Parallel Session 8: Towards a meaningfully inclusive multistakeholder governance model for digital technology
Many states have in recent years adopted the position that online spaces and digital technology more broadly, including the use of algorithms in different contexts, should be governed using a so-called “multistakeholder” model. This model seeks to bring together different groups – such as government, industry, technical experts and civil society – to participate in designing and implementing legislative and policy norms. The principle underpinning this model is that all stakeholders meaningfully contributing to the framework for digital governance will result in a consensual decision that reflects a set of negotiated perspectives rather than a single source of validation, and will thus gain legitimacy.
However, to date, efforts to build a meaningfully inclusive multistakeholder approach have fallen short on at least two fronts. First, this model has in some instances led to the exclusion of certain groups and positions from decision-making processes, including geographic regions, such as Global South representation, minority groups, including Indigenous communities and ethnic and gender minorities, and technical expertise, such as engineers and computer scientists. In some cases, such groups are simply left out of the process, while in other cases, their voices are “lost in translation”, for example, with policymakers and technologists talking past each other. Second, multistakeholder processes challenge notions of accountability. Unlike representative democratic models, it is often unclear how unelected decision-makers from non-government sectors can represent and can be held accountable to certain communities.
In search of best practices for making multistakeholder constructs more inclusive and accountable, the objective of this fishbowl conversation is to provide a platform for individuals from marginalized groups to help grow the model. Building out multistakeholderism is key to establishing truly consultative structures that can lead to the development of more accountable, fair and transparent digital and online governance.
Primary themes of discussion include representativeness, meaningful inclusion, mitigation strategies for exclusion and accountability.