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Conservation, Participation, and Power: Protected-Area Planning in the Coastal Zone of Belize

Drawing on debates over social impacts of biodiversity conservation and the role of power relations in community participation, this paper reports on field research examining community involvement in protected area planning in Belize. The research takes an actor-oriented approach to analyze the social, political, and technical processes involved in initiating and planning of two protected-area projects. Discussion focuses on the scope of public involvement, the power differentials among actors in the planning process, and the mechanisms through which power was exercised. The pattern that emerged showed planning officials endeavoring to mitigate or circumvent social and political dissent rather than foster an active, broad-based form of community participation. The paper suggests that the notion of containment may have a general applicability wherever protected areas are planned by external agencies that aim to engage local participation.

Area of Interest: Belize

Year: 2000

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