Between Control and Confrontation: The Pitfalls and Potentials of Environmental Democratization in Africa

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The Cold War inadvertently led to the formation of two human rights treaties – with specific civil rights being encouraged by the West and participatory rights by the East. These participatory rights have found their voice in energy and extractive resource governance in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is due to lack of socio-economic infrastructure, corruption, and the weak or non-existent rule of law. Harnessing the benefits of extractive resources have been problematic, as the countries concerned failed to reap the benefits of the resources, and the development of the resources triggered violent conflicts, destroyed the environment, exacerbated inequalities across gender and geography, displaced communities, and undermined democratic governance. Concretely, this chapter argues for participatory mechanisms anchored on development paradigms, whereby local communities are given the opportunity to participate in decisions concerning the extraction, use, and management of their resources. The critical questions asked are: Who delineates the contested space of participation and how are multiple layers of organized participation adopted? Various approaches have recently emerged which seek to ensure impactful extractive resource governance. One such approach is the use of participation in decision-making processes. While the use of participatory democracy by local communities in resource governance aims to achieve some form of control over the direction of their environment, it could hinder efforts aimed at robust emancipation of local communities – further leading to a hegemonic uprising in the community. The potential for participatory development mechanisms as an inducement to encourage local community participation in resource governance is examined. Encouraging environmental democratization is indispensable for achieving environmental justice in resource-rich, weak zones.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBusiness and Human Rights Law and Practice in Africa
EditorsDamilola Olawuyi, Oyeniyi Abe
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Jun 2021


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