Participation, empowerment, and democracy: Three fickle friends
Over the past twenty-five years, free participation in decision making has come to be recognized as an essential ethical value of development. This recognition was not won easily. The development-as-growth strategies of the 1960s typically favored top-down decision-making structures, in which development projects, along with their managers and expert planners, were accountable to international funders in conjunction with national governments. Wider popular participation was "normally restricted to some hastily organized meetings in which outside experts 'brief local people about the objectives and activities of the projects" (Brohman 1996, 202). Demands for greater stakeholder participation in development decision making issued from several quarters. As a broad principle, free participation in development was advocated by the nonaligned movement and expressed in the Declaration on the Right to Development (United Nations 1986) and in the report of the South Commission (1990). More specific demands for participation were raised by development practitioners and researchers who found that successful development required popular mobilization of a kind that top-down management thwarted. This led to a flurry of initiatives to involve local people earlier in the assessment of development needs and options (Chambers 1983,1994, 2005). Equal or greater impetus came from resistance to development projects by people who were (or were likely to be) harmed by them. Notably, there was signif cant resistance to projects that would displace people and their communities-once estimated to be 10 million persons per year (McDowell 1996). In this context, people's inclusion in development decision making was called for as an essential means of limiting the harm development might otherwise cause them (World Commission on Dams 2000).
Drydyk, J. (2010). Participation, empowerment, and democracy: Three fickle friends.