Multi-stakeholder participation (MSP) has become a central feature in several institutions and processes of global governance. Those who promote them trust that these arrangements can advance the deliberative quality of international institutions, and thereby improve the democratic quality, legitimacy and effectiveness of both the institutional landscape, as well as decisions made within it. This paper employs a heuristic framework to analyze the deliberative quality of MSP. Specifically, it applies Dryzek’s deliberative systems framework to the case of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The assessment shows that the CFS improves the deliberative quality of food security governance by including and facilitating the transmission of discourses from the public to the empowered spaces. However, the deliberative quality of CFS could be higher with stronger accountability mechanisms in place, more meta-deliberation and adoption of CFS outcomes at national and local levels. Reflecting on the limitations of using this heuristic framework to assess MSP, we conclude that the analysis would benefit from more explicit consideration of different forms of power that are part of the social relations between actors involved in such settings. By proposing this analytical approach, we expect to advance a heuristic framework for assessing deliberation in an international context of the growing importance of MSP in sustainability and global governance.
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