[discuss] What is MSism?

Jeremy Malcolm Jeremy at Malcolm.id.au
Thu Apr 17 09:58:38 UTC 2014

On 16 Apr 2014, at 8:56 pm, McTim <dogwallah at gmail.com> wrote:

>> I seem not to be making my point well (so let me repeat my previous mails in
>> different language): that the IETF, until recently, has never called itself
>> "multistakeholder" (while it has referred to ICANN as "multi-stakeholder").
>> In the absence of stakeholder groups, the usage of the word
>> "multistakeholder" is a bit strange.
> How so?  To me it just means that everyone comes together, (no matter
> what labels they carry) to discuss and hopefully find consensus on
> issues of shared concern.
> WSIS gave us these accursed Stakeholder Groupings, they are completely
> artificial and arbitrary.

The concept of multi-stakeholder processes predated WSIS, and it always involved stakeholder groups - see for example the 2002 Earth Summit definition "involving equitable representation of three or more stakeholder groups and their views".  Why the need to do this?  Because of the power imbalances between the stakeholder groups, that the process must acknowledge and aim to balance.  The roles of the stakeholder groups in the process - rather than being fixed, which I agree is a fault of the WSIS characterisation - will also need to be explicitly set out in the design of the process, and this also can't be done in a merely "open" process that does not consider stakeholder groups.

On the other hand where power imbalances are less relevant (as, usually, in the IETF), then of course a multi-stakeholder process may not be required, but merely an open process.  So this is not to pick fault with the IETF, notwithstanding that it doesn't have a multi-stakeholder process.  Standards development is a very different use case from public policy development.  See further: http://igfwatch.org/discussion-board/how-the-technical-community-fails-at-multi-stakeholderism

>> Would you say that being open to individuals is a requirement in being
>> "multi-stakeholder"?
> I would say that any process that excludes individuals isn't truly MS.
> Lots of folk (ITU) call themselves MS, but are not.

That's an idiosyncratic, technical community-centric definition that would exclude many existing processes that we accept as multi-stakeholder or aspiring towards such.  There are a range of different multi-stakeholder processes, in some of which individual participation may be important, and in others it may not.  Just like the roles of the stakeholder groups will also differ from one case to another.

Jeremy Malcolm PhD LLB (Hons) B Com
Internet lawyer, ICT policy advocate, geek
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