Global and Regional Multistakeholder Institutions (GREMLIN)

Understanding the impact of multistakeholderism on global and regional governance

The evolution of global governance mechanisms reveals a number of responses from both state-based and new forms of actors. On the one hand, non-state actors (stakeholders) claim that they should be involved in global governance structures to provide legitimate and effective management of global public goods, and on the other hand, traditional governance mechanisms (states) claim to be more effective and efficient in representing their citizens' interests. Multistakeholderism, an emergent element of the discourse surrounding global governance institutions, attempts to bridge the gap between these old and new forms of actors, namely private interests, state actors and (transnational) civil society.

The GREMLIN project on understanding the impact of multistakeholderism on global and regional governance (GREMLIN: Global and REgional MuLtistakeholder INstitutions) proposes to compare two different policy areas in the broad field of global public goods provision where multistakeholderism has become a defining norm: trade and internet governance.

In the initial phase of the project, a joint theoretical framework will be established. The investigation will focus on questions of effectiveness and legitimacy of a multistakeholder process, as well as the interplay between regional and global processes, asking ‘under which conditions does multistakeholderism improve the outcome of regional and global policy processes?’ The purpose is to develop an analytical framework that will ‘unpack’ the contested and vague application of multistakeholderism in both theoretical debates and practical application.

Subsequently, the project will proceed to analyzing two empirical areas where multistakeholderism has emerged as an important governance component already since the early 2000s and has accelerated in recent years: trade and internet governance. Internet and trade governance make interesting cases for comparison as they have not only similarities but also some key differences. While trade is a ‘traditional’ policy area where governance builds on existing institutions (path-dependencies), ‘internet’ is a new policy area which allows for more flexibility in governance. Also, the nature and number of actors involved in (regional) multistakeholder mechanisms, as well as procedural and organisational issues seem to differ. Thus, not only are these areas important in and of themselves, but also comparison of the two policy fields will offer valuable insights for refining theoretical thinking on multistakeholderism. To provide the project with an initial focus, we will concentrate on the role of the European Union (EU), one of the architects of the new global institutional framework.

The main output of the project will consist of two PhD dissertations – one on internet governance and one on trade governance. The dissertations will be developed under close supervision of Prof. Dr. Jamal Shahin (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Institute for European Studies) and Prof. Dr. Jan Orbie (Centre for EU Studies, Ghent University).

For more information on multistakeholderism in internet governance, please contact Austin Ruckstuhl.

For more information on multistakeholderism in trade governance, please contact Diana Potjomkina.