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University of Helsinki (2019)

Where is local democracy ? : In the shadows of global forest policy in Burkina Faso

Karambiri, Mawa

Titre : Where is local democracy ? : In the shadows of global forest policy in Burkina Faso

Auteur : Karambiri, Mawa

Université de soutenance : University of Helsinki,

Grade : Doctoral dissertation (article-based) / Doctoral Programme in Sustainable Use of Renewable Natural Resources 2019

Democracy as the government of the people by the people and for the people, equally represented is one of the most contested claims worldwide yet cherished by many and associated with a universal human right. The word “democracy” did not appear in the global participatory forest policy i.e., the shifting of global forest paradigm toward more participation in the 1970s. However, one of the core ideas of democracy, namely the right of local people to participate in the decision making over the use and management of their forest resources underpinned the policy proposal. Donors and international development agencies subscribed to these principles and aimed to translate them into local contexts. Likewise, central government in sub-Sahara Africa, specifically in Burkina Faso undertook political decentralization reforms and participatory forest management programmes to implement these principles of inclusion and self-determination at the local level. However, in practice, participatory forest policy and decentralization still await an effective devolution of decision-making authority to local people and the improvement of their livelihoods. In addition, the state and non-state policy translators as above continue to choose processes, plan and implement environmental projects, often in partnerships with other than the democratically elected bodies. In doing so, they risk privatizing common resources, undermine democratization, shrink the public domain and limit citizenship and the spaces available for local people’s engagement in forest management. While literature exists on those issues, it remains unclear how these three dimensions of local democracy i.e., representation, citizenship and public domain operate under environmental interventions in the context of Burkina Faso. Therefore, I ask how participatory forest policy is translated at the local level in sub-Sahara Africa, specifically in Burkina Faso. How do the translation processes influence local democracy ? I adopted a policy translation perspective and the theoretical lens of the “choice and recognition” framework to assess the democracy effects of forestry interventions namely on local peoples’ representation, citizenship and the public domain. I investigated these three components of local democracy through four articles included in this dissertation using qualitative research methods. The results showed that in Burkina Faso, global forest policy was translated at the local level through political decentralization reforms and participatory forestry projects. The choices of local institutions made by the project implementers influenced the substantive representation of local people’s interests and the effectiveness of forest restoration outcomes (Article II). The forestry interventions unintentionally produced uneven forms of citizenship, turning citizens into denizens i.e., those whose citizenships was revoked (Article III). Lastly, Articles IV and I depicted the multi-layered and complex dynamics in the public domain, continually contested by both customary and post-colonial state logics. From the findings, it can be inferred that participatory forestry has the potential to strengthen local democracy through political decentralisation. However, the current policy translation processes can undermine democratisation. Thus, I recommend to more systematically pay attention and integrate indicators of local democracy when trying to apply global forest policies in a local context.


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