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Participatory Planning in the Caribbean: Lessons from Practice

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Jonathan Pugh


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‘Participatory planning’ has become an all-encompassing phrase over the last decade. But what does it actually mean in practice for regions such as the Caribbean to have greater public involvement in planning? What methodologies are being appropriated at various levels of governance in order to challenge the undemocratic relations of power that have characterised the Caribbean for so long? Do they actually work in practice? These are the central concerns of Participatory Planning in the Caribbean: Lessons from Practice. Even a very cursory knowledge of the region shows that historically Caribbean development has been top-down. In the modern era, the region continues to be infl uenced, and many say dominated by, the west. Structural adjustment conditions, tourism and trade agreements are accompanied by attempts to install western models of democracy and governance. The answer to democratic governance and a well-ordered capitalist economy, according to many western academics, donor agencies and governments, is that there should be less centralised, and more participatory forms of planning and development. In recent years, there has also been increasing support for participatory planning from many other sections of the international community. Environmental agreements, human rights charters, and international non-governmental organisations, although often from very different perspectives, also support a greater involvement of the public in planning. This convergence upon a concern for public participation in planning also comes from the bottom-up, as well as the top-down. Participatory planning initiatives receive a great deal of support at all levels, from the local community to the international community. Participatory planning provides a potential mechanism for those who wish to directly challenge undemocratic relations of power. Participatory planning also provides an avenue for those social and cultural movements that have been concerned with bringing to the fore alternative identities for the Caribbean and its peoples, challenging those that view the region as part of ‘the periphery’, or as ‘developing’ compared to the ‘developed’ world. Calls for participatory planning therefore not only represent the general thrust of many economic restructuring agreements, and human rights movements, but also the rise of community-based and non-governmental organisations, and civil protest in certain Caribbean countries. Put another way, participatory planning has emerged as a paradox: one that both simultaneously Preface xi supports and rejects a general trend in the history of Caribbean democracy to follow western ideals of progress. This is because participatory planning offers hope to all: from those western donor agencies and western governments that want to role back the state, in order to free up the market so that big business can carve out its own interests, to those that resist the infl uence of the west and whose central concern is with equality, human rights, greater autonomy and the bringing out of different Caribbean identities. How participatory planning comes to be defi ned in practice is therefore one of the central issues which will affect the future of Caribbean democracy. Can the rising concern for more participatory forms of planning in the Caribbean really represent a signifi cant shift from the very foundations of Caribbean democracy and modernity? This volume certainly does not provide a defi nitive answer (if one could exist), but the editors hope that it will add to and encourage debate. So far as the editors are aware, this monograph represents the first edited collection of specially commissioned case studies, written by leading academics, which specifi cally explores how participatory planning is being implemented in the Caribbean in practice. In so doing, it covers both the geographically larger and smaller Caribbean states. This edited monograph presents case studies from Jamaica, Cuba, Guyana, Mexico, Belize, St Lucia, and examples of participatory planning from the national and local levels of governance in Barbados. These contributions consider how the disparate ideals and visions for participatory planning play out in specifi c contexts. In highlighting the gap between the procedural and the substantial elements of participatory planning in the Caribbean, one of the broader conclusions which can be reached from the book is that there is a need to develop more context-specifi c approaches to building democracy in the Caribbean. However, this concern with the specifi city of context will be diffi cult in practice. In a region which has always been integrally linked to the global economy, it is very diffi cult to be concerned with the local alone. Another overlapping issue is that it is impossible to introduce contextneutral procedures and methodologies for participatory planning with the purpose of reaching a rational consensus. Many of the chapters contained in this volume illustrate how in reality this consensus often ends up refl ecting, and even reinforcing, the undemocratic relations of power that characterise a given context. In concluding, it is therefore argued that participatory planning cannot be tied solely to sets of procedures that can be implemented on mass across the Caribbean region. Instead, participatory planning involves pragmatic steps that are focused upon challenging undemocratic, hegemonic relations of power. xii Participatory Planning in the Caribbean: Lessons from Practice The origins of this monograph lie in a session jointly organised by the editors at the Annual Conference of the Association of American Geographers, held in New York in March 2001. Particular thanks go to Pat FitzGerald for her effi ciency in producing the fi nal version of the text. As the publishers of this specialist monograph, Ashgate, especially Val Rose, have been extremely supportive throughout the process of its production. Finally, a special note of thanks and appreciation goes to the Economic and Social Research Council, whose generous funding of Jon Pugh’s three year Research Fellowship (2002– 2004) (Ref: R000271204) made the production of this volume possible. The interested reader may also wish to visit the website ‘Participatory Planning in the Caribbean’ (, which is also part of this Economic and Social Research Council funded programme.

Publication metadata

Editor(s): Pugh J, Potter RB

Publication type: Edited Book

Publication status: Published

Series Title:

Year: 2003

Number of Pages: 228

Publisher: Ashgate

Place Published: Aldershot

Notes: The first academic text on participatory planning in the Caribbean

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 0754635082