Is Participation In Development Still A Tyranny

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Is Participation In Development Still A Tyranny

Over the past thirty years Participation has become development orthodoxy in both theory and practice Cornwall 2003 1325 The basic aim of participatory development PD is to increase the involvement of socially and economically marginalized peoples in decisionmaking over their own lives Guijt 1998 1 PD approaches claim to empower local communities and recognizes rural poor themselves as the primary agents of change with the capacity to transform their lives ESCAP 2009 In recent years however there have been an increasing number of criticisms from policy makers practitioners and academics regarding the widely applied participatory approaches to development Many elements of this approach have been challenged on the basis that participatory approaches often failed to achieve meaningful social change due to its inability to engage with problems of power relations and underlying politics Hickey and Mohan 2005 237 Questions have been raised regarding the methods of participatory development and the impact of policies on various aspects of development such as community relations power structures social conditions rights of the poor the role of grassroots civil society organisations in rural development and the nature of knowledge ESCAP 2009

In this context important publications have emerged representing different views and critiques of the participation approach one against Participation The New Tyranny Cooke and Kothari 2001 and another more positive assessment Participation From Tyranny To Transformation Exploring New Approaches to Participation in Development Hickey and Mohan 2004 which scrutinizes the various arguments These works have generated heated debates about the concept of participation which some argue carries within it an inherent tyrannical potential for marginalising those who are already less vocal but whom it seeks to empower Cooke and Kothari 2001 Later more optimistic publications discuss what can be done around participatory development and social change Chambers 2005b 718

In order to address the question at hand this paper examines the current debates on participation in development The essay will consider a case study that uses participatory approaches in their project This intervention has been implemented with varying degrees of success The case chosen focuses on a project entitled the Rural Water Supply Management Programme in Rajasthan India in order to illustrate some of the different effects of applying this approach

The paper is divided into four sections The first section begins by discussing the emergence of participation in development from both the historical and conceptual perspectives It then proceeds to the second section which analyses participatory development in practice The length of the paper does not allow for a detailed discussion on the methods of participatory approaches such as participatory poverty assessment rapid rural appraisal and participatory rural appraisal PPARRAPRA Therefore this section will only provide a brief overview of these approaches and their use in development projects In the third section follows a discussion on what is meant by the tyranny of participatory development The fourth concluding section seeks to draw some lessons from the discussion and analysis of the case study and provides a hint of what the literature suggests may be in store for participatory development in the future

1 Emergence of Participation in Development

First let us consider how participation in development has emerged and what are some of the contentious interpretations of this concept

The emergence of the participatory development is tied into critiques of both theory and practice Mohan 2002 50 In the late 1950s the term participation or participatory was coined for the first time in the field of development Rahnema 1992 117 The inception of participatory development is linked to colonial times and the mission to bring modernity from the west to the then developing countri

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