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Multi-stakeholder global networks: emerging systems for the global common good

Authors: Steve Waddell and Sanjeev Khagram
Publication date: 2007

Based on an extensive analysis of about 20 global action networks (GAN), the authors investigate their potential in the protection of the global commons and the production of global public goods. 

According to Waddell and Khagram, GANs have 5 definitional characteristics:

  • global
  • focus on issues of the public good
  • inter-organizational networks
  • diversity embracing boundary spanners: bridging a wide variety of differences
  • systemic change agents

Realizing global system change is a common activity of GANs. Perhaps their most basic task is to put and keep an issue on the global stage. Although GANs address a great range of issues, they share commitment to multi-stakeholder learning and change processes.

Four challenges influence the potential of GANs as emerging global governance mechanisms:

  • measuring their impact on global systems
  • becoming more and more legitimate to all stakeholders, particularly governments and intergovernmental organizations
  • developing more generally accepted global action norms
  • building more robust cross-issue inter-GAN linkages.

Whether GANs will successfully develop their potential as leading structures in a new global governance architecture is still an open question. Nevertheless, though they may not become the dominant global player, neither are they likely to be insignificant.