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From US with Love: Community Participation, Stakeholder Partnership, and the Exacerbation of Inequality in Rural Jamaica

This paper examines and argues against the neoliberal assumption that local community participation in market-based nature conservation projects is democratic and leads to community empowerment through economic development. It does so by analyzing the formation of Local Forest Management Committees, instigated by one of the largest US-based environmentalist NGOs - the Nature Conservancy - and its partnering local environmental NGOs for conserving the tropical forests of Cockpit Country, Jamaica. The paper dissects, specifically, the notion of "stakeholder partnership," frequently invoked in neoliberal conservation projects in the global south. Such flattening neoliberal terminologies imply a democratic platform, where different groups can express their political agendas and negotiate their differences with equal power. The language of "stakeholder partnership" flattens, this paper argues, the hierarchical set of power relations both inherited and exacerbated by free market-based conservation projects.