Has ‘multistakeholderism… become a mantra, void of its progressive potential and outcomes’? Stefania Milan and Arne Hintz analyze internet governance’s hyper-focus on multistakeholderism and how civil society should adapt a clear IG agenda.
“All I’m saying is, if #multistakeholder were a drinking game, I’d be in the hospital with alcohol poisoning right about now,” tweeted civil society delegate @pondswimmer during the opening ceremony of the recent Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Istanbul, where references to the multistakeholder principle were as omnipresent (and, seemingly, mandatory) as thanking the local organizers. Since the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 and 2005, the idea of bringing together governments, the business sector, and civil society for debate and policy development has been celebrated and promoted. Probably nowhere has multistakeholder governance been implemented as thoroughly as in internet governance, where civil society actors and experts occupy key positions in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and where all stakeholders discuss relevant policy issues at the IGF on (supposedly) equal footing. It is now unimaginable to discuss the governance of the internet without some form of multistakeholder participation. References to multistakeholder processes have been pervasive in speeches and documents, from the official 2003 WSIS press release titled “Summit Breaks New Ground with Multi-Stakeholder Approach” which praised the method rather than highlighting the substantial issues of the summit, to the NETmundial outcome document calling for “democratic, multistakeholder processes, ensuring the meaningful and accountable participation of all stakeholders, including governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical community, the academic community and users.”
Once upon a time, development seemed straightforward. Sound technical analysis identified what to do– and the rest followed. But experience has taught us that it is harder than that. As Shanta’s recent post signals, there are three competing camps – the ‘whats’, the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’. I wonder, though, whether in clarifying the differences, we might be missing the chance to learn across these different perspectives?
Certainly, the differences are large. At one end are the old-time-religion ‘whats’, who confidently prescribe ‘best practices’ to help countries stay on the right path – and who sometimes turn to the ‘whys’ to identify the political and institutional blockages to good policies. At the other end, the ‘hows’ argue that every country is unique, that the crucial knowledge for shaping and implementing policy is local, and tend to be dismissive of efforts (especially by outsiders) to analyze political and institutional obstacles.
My new book, Working with the Grain tries to steer a middle ground. The book explores a small number of alternative development pathways that are very different from each other – with each characterized by a distinctive set of political and institutional incentives and constraints, and thus distinctive options for policymaking and implementation.
The Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP), since its inception in 2010, has supported vocational training institutions to improve the quality of training and expand access for disadvantaged youth in Bangladesh. 33 polytechnics are currently receiving financial assistances from STEP for their institutional development. Vocational training institutions in Bangladesh have plenty of investment needs that are long overdue – degraded facilities, obsolete instructional machineries, outdated ICT tools, absence of qualified instructors, to name but a few. Such neglects are no longer tolerable in the face of growing concerns over technical skills gaps in the Bangladesh’s labor market, and the government is committed to expanding and improving skills development training in Bangladesh. STEP’s support has proven very effective to help the institutions to improve their training services.
In the last couple of days, I was struck by two pieces of news. They were small but surprising, and both affect the way we think about how to strengthen an economy in a developing country.
One news item concerned shifting intellectual currents. Faculties of economics in seven cities announced last week that they will be revising their curriculum. They are responding to demands from students, such leading academics as Joseph Stiglitz and such policymakers as Andy Haldane at the Bank of England. Their goal is to reduce the dominance of neoclassical models and to have economics courses that will focus on the real-world responses to financial crises, inequality and other problems. This is no ordinary student rebellion: On Friday, the Financial Times published an editorial in their support. On the heels of Ha Joon Chang’s book launch (“Economics: The User’s Guide”), I found this news interesting. Is there one way to look at an economy, and can we afford to rally behind one school of thought?
The other story was more depressing. It concerned what former U.S. Treasury Secretary and former Harvard President Larry Summers and others are calling “secular stagnation.” It showed that U.S. firms’ net capital expenditure was the exact same in 2013 as it was in 2000. So, even smoothing out the global financial crisis, even in the largest economy in the world – with one of the best business environments and all the innovation of places like Silicon Valley – investment has been flat for more than a decade. Summers’ argument, which he advocates in textbooks, essays and speeches, is that we have entered a period of permanently lower private-sector investment.
Global stock markets retreated on Monday as civil unrest in Hong Kong SAR, China increased risk aversion among investors, while U.S. Treasuries advanced on safe-haven appeal. The benchmark MSCI world stock index fell 0.5% in early trading, but it recovered slightly after strong U.S. economic data pushed U.S. equities higher. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note yield slid 4 basis points (bps) to 2.49% in morning trade.
From my seat as an Education economist at the World Bank, I go through a number of strategies from countries and sectors in Africa outlining how best to achieve economic growth and development. I am repeatedly struck by a key question: Who will do it? Who will add value to African exports? Who will build? Who will invent? Who will cure? The answer is, of course, that graduates from African universities and training institutions should do it. But the problem is one of numbers and quality—there are simply not enough graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and programs are of uneven quality.