Multistakeholderism introduces a whole new set of governance actors and a new process for making global “laws and regulations.” International multistakeholder bodies often have limited or adversarial connections to governments and intergovernmental bodies, yet they function as if they are global governors. Multistakeholderism has also gained a degree of public acceptance as a new paradigm for global governance without the international community examining properly its legitimacy as an institution of democratic governance.

In setting out the background this chapter argues (a) that there are fundamental challenges to multilateralism as it operates today; (b) that multi-constituency consultations hosted by governments and the UN system are not the same as multistakeholder groups; (c) that the four-hundred-year evolution of international public law is being upended by multistakeholderism; (d) that multistakeholder governance groups tend to fall into three different categories dependent on the locus of their activity and the governance gaps they are designed to address; and (e) that any new system of global governance should embody not only long-standing democratic principles but also contemporary democratic values and practices.