‘We no longer have faith and trust in anyone’: Misadventures in community consultation on the future of the Chagos Archipelago

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Abstract

This article critically examines the consequences of different levels of public participation in decision-making processes for chronically disadvantaged and marginalised people. We present a case study of a public consultation, commissioned by the UK Government as part of a broader study into the feasibility of resettlement of the Chagos Archipelago, a remote British Overseas Territory in the Indian Ocean. The UK Government has a long and troubled history of entanglements with the Chagossian community. We argue that the government and the consultants it commissioned failed to engage with this complex history, leading to particular challenges in establishing trust amongst community members and diminishing the effectiveness of the consultation process. We show that consultations are not neutral, one-off ‘fact finding’ endeavours but politically loaded exercises with lasting consequences for communities in terms of power, participation, and vulnerability. We conclude that those involved in commissioning or conducting participatory projects should consider the historical, political, and socio-economic dynamics of stakeholder communities to determine instances in which collaboration or empowerment (rather than merely dissemination, consultation, or involvement) may be required to achieve fair, effective decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-403
JournalInternational Development and Planning Review
Volume38
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016

Keywords

  • community consultation
  • resettlement
  • Chagos
  • participation
  • trust

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