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Why Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives Are Undemocratic

The Problem with Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives (June 11, 2014)

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. 

In a recent talk, Open Society Fellow Jennifer Gordon used 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 joined her to describe the coalition’s approach to standard-setting for farm workers as an alternative to the multi-stakeholder initiative. 

Listen above.

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