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Reproducing injustice: why recognition matters in conservation project evaluation

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JournalGlobal Environmental Change
DateAccepted/In press - 23 Sep 2020
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Following critiques of the global environmental justice paradigm, a ‘critical’ environmental justice scholarship is emerging. This article contributes to this important field of inquiry by interrogating project evaluation through a critical recognition justice lens that draws on political ecology. We use an embedded case study of the official donor evaluation of a REDD+ pilot project in Tanzania; comparing narrated accounts of the project recipients' experiences with the official evaluation documents and asking whose ways of knowing, values, and perspectives on governance and justice are recognized and whose are excluded. We find that the report represents a narrow framing of the project experience, based on standard evaluation criteria, the technical framing of the project, and the ways of knowing, values and perspectives of the (inter)national conservation community. The project framings of many local-level project recipients are not recognized in the official evaluation, despite attempts to include villager perspectives and some consideration of justice-related outcomes in the report. Project evaluation is therefore identified as a vehicle for recognition justices and injustices, discursively reproducing the ways of knowing, values and perspectives of certain actors while excluding others. The role of project evaluation in the proliferation of dominant conservation discourse is identified, and the ability for standardized evaluations to deliver meaningful learning is challenged. We therefore call for a reframing of project evaluation and highlight the potential of incorporating critical environmental justice scholarship and pluralistic methodologies.

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