Participation and political representation: A critique of stakeholder engagement in coastal governance

Project Status: 

Project outline and objectives:

Community or public participation has become a central tenet in the practice and theory of integrated coastal zone management (ICZM).

In practice, however, participation is proving complex and is not necessarily living up to the promises of the ICZM literature.  In coastal governance, researchers and policy practitioners may be exacerbating the political tensions associated with participatory practice by adopting the norms of citizen participation “intuitively, vaguely or rhetorically” (Puente-Rodrigues 2014).

Coastal zone governance, in mature representative democracies at least, take place in a broader socio-political context in which existing institutions are unable to respond to citizen demands for greater power through participation. In the coastal zone literature, however, the problem is frequently case as a localised situation of undesirable conflict. This approach overlooks the significance of participation as a political act and expression of political agency for the citizen.

The tension between citizen representation through stakeholder engagement and the promise of direct citizen participation as political act to influence decision-making will be examined using the lens of political representation theory.

The objectives of this project are to:

  • Develop an analytical frame from political representation theory for application in the coastal governance context
  • Examine a selection of efforts to implement participatory governance approaches to coastal governance using the lens of political representation
  • Develop recommendations for applying the lens in practical ways that support further efforts at participatory governance approaches.
University of TasmaniaInstitute of Marine and Antarctic StudiesCSIRO Department of the EnvironmentGEOS
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