Recent times witness many new ways through which people's engagement is sought by the state. Amongst them, the creation of local institutions for representation, deliberation, and decision making at the village level is perhaps the most important. Seldom existing in isolation, these local developmental institutions intersect, interact and, at times, overlap with other local institutions. What shape participation eventually takes within these developmental spaces is thus contingent not only on the dynamics taking place within them, but also to a large extent on their relationship with coexisting local institutional spaces. This article explores the institutional dynamics within and between local institutions for forest management in the hilly villages of Uttranchal in northern India. Creating and institutionalising spaces such as these, the article argues, provide necessary, but not sufficient conditions to ensure the democratisation of participation. These institutional spaces have the potential to create certain conditions for participation and democracy at the local level, but they can also restrict such possibilities and therefore, must not be conflated either with participation or with democracy.
IDS Bulletin - Vol 35 No 2, pp. 26-32 [DOI: 10.1111/j.1759-5436.2004.tb00118.x]