Global environmental assessments (GEAs) are among the most large-scale, formalized processes for synthesizing knowledge at the science–policy–society interface. The successful engagement of diverse stakeholders in GEAs is often described as a crucial mechanism for increasing their legitimacy, salience and credibility. However, the diversity of perspectives on the more precise objectives for stakeholder engagement remains largely unclear. The aims of this study are to categorize and characterize the diversity of perspectives on objectives for stakeholder engagement in GEAs; to explore differences in perspectives within and between different stakeholder groups and categories; and to test whether the more practical prioritization and selection of objectives in GEAs can be linked to deliberative policy learning as a higher-level rationale for stakeholder engagement. For these purposes, we conduct a grounded theory analysis and a keyword analysis of interview material and official GEA documents relating to two GEAs: UN Environment’s Fifth Global Environment Outlook and the Working Group III contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. Based on the analysis, we identify six categories of objectives and present as hypotheses promising ways forward for prioritizing and characterizing objectives for stakeholder engagement in GEAs, as well as potential reasons for the differences between perspectives on objectives. This study draws attention to the need for future GEA processes to have more explicit discussions on the objectives for stakeholder engagement, as well as the importance of moving towards increasingly deliberative and inclusive assessment processes more broadly.
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