Participation, planning and natural resources in Bolivia: from fiction to practice?
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In this paper, we focus on participation in the main planning documents produced in Bolivia in the first decade of the 2000s: the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and the National Development Plan (PND). We analyze how these planning instruments have been able to capture popular participation through diverse mechanisms and how these practices fit in the current mainstream participation discourse. Special attention is paid to natural resources because of the predominant role they have in the Bolivian economy and because of their substantial contribution to the state budget. The Bolivian experience shows an apparent paradox: while the process leading to the PRSP followed participatory guidelines and the PND did not, the resulting PRSP failed to include the most pressing demands of social movements, while the PND succeeded in including them. This case shows how the articulation of political processes escapes simplistic characterizations and the application of ‘out of the textbook’ participation might result in highly exclusionary outcomes. It also shows that the voice of social movements can take unexpected paths and have a profound influence on political events that go well beyond the possibility of standardized participatory processes.
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