Multistakeholder Cooperation in Sustainable Development Policy – With Special Focus on Civil Society Groups and the Mining Sector


This project was planned as a long-term, cross-national, in-depth study. The project concentrates in particular on the performance and limitations of civil society groups (NGOs) in negotiations/deliberations and implementation processes, in efforts to achieve sustainable development. To attain a deeper understanding of the opportunities as well as the constraints, the project devotes particular attention to highly complex problem constellations characterized by

  • multitude of stakeholders with (strongly) divergent value systems and preferences
  • highly contentious issues
  • an ambiguous solution paradigm (such as the concept of sustainable development)
  • complex, multilevel negotiations (local to global) and multicultural interactions (e.g. North-South)

The 05n research object is the global negotiation and dialogue process initiated by the most important and largest mining companies worldwide. This process, starting in the late 1990s, led inter alia to a global multistakeholder dialogue initiated by a group of mining companies, cooperating with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCD) and an independent, London-based research organization, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). The dialogue, called the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) Project, ran for two years (2000-2002); it was one of the most comprehensive and expensive dialogue processes ever initiated by the business sector. The 05n objective of the dialogue participants in conjunction with the relevant critics of the industry was to find out what the mining sector could do in order to get itself on a sustainable development track. The dialogue concluded with a substantial report detailing the deficits and potentials of the mining sector vis-à-vis sustainable development, and with the launching of the so-called Toronto Declaration in 2002 by the participating companies. This declaration established criteria and targets (codes of practice) to guide the enterprises’ activities. The multistakeholder dialogue and its outcome can thus be characterized as an instance of private governance, based on voluntary self-commitment.

Since then many different forms of cooperation and governance have taken place involving in various ways international organizations (IOs), transnational and national NGOs, scientific organizations, and governments. Nevertheless the mining sector’s broad initiative failed to achieve its primary aim, namely, to reduce the political pressure on the sector, stemming from an organized, worldwide network of mining critics, including NGOs, IOs, trade unions, and governments. On the other hand, mining opponents succeeded in politicizing the sector. Their aim has been to establish globally binding regulations for mining enterprises. During the course of the MMSD dialogue, the World Bank — the IO most relevant to the mining industry — initiated an independent review of its own activities in the mining sector. This could pave the way for global regulation of the mining industry.

Relationship to the Research Unit’s Program

This project is related to the politicization thesis of the TKI research program. The central research questions are: Did the various governance forms developed by the IOs and business enterprises (like voluntary codes of practice, multistakeholder involvements, dialogues) actually gain the necessary degree of societal acceptance and legitimation to enable such a problematic sector to meet the strong challenges exerted by a broad civil society movement? Can a transnationally organized business sector develop sufficiently convincing forms of governance to prevent global regulation of its activities? And finally: What role do the relevant IOs, especially the World Bank, play in processes of politicization?

Main content

Selected Publications

Helmut Weidner, „Politisierung als Prozess und Ergebnis“, in: Michael Zürn und Matthias Ecker-Ehrhardt (Hg.), Gesellschaftliche Politisierung und internationale Institutionen, 2010, Berlin: Edition Suhrkamp.