University of Leicester
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Conservation, participation and power : community involvement in protected area planning in Belize

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:38 authored by Roger. Few
The thesis examines community involvement in the planning of protected areas designated for biodiversity conservation. The research centres on a case study of planning at two coastal sites in Belize: Bacalar Chico and Caye Caulker. The study employs qualitative methodology to analyse forms of public participation in planning and to explore the relations and strategies of power in operation between the diverse actors in the process.;The case study revealed that official public participation exercises functioned as circumscribed forms of consultation. Local stakeholders were granted some opportunity to express their opinions, but decision-making remained in the hands of the planning agencies. Certain key local actors could, however, make use of alternative channels of involvement, such as political lobbying and informal social contact. Both forms of community involvement were played out in a complex arena of power relations. The power strategies of actors drew on unevenly distributed resources such as knowledge, discourse, authority and access to state apparatus. Actors also employed a range of tactics including persuasion, compromise, manipulation, exclusion, enrolment and the formation of alliances to secure influence in the power arena. At one level of abstraction it was possible to identify a power-typology of local actors with characteristic interests, roles and relations with planners.;From the two original analytical themes a third, grounded theme emerged relating to the central role played by the planning authorities. Instead of fostering meaningful participation, planners were effectively engaged in a process of containment: their actions in the power arena were geared toward avoiding or blocking disruption and maintaining control. But containment was partial, and the extent of counter-containment helped to explain differences in planning progress between the two study sites. The thesis goes on to argue that attempted containment is inherent in the planning of externally-driven, biodiversity-oriented protected areas.


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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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