Multi-Stakeholder Dialogues Matter
Due to time constraints, I could not elaborate more on the facets of multi-stakeholder dialogues in my group presentation. Because of this reason and out of my belief that this is an important approach for managing and mitigating conflicts caused by extraction projects which has been rapidly developed and embraced in recent years, I would like to present my research finding on this subject matter here.
Why Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue is Needed?
The activities of the extractive industry cause negative environmental and social impacts that often lead to conflicts between the affected communities, the involved extractive companies as well as the governments which possess the decision-making power in approving such projects. Despite the licensing and Environmental Impact Assessment processes have been formalized in the host states of extractive projects, the problem of lack of transparency persists since the affected communities’ participation was limited and they were improperly consulted in those processes. The limited ability of local stakeholders to effectively influence decision-making processes and policies that seriously affect their livelihood creates frustration, grievances and broken trust towards the governments and the extractive companies. Such a circumstance often leads to protest, standoff or even direct confrontation that greatly disturb the social order and reverse the interests that could have brought about by the extractive projects.
It was argued by Ratner et al. that “if governance institutions are legitimate, inclusive, representative, and transparent, conflicts can often be solved or managed in a peaceful manner” . Therefore, the tension that have been brought by extractive projects is not unsolvable. Instead, a genuine multi-stakeholder dialogue that is tailored to the local context can help address the conflicts by engaging all the relevant actors ranging from community groups, NGOs, government agencies and the private actors etc. on a level playing field and aligning all stakeholders behind a shared vision of an extractive project that can bring about benefit-sharing.
The Objectives of Multi-Stakeholder Dialogues
To build a platform for effective multi-stakeholder engagement so that all stakeholders involved in an extractive project can work together cooperatively with an increasingly transparent and trusting relationship to reduce or minimize the environmental and social impacts, or jointly design an extractive project that can lead to better developmental results.
How to Achieve a Genuine Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue?
According to the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), first and foremost, a neutral space should be provided for stakeholders to build a shared awareness of the challenges facing the extractive project, and the possibilities and constraints of how to carry out the project in the future. Then, they should debate over the possible courses of action to pursue a common purpose and eventually decide on an action plan comprising clear roles and responsibilities of all the stakeholders .
IIED also provided a list of seven points of how such a multi-stakeholder dialogue should be and I would like to highlight the following four points:
- Move beyond talking shops;
- Make sure the right people are at the table;
- Focus dialogue at the local level; and
- Bring new voices into the debate especially the marginalized and excluded
As presented in class, in the Cambodian case, the NGO Development and Partnership Action (DPA) did an impressive job in educating and empowering the community members to make advocacy and provide inputs on mining activities, and leverage a “win-win” relationship with the private and governmental actors in the region . Building on that note, I should also draw your attention to the point raised by Ratner et al. that “the practice of multi-stakeholder dialogue is suitable in situations where competing actors and potential collaborators are willing to meet and jointly assess the sources of current or future conflict and the strategies to address these”. It appears that the presence of a capable neutral broker like DPA, IIED and UNDP  is critical to achieve such a multi-stakeholder dialogue, yet how to ensure the willingness of different stakeholders to sit down and discuss when their conflicts have already been escalated into direct confrontation and bloodshed requires more experimental efforts.
Written by Fion Ho
 Ratner et al. (2018) ‘Investing in multi-stakeholder dialogue to address natural resource competition and conflict’, Development in Practice, 28:6, pp. 799-812.
 IIED (year unknown) ‘Delivering solutions through multi-stakeholder dialogue’, pp. 1[Online], Available: https://www.iied.org/delivering-solutions-through-multi-stakeholder-dialogue.
 MPE (2016) Multi-stakeholder dialogues matter: a new paradigm towards responsible investment.
 UNDP (year unknown) ‘Multi-stakeholder dialogue: led by government, driven by participants and enabled by UNDP’, pp. 1[Online], Available: http://www.greencommodities.org/content/gcp/en/home/our-focus/multi-stakeholder-dialogue.html.