In 2006 oil was discovered in Uganda. With the country’s economy highly dependent on fuel imports, national oil production could make a long-term contribution to poverty alleviation. But for sustainable development to occur, participatory governance must ensure that people are involved in the decision-making processes affecting their lives. This paper, therefore, first analyses the adequacy of the existing legal framework on access to information and participation. Its findings show that although law and policy in Uganda indicate certain efforts to open up environmental decision-making processes to public influence, this is not the case in the oil production sector. On the basis of interviews and focus group studies it further examines the main practical barriers to better public participation. The author finds that in practice, public participation is subject to several financial, technical and political constraints. The culture of secrecy within government bodies, weak civil society structures as well as the politics of patronage remain substantive challenges for the fair and equitable management of natural resources in Uganda.
Amidst the rhetoric of participation, evidence from some contexts suggests that the very projects and processes that appear inclusive and transformative may support a status quo that is highly inequitable for women. This paper attempts to address some of the questions and challenges surrounding participatory development, in terms of who participates, in what and on what basis, who benefits and who loses out. Highlighting some of the tensions that run through 'gender-aware' participatory development, it draws on empirical material from Africa and Asia to explore the gender dimensions of participation in projects, planning and policy processes. In doing so, it reflects on strategies and tactics that have been used in efforts to make participatory development more gender sensitive. Much depends, the paper suggests, on how 'gender' is interpreted and deployed in development settings. The pervasive slippage between 'involving women' and 'addressing gender' may be tactically expedient, but it provokes a series of questions about the extent to which current understandings of 'gender' in development mask other inequalities and forms of exclusion. Making a difference, the paper suggests, requires rethinking 'gender' and addressing more directly the issues of power and powerlessness that lie at the heart of both Gender and Development (GAD) and participatory development.
These guidelines are the result of dedicated work originally in Bangladesh, where this approach was developed, and subsequently in Malawi where it was applied and improved. The document explains the Community-led approach to development (CLA), examines its successes, defines the key principles and goes on to detail the main stages of using this approach to development. It concludes with future challenges. There is a short animated film entitled ‘Citizen-led approach’ that accompanies these guidelines.