Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


International Affairs

First Advisor

Steve Vanderheiden

Second Advisor

Peter Newton

Third Advisor

Lucy Chester


Within the past thirty years, nation-states, inter-governmental, and non-governmental organizations have implemented numerous integrated conservation and development projects (abbreviated as ICDPs) across Central and South America. These initiatives have sought to conserve natural environments while simultaneously improving socioeconomic conditions through development. Within these ICDPs, stakeholder participation – defined for the purposes of this paper as the active participation of local and community actors who are directly affected by or can affect project activities – served as a representative element of the successes and complexities of an ICDP. This paper focuses on transboundary ICDPs (projects that are implemented within multiple nation-states), and asks if these ICDPs face more difficulties fostering successful stakeholder participation when compared to similar single nation-state projects. To answer this question, this paper first reviewed the current literature discussing transboundary conservation, ICDPs, and the role of stakeholder participation in projects. The role of stakeholder participation was then evaluated and examined within the terminal evaluations of fifteen different ICDPs, six of which were transboundary and seven of which occurred within a single-nation state. It was found that even though no statistically significant difference exists aggregately between the two types of projects, a clear trend demonstrated that transboundary projects tended to face more difficulties fostering stakeholder participation, on average. Furthermore, two of the questions selected to evaluate participation resulted in significant difference between the project types, and it is discussed that a larger sample size could possibly result in aggregately significant differences.

With the trend displayed in the findings, a qualitative analysis of the terminal evaluations was conducted. This analysis found that a lack of capable preexisting institutions, the effects of political changes, unequal capacities of different governments, a struggle to share information across the project, and the lack of a common project vision represent five overarching challenges that could explain why transboundary projects may disproportionately struggle to foster stakeholder participation. Overall, it is concluded that future transboundary initiatives that intend on successfully involving stakeholders should closely examine and consider the aforementioned challenges before moving forward with a plan that aims to effectively promote conservation, engage stakeholders, and alleviate poverty.