Multi-stakeholder engagement processes: a UNDP capacity development resource

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Multi-Stakeholder Engagement Processes (MSEPs) are (structured) processes that are used to ensure participation on a specific issue and are based on a set of principles, sometimes inspired by the rights-based approach to development1. They aim to ensure participatory equity, accountability and transparency, and to develop partnerships and networks amongst different stakeholders. MSEPs can create the conditions for confidence building and trust between different actors and serve as a mechanism for providing mutually acceptable solutions and win-win situations. The inclusive and participatory nature of the processes promotes a greater sense of ownership over its outcomes, and consequently, strengthens its sustainability. MSEPs also stimulate transparent and inclusive decisionmaking, strengthened stakeholder networks, accountability, and a sense of empowerment, thereby contributing to improved governance.

The paper makes the case that MSEPs will only have the desired effect when all parties have the relevant capacities, knowledge and experience, together with the desired commitment, to engage effectively. In addition, evidence from case experiences suggests that it requires strong leadership and motivation to engage in an MSEP, a network of conducive formal and informal institutions that can be relied upon for action, and most importantly, a balance in power relations between stakeholders.

The paper concludes with a discussion of the roles of international organisations in the promotion and implementation of MSEPs processes. For UNDP, this responsibility comes with being a catalyst of more integrated approaches to human development, and its involvement with the governments, civil society organizations and the private sector, to get there. They key areas that UNDP should invest in are:

  • Support for the more effective use multi-stakeholder approaches in national and local level policy formulation and implementation. This moves beyond the “stakeholder consultations” techniques around already stated plans and programmes, to ensuring serious engagement of different groups to help articulate those very plans and programmes to begin with, so that they are framed in multi-sectoral development content and processes.
  • Capacity strengthening of key stakeholders – especially local leaders and CSOs - to engage effectively in MSEPs. The provision of training in participatory methods, communication and leadership skills, access to knowledge on the issues at hand, and sharing of good practices of MSEPs serves this end.