its legitimating to mobilize it as a success. It gave some power too because multistakeholderism came in the centre of the discussion. Civil society did gain some power by this.

Role of private sector in this?

It did have the role of civil society at WSIS. There are some very complex ambiguities.

But is there a legitimacy transfer? We are now in the agenda setting stage. If you have the power to make the agenda of diplomats, then this is a completely different game.

The government should also take on board live experience. Why only NGOs, and not grass roots organisations? And what about small and medium enterprises?

But what is civil society?
Is it what is not government?
At WSIS also the big media are seen as civil society and they are big corporations.
We can not give civil society One voice.

Solutions? You have to organise yourself. It is very hard.

There is importance in the informal context, in the way we are networking.
Ok, but what is the difference with old school lobbying?

Civil society, one actor or not?

Statement: “Multistakeholderism is reinforcing the existing order.”

What we did achieve is to come in the sight of the conference organisers.

What about the declaration? The documents can have effects or not, this is only the surface. It is what is happening inside and what is changing that is important.

Important in Multistakerism is that you have to influence who are representing you in the governments. You have to scale up. New policies should be developed.

WSIS was in the first place an awareness raising enterprise. To advance the knowledge of other NGOs.

But it is a larger problem. In the US it is really difficult to gain entrance to power. In development countries there seems to be more possibilities for civil society to have a dialogue with their government.

“Capacity Building”: as a term it is too instrumental? But capacity for what? It doesn’t’ capture the problems.

It is important to keep discussing about the definitions of “civil society”, they are not always the good guys…

“Multistakeholderism” is not yet defined and this is were our power lies.

Why always look at solutions, importance of pointing out the problems. NGO’s need to do this more often.

The declaration wasn’t an realistic action plan. There were interesting issues but there wasn’t an action plan.

But are there good things? It has been put on the UN agenda. Also grassroots organisations are seeing this as an important theme. And this in fact was one of the results.

Problem was focus on “new” technologies. What happened to community radio?
It is far from reality… (look at situation in Africa)

Multistakeholderism is not a black box. You can also have “multistakeholders” in one person.

Question: Is multistakeholderism a paradigm?
Dialogue can be fruitful and useful, but it can not be treated as a value in itself.

What happens with the citizens? We can not forget the concept of citizenship? You need to be a part of an institution. Do you have the possibility to participate as a citizen, as an internet user, not just as part of an organisation. You need the possibilities as a citizen?

But are you there as a citizen or as a representative of an NGO? You are there as a citizen, as an NGO, as a consumer… You need to expand on the formal selection.

This notion of citizenship is very important, but you have to be careful in critiquing it.