Analyzing Protected Area Bureaucratic Institutions to Understand Barriers to Local Participation in Biodiversity Conservation: The Costa Rican Example
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The importance of local participation in biodiversity governance was recently recognized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) through the incorporation of Indigenous Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) as a protected area category. This paper explores what barriers might ICCAs face in their successful implementation within already existent protected area systems. I look at this issue in the context of the descentralisation of biodiversity governance in Costa Rica and examine the internal make up of four different conservation areas within the National System of Conservation Areas. Findings suggest that it is not enough to enact legal reforms allowing and encouraging local participation. Successfully involving local participation requires attention to the class-based relationships within the protected area bureaucracy that create incentives (or not) to link with the local rural citizenry affected by these areas. In three out of four conservation areas, the dominant social class and urban-rural dynamics combined with a lack of accountability mechanisms have discouraged any real rural involvement and empowerment for decision-making. The strategy of the one area that succeeded at sorting these obstacles to incorporate local participation is described in-depth.