Peer pressure and peer learning in multi-stakeholder initiatives

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

This report examines three prominent Multi-stakeholder Initiatives (MSIs) – the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and Open Government Partnership (OGP) through the dual lenses of peer learning and peer pressure.

The term “peers” implies a degree of equality between the participating parties. Peer review is defined as examinations that are systematic in their nature, of a state by another state(s), specifically designated institutions or a combination of the two. In MSIs, peer reviews are premised on mutual trust, non-confrontation, and the principle of non-coercive persuasion. The ultimate goal is to help member states improve their policy-making, adopt best practices, and comply with established standards and principles.

While the APRM has the necessary structures and mechanisms to conduct this type of peer review, they are not used as much as they could. The reports published by the APRM include best practices, which are meant to be examples of successful policies, providing case studies of what is working well. However, in their current state, these best practices are inadequate for other APRM members to learn from them and/or to replicate them. The official body that conducts peer reviews, the Forum of Heads of State and Government Participating in the APRM (APR Forum), has also not lived up to its potential. High-level attendance has been poor, reviews have been short, and the feedback unbalanced, consisting mostly of leaders praising each other’s achievements. APRM reviews have previously identified the potential for electoral violence in Kenya, xenophobia in South Africa and resurgence of political violence in Mozambique. However, the APRM did not exercise peer pressure to prevent these dangers from escalating into full-blown crises.

In its shorter history, the OGP has already been more successful than the APRM in subjecting its members to peer review, both in terms of learning and pressure. One example is the OGP’s Peer Learning and Support Subcommittee. Its mandate includes helping other members through peer exchanges and mentorships. The OGP also adopted a Response Policy in 2014 to safeguard civil society involvement. The OGP has used this policy to declare Azerbaijan’s membership “inactive,” effectively suspending it on May 4, 2016 for closing space for civil society organizations.

As with the OGP, peer review is embedded in the EITI process and member states claim that it enables sharing their experiences with their fellow member states. This helps to make the process non-adversarial and to facilitate dialogue. Various peer exchanges are also a formal part of the EITI at both bilateral and multilateral levels. During these exchanges, representatives from member states discuss results from EITI implementation and exchange best practices. The EITI protects civil society space in its member states. The Rapid Response Committee investigates reports of harassment and intimidation and provides recommendations to the EITI Board for possible action.

Finally, there is the question of what MSIs do to deal with recalcitrant members. The APRM is the weakest out of the three in this regard. The mechanism does not envision tough sanctions for non-compliance and refers vaguely to “measures” which may be – but have not yet been – taken. The OGP is more effective and suspends members through declaring their status as inactive. This is a “naming and shaming” sanction, which could affect the members’ international status. The EITI goes a step further with mechanisms for suspending and delisting. The EITI can temporarily suspend countries for failing to make progress, missing reporting deadlines, or political instability. Delisting is a far more serious measure, which revokes the country’s membership in the initiative. Based on this analysis, the OGP and EITI have been successful in promoting peer learning and have exercised peer pressure when necessary. The APRM, however, lags significantly behind its counterparts.