The Problem with Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives
Increasingly, the “multi-stakeholder initiative” is held out as the ideal model for resolving complex transnational social problems that are not adequately addressed by existing mechanisms. Traditionally composed of representatives of government, business, and civil society, multi-stakeholder initiatives have been established to decide questions as disparate as the appropriate limits on extractive industries such as diamond mining in Africa, the rights of garment workers laboring for global retailers in less-developed countries around the world, and fair and effective approaches to the distribution of international aid.
Jennifer Gordon, an Open Society Fellow, will use examples from the labor context to argue that most multi-stakeholder efforts replicate existing power relationships and thus establish standards through processes that are far from genuinely democratic. Greg Asbed of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers will join Jennifer to describe CIW’s approach to standard-setting for farm workers as an alternative to the multi-stakeholder initiative.
- A MacArthur Prize Fellow from 1999 to 2004, Jennifer Gordon is a professor at Fordham University School of Law. Her Open Society Fellowship project is looking at the harms posed to workers worldwide by increasingly common labor recruitment and subcontracting practices. Her book, Suburban Sweatshops: The Fight for Immigrant Rights, was published in 2005.
- Greg Asbed is a co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker-based human rights organization. He works with farmworkers and their student, labor, and religious allies in organizing the national Campaign for Fair Food, a collaboration known for winning agreements with retail food corporations to improve labor conditions in their Florida tomato supply chains.