Participatory development has become one of the central influences in mainstream development thinking, as a result many of the influential bilateral and multilateral agencies, including the World Bank, have joined the advocacy of participatory development. In practice, participatory development encounters many challenges. First, local communities may not be homogeneous. Second, the local people often tell questioners what they think the questioners want to hear, a process which Chambers calls "inadvertent ventriloquism". Third, not all members of the population have equal will and power. This creates a skewed form of local knowledge and increases the risk of distorting the wishes and desires of the local community. This thesis examines the benefits, limitations and risks associated with participatory processes used in the preparation phase of large-scale dam projects. Drawing on research on the case study of the Bujagali Hydropower Project in Uganda, and on existing relevant participation theory, the framework of the World Commission on Dams, World Bank guidelines, the thesis raises questions regarding "best practices" of participation in decision making about large dams and examines whether the public consultation processes used in the planning phase of the Bujagali project are appropriate in view of the overall social and political context in the Uganda. The thesis finds that in determining the shape that 'participation' takes in practice, it is crucial to distinguish who participates, in what way, when, in what, and, on whose terms? rt is also important to understand the difference between being told and being asked, and between being brought into decision-making process merely to meet bureaucratic requirements and being able to influence the fom1 that action takes. Arguments and evidence put forward in this thesis substantiate the original hypotheses that the meaning of participation is context specific and that the iteration of consultations condition responses. The thesis concludes that meaningful participation in project planning ultimately means influence on the process and its outcomes, and not simply access to it.


School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Political Science Department

Degree Name

MA in Political Science

Date of Award


Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Vikash Yadav

Committee Member 1

Vikash Yadav

Committee Member 2

Ibrahim Nur

Committee Member 3

Monika Thakur

Document Type



78 leaves

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1


Library of Congress Subject Heading 3

Foucault, Michel.;Bakhtin, M. M. (Mikhail Mikhailovich),


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Call Number

Thesis 2005/120