[discuss] [bestbits] Representative Multistakeholder model validity

Jeanette Hofmann jeanette at wzb.eu
Sat Jan 18 21:50:37 UTC 2014

The concept of representation is usually linked to national democracies 
and thus to a quantifiable number of voters. Even in this context, 
representation is a contested issue since it is by no means clear how to 
fairly represent the voters' opinions which might depend on context, 
change of time etc. To date, there are so many different voting systems 
and not one of them can claim to have found the ultimate solution to 
this vexed problem. Each voting system privileges and disadvantages 
certain groups.
What is more, fair representation is just one issue. Another issue is to 
create more or less stable majorities, select competent people etc.

If the concept of representation has many issues on the national level, 
how can we expect to create representative structures on the 
transnational level? Under the circumstances of a global constituency 
representativeness will remain a fiction!

The open question to me is about functional equivalents to 
representation. Representation is supposed to lend legitimacy to 
political processes. What other mechanisms can create sufficient trust 
in the process so that people who are not chosen for one of the 
committees still accept their existence, processes and outcomes?

Transparency is an obvious source of legitimacy, so might be the 
reputation of candidates (i.e. those known for being open-minded, 
constructive, competent and able to take other opinions than their own 
on board. I am sure we can come up with ways to integrate views and 
perspectives into the process that ensure are broader range than those 
held by committee members.

In short, I think we should drop representativeness as a criteria of 
legitimacy and focus on other means of creating legitimate processes.


Am 18.01.14 22:01, schrieb Norbert Bollow:
> John Curran <jcurran at istaff.org> wrote:
>> I understand how an _open_ multistakeholder approach allows for
>> everyone (who wishes) to present their views on a given topic, have
>> those views considered based on their merits, and allow all to ponder
>> and revise their understanding based on the information exchanged.
>> I fail to understand how an _representative_ multistakeholder
>> approach fairly provides for the "represented" to have their
>> positions considered in a manner that allows for all participating to
>> revise their views based on the discussion that occurs, and if this
>> does not occur than one may argue that there isn't actual
>> deliberative consideration going but simply a dance of posturing and
>> negotiation.
> In my view, representative multistakeholder approaches are not about
> creating a broad discourse, but about populating, in a reasonably fair
> and balanced manner, committees and the like which for practical
> reasons have only a quite limited number of seats.
> I posit that a reasonable way to implement a process for selecting
> representatives is for each stakeholder category to organize a
> randomly selected NomCom process, with each NomCom being tasked to
> seek to choose a set of representatives who jointly represent the
> breadth of perspectives of that stakeholder category as well as
> is possible under the circumstances.
> Individuals who are close to one of the unavoidably fuzzy boundaries
> between stakeholder categories would get to choose which one of
> the stakeholder category that are on offer in that particular context
> fits them best.
> I don't claim that this kind of approach would yield perfect
> representation, but at least the imperfections would be random rather
> than systematic, and any bias in the pool of people who tend to
> volunteer for serving on NomComs can be addressed by the very
> democratic process that anyone who is concerned about such bias is free
> to seek to convince other qualified people (who don't have that bias)
> to volunteer for future NomCom pools.
> Greetings,
> Norbert
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