Context, power and equity in territorial planning multi-stakeholder commissions: A comparative analysis of two very different Brazilian States
“Ecological-Economic Zoning” (ZEE) was regulated in Brazil as a territory planning tool aimed to organize the sustainable use of land and natural resources, through multi-stakeholder forums (MSFs) and other participation mechanisms. MSFs have gained global popularity as an innovative institutional reform in the governance of land use and forests. In territorial planning, the idea is to bring together diverse actors to advance “good governance” and “sustainable development” (e.g. Nolte et al. 2017). However, both territorial planning and MSFs constitute a double-edged sword: advancing certain goals, strengthening certain land use rights and benefiting certain actors can come at the expense of others. They can either challenge power asymmetries or merely reproduce them (e.g. Kohlepp 2002).
Based on 10 months of research, we comparatively analyze the multi-stakeholder commissions created for the ZEE of Acre and Mato Grosso, two Amazonian Brazilian States with very different characteristics and history. We delve into the influence of the national and regional context, and how power is exerted, distributed and shared between actors. We capture perceptions and collect empirical evidence from q-methodology and differentiated questionnaires. We reveal that land use planning MSFs have better chances to promote equitable power relations when they emerge from – and are nourished by – an historical context that embraces local movements, culture, identity and differences, rather than from technocratic top-down processes. Our ultimate goal is to offer a critical analysis and shed light on how to improve the equity of MSFs in decision-making around land use, forests and local people’s wellbeing.