Through the analysis of two participatory forums active in the Vale do Ribeira (Brazil)—the Committee for the Management of Water Resources (CGRH) and the Consortium of Food Safety and Local Development (Consad)—this article discusses the argument that ‘‘well designed’’ institutions enable the inclusion of a broader spectrum of actors in political debates, as well as reduce the asymmetries between them thereby facilitating the negotiation and agreement of politically and economically viable projects that would help to encourage development in the region. The two forums were observed in terms of how they dealt with two polemical regional issues: the proposal to build a big dam, a process which has been going on for more than a decade and the definition of a program of sustainable development capable of reconciling environmental conservation and growth in the local economy. The analysis suggests that during the period of research, these forums recreated in the participatory sphere coalitions that were already present in the regional political scene, thereby acting as an extension of the party political game rather than as arenas where new arrangements of actors could agree on alternative projects. From a theoretical perspective, this result raises again the question of the origin and the change of institutions, in that it questions the mechanisms necessary for the creation of institutions explicitly designed to alter the status quo.
Coelho, V.S.P.; Favareto, A. Questioning the Relationship between Participation and Development: A case study of the Vale do Ribeira, Brazil. World Development (2008) 36 (12) 2937-2952. [DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2007.11.019]