Multilevel governance

Multi-stakeholder forums

Multi-stakeholder forums (MSFs) are purposely organized interactive processes that bring together a range of stakeholders to participate in dialogue, decision making and/or implementation, to address a common problem or achieve a common goal. MSFs have received much attention from policy makers, practitioners and researchers for their potential as a more sustainable and democratic approach to decision making. Such forums are thought to help reach participatory agreements with outcomes that are more equitable and effective than, say, those reached through so-called ‘business as usual’ approaches to decision making, which may be top-down, uni-sectoral or expert driven.

Despite the optimism, and as with other participatory mechanisms, MSFs have also been criticized. They may trivialize participation, limit opportunities for meaningful debate, fail to tackle power differences and lead to outcomes that reinforce inequality.

CIFOR researchers embarked in a comparative project to examine and expand the transformative potential of multi-stakeholder forums in landscape governance. The project, which started in 2017, consists of 3 main activities:

  1. Review – are we learning or repackaging?
    Literature reviews and scoping research
  2. Fieldwork – comparing experiences on the ground
    Comparative study of 14 MSFs in Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Peru, with an interest in subnational jurisdictions
  3. Engagement – collaborating with MSFs and informing their work
    Participatory development of reflexive learning tools for MSF participants, including rural women specifically

The results from each case study are found at the links below:




Phase 3