Multi-stakeholder initiatives: What have we learned? An overview and literature review

Image: Flickr
Image: Flickr

This report reviews literature on three Multi-stakeholder Initiatives (MSIs) – the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the Open Governance Partnership (OGP) – to provide an overview of how each MSI functions and evaluates the extent to which each has impacted policy and governance issues thus far.

The APRM brings countries together as peers in a review process that seeks to capture share best practices and encourage reforms. 37 African member states have acceded so far and 21 have been reviewed. The OGP seeks to advance transparency and accountability through open government. Currently, its membership includes 70 countries. The EITI seeks to increase transparency and accountability of the extractive industries’ sector. It currently has 51 members; six have been suspended for noncompliance and other reasons.

The three initiatives differ in terms of reporting, response, civic participation, and implementation. The OGP uses an independent mechanism to monitor countries’ National Action Plans (NAP) commitments. The EITI utilizes the EITI Standard, which requires reports of revenue collection by company, region, subnational transfers, and other types of disaggregated reporting. For the EITI and the OGP, consequences for noncompliance with requirements are clear. The EITI suspends countries for missing reporting deadlines and other reasons. The OGP downgrades its members to “inactive” status. The APRM seldom follows through on its threats of sanctions in response to non-compliance. Although all three MSIs purport to value civil society participation, they vary in levels of civic action in practice. The OGP boasts perhaps the strongest civil society involvement.

Implementation within the OGP is uneven across member countries, with some countries failing to assign budgets to their NAPs. The EITI’s implementation record is also mixed; its plans are often not closely linked to national policies and reports tend to be overly technical. All three MSIs have evolved somewhat. The APRM has managed only to revise a questionnaire for the review process and establish a new committee at the ministerial level. The OGP has arguably evolved more. The OGP instituted a Response Policy, triggered when member governments curtailed civil society. The EITI has changed its validation criteria, making them more and then less strict as the situation required.

The effectiveness of MSIs is difficult to measure because of the challenges in linking country developments directly to them. The APRM has been compromised by a lack of political will, weak peer pressure, and limited civil society involvement. Evidence suggests that the OGP led to access to information (ATI) reforms whose impact is so far ambiguous or mixed. The EITI has led to improvements in the disclosure of extractive industries’ revenues and payments and has contributed to public debate and policy change, but there is little evidence of a positive impact on governance. The EITI, like other MSIs, can suffer from “open-washing” or from member states complying on paper, but not adhering to the spirit of the process.

Two themes arise from this review: the importance of process and impact. MSIs establish partnerships between governments, civil society, and other stakeholders to promote transparency and accountability. By participating in these MSIs, governments often become more transparent and opened political space for civil society. MSIs have contributed to raising important issues and in some instances, the passing of legislation, but they have not always achieved tangible benefits.

8 Apr 2018
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