How to ensure justice in conservation action, beyond participation? Insights from Mexico.
This article argues that the efforts to enhance participation of local communities in conservation have not always enabled local communities to shape conservation action in accordance with their traditional worldviews, knowledge-systems and cultural practices. An argument is built on the authors' extensive research in four Mexican forest areas. This research is contrasted with the literature on environmental justice and conservation. The cases that were chosen are all characterised by positive conservation outcomes as well as the inclusion of local communities in various governance processes, and as such are considered best-practice conservation initiatives in Mexico. Yet, in all cases, engaging in externally-driven, participatory conservation initiatives forces local communities to change their traditional relationships to nature. Achieving the recognition of local worldviews, values and knowledge systems requires two major changes in conservation governance: developing an awareness of the structural political and economic factors impacting on decision-making in conservation, and reaffirming the legitimacy and importance of local knowledge-systems.