Community participation in international projects: an analytical perspective from the Russian Far East

  • Emma Wilson
  • David Koester
Original Paper


International projects frequently struggle with the dilemmas of community participation, whether the community in question is the object of a development or aid intervention, or is to be persuaded to cooperate on a conservation project. This paper discusses the challenges facing interventionists and the obstacles and opportunities that local people encounter as they come into contact with exogenous conservation and development projects. The key issues presented can be summarized as legacy, legitimacy, agency and communication. We argue that project planners need to understand the history of past interventions in order to respond appropriately to local expectations. At the same time, the complexity of community leadership and representation complicates the sometimes conflicting agendas of project developers and communities. Much depends on personal relations, individual agency, and initiative. Finally, the physical means of communication—language, print and broadcast media, transport and telecommunications—are important aspects to consider when assessing the limitations to community participation. Although there have been valuable successes in international projects in Russia, as in other regions of the world, a better understanding of community participation is needed to ensure more effective and sustainable means for engaging communities in project development and implementation. This paper explores these questions through a locally-grounded analysis based on the academic research and practitioner experience of the two authors in the remote home of a World Heritage site—the Kamchatka Peninsula, in the Russian Far East.


Community participation Kamchatka Protected areas International projects Development Indigenous peoples 



The authors would like to acknowledge the valuable support, collaboration and assistance of the scientists from the Kamchatka Branch of the Pacific Ocean Geographical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in particular its director Robert Savelevich Moiseev, and senior researcher, Viktoria V. Petrasheva and the NGO Kamchatka League of Independent Experts, in particular its director Olga Andreevna Chernyagina. We are extremely grateful to our local informants, colleagues and friends in Esso, Anavgai, Kovran, Tigil’, Khairiuzovo, Palana and Petropavlovsk, especially (in Esso and Anavgai) Taisiya Solodyakova, Natalya Petrovna Sycheva and the Esso Library, the Indanov family and the Anavgai House of Culture, the Bystrinskii Information Centre and Bystrinskii Nature Park. Emma Wilson would also like to acknowledge the valuable support and collaboration of the ‘Project Kamchatka ‘98’ team, especially Alex Fox, and the IUCN team on the ‘Building Partnerships’ project, in particular Nikolai Shmatkov and Tim Brigham. We are of course very appreciative of the generous assistance of our funding bodies, which include but are not limited to the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Philip Lake and Edward Wilson Funds, the National Science Foundation and IREX. Thanks also to Craig Gerlach and two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions and comments. The authors take sole responsibility for the contents of this article.

Map Credit: Gavin Wood, 2006.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environment & Community Worldwide, Ltd.CambridgeUK
  2. 2.Scott Polar Research InstituteUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA

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