Throughout the year, TNI and allies in the People’s Working Group on Multistakeholderism – a powerful new network of tech, food, health, education and climate justice organisations and movements – engaged in coordinated action to demand that states, non-governmental actors and civil society halt the creation of multistakeholder mechanisms and defend participatory people-centred multilateralism. Among other things, we mobilised some 100 organisations and movements from around the world to sign on to an open letter to the global international community, delivered in the run-up to the World Economic Forum, which condemned corporate multistakeholderism and demanded a democratic reset. A new report, The Great Takeover: Mapping of Multistakeholderism in Global Governance, a collective undertaking of the People’s Working Group, made a significant contribution to knowledge on the subject by providing a detailed mapping of multistakeholder initiatives in different sectors.
We contributed new insights into the dangers of a number of specific multistakeholder initiatives. A report published with Corporate Europe Observatory explained how big corporations have hijacked global climate-related decision-making and unpacked the corporate narrative of Net Zero. A long read drew attention to COVAX, the multistakeholder group given decision-making power over Covid-19 vaccination distribution to developing countries. The long read was the basis for an article in the French magazine Politis, an epilogue in a forthcoming book on the politics of state vaccine production, and articles in Italian, Cuban and South Korean media. In a policy dialogue hosted by the Medicus Mundi International Network, TNI highlighted the need to defend people-centred multilateralism in the World Health Organization, among other UN bodies and agencies.
The UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), which side-stepped existing democratic and civil society mechanisms and excluded small-scale food producers and indigenous communities, represented another attempt by corporations to push their own agenda. TNI denounced the Summit in a series of social media videos and a podcast, as well as an Op Edpublished in the Dutch newspaper NRC. Through webinars and strategy meetings with allies, TNI helped contextualize the problem and build a counter movement, the People’s Autonomous Response to the Food System Summit. Our research and analysis was solidly reflected in the broadly-supported civil society narrative condemning multistakeholderism and the Summit, including a report by the Liaison Group of the People’s Autonomous Response to the Food System Summit. The critique of multistakeholderism also featured in the call for a boycott of the UNFSS and the reasons for the counter-summit.
The collective efforts of TNI and allies contributed to statements in support of social movement positions by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, a critical letter from academics (including TNI Associates), the withdrawal of support for the Summit by the expert body IPES-Food, and an invitation by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture to share our analysis and concerns about the Summit. Ultimately, the legitimacy of the Summit was severely undermined, and awareness and criticism of corporate multistakeholderism spread widely. In response to the global pressure, the UN Special Envoy to the UNFSS, Agnes Kalibata, called for wider support for agroecology and small-scale farmers and greater recognition of indigenous knowledge.