On the limits of liberalism in participatory environmental governance: Conflict and conservation in ukraine's danube delta

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Development and Change, ISSN: 1467-7660, Vol: 46, Issue: 3, Page: 415-441

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Richardson, Tanya
Social Sciences; Anthropology; Political Science
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article description
Participatory management techniques are widely promoted in environmental and protected area governance as a means of preventing and mitigating conflict. The World Bank project that created Ukraine's Danube Biosphere Reserve included such 'community participation' components. The Reserve, however, has been involved in conflicts and scandals in which rumour, denunciation and prayer have played a prominent part. The cases described in this article demonstrate that the way conflict is escalated or mitigated differs according to foundational assumptions about what 'the political' is and what counts as 'politics'. The contrasting forms of politics at work in the Danube Delta help to explain why a 2005 World Bank assessment report could only see failure in the Reserve's implementation of participatory management, and why liberal participatory management approaches may founder when introduced in settings where relationships are based on non-liberal political ontologies. The author argues that environmental management needs to be rethought in ways that take ontological differences seriously rather than assuming the universality of liberal assumptions about the individual, the political and politics.