Development is a major driver of displacement and a challenge for humanitarian actors. The construction of dams, for example, forces people to move from areas to be flooded. When governments set aside land for parks or urban renewal, people are also forced out. And even when governments plan resettlement policies, affected communities are almost always worse off.
Development-induced displacement has many causes, from large-scale development projects to ‘land-grabbing’ by private companies. In Colombia, a World Bank project helps smallholders remain on their land and achieve self-sufficiency by cultivating subsistence and export crops, such as the palm oil shown here. Sean Loughna
The reasons for development-induced displacement are varied, but it shares characteristics distinguishing it from displacement induced by conflict. Almost always with development-induced displacement:
• Those displaced stay in their own countries.
• State authorities are responsible.
• It is planned in advance.
• It is assumed to be permanent.
• It is seen as desirable.
• States take the lead, sometimes assisted by development actors rather than humanitarians.
Those displaced by development projects are the hidden losers and their number is likely to increase. This chapter examines development-induced displacement and large-scale projects in particular.
While humanitarian actors have considerable experience in responding to displacement, they have little understanding of displacement and planned relocations resulting from development projects.
Development and humanitarian actors have different cultures, mandates, time frames and language, which sometimes impede communication; for example, the word ‘resettlement’ has very different meanings for the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and the World Bank.
There are clear connections between displacement caused by development projects and conflict or disaster. Firstly, there are often clashes when people’s land and property are confiscated by the government for development projects. Taking away people’s land and forcibly relocating them is always resisted. Secondly, people displaced by development projects often need assistance to begin new lives, but humanitarian actors are rarely called on to provide it. People displaced by conflicts, human rights violations, disasters and development projects often have similar needs. Thirdly, as is often the case in conflict situations, humanitarian actors may face challenges to their principles in working with those displaced by development projects. Governments may restrict access by humanitarian agencies to people being forcibly resettled. If humanitarian agencies remain silent, are they condoning such actions? If they provide assistance to support government resettlement schemes, are they violating principles of neutrality and independence? Another intersection between humanitarian and development approaches to displacement is that people sometimes need to be permanently relocated due to sudden-onset disasters – either because return is not possible or because they face future disasters.
Resettlement is also used by many governments as a way of protecting people from future disasters. The World Bank has developed guidelines on the preventive resettlement of populations at risk of disaster; but even when governments plan resettlement efforts carefully, they rarely accomplish all their objectives.
Given that climate change is likely to intensify, governments will probably resort to preventive resettlement more often – especially for populations who can no longer sustain themselves in traditional habitats. Planned relocations (and displacement and migration) were identified as a form of adaptation by the UN in 2010.
The relevant term of choice in the development community is development-forced displacement and resettlement (DFDR). It refers to the involuntary displacement and resettlement of people and communities amid large-scale infrastructure projects.
The scale of DFDR is enormous. An estimated 280–300 million people were displaced by development projects, particularly dams, in the 1980s and 1990s, and since the mid-1990s 15 million people have been displaced annually. The true totals could be even higher.
Since many of these large-scale projects require international financing, multilateral development banks have exercised considerable influence in ensuring that people affected by projects are relocated in accordance with guidelines and standards. Since 1980, the World Bank has made the resettlement of relocated populations an integral part of development-project planning.
The basic principles on which these guidelines are based can be summed up briefly. Involuntary resettlement should be avoided. Where this is not possible, the scale of displacement should be minimized, while displaced people should be assisted to restore livelihoods and living standards.
Unlike the UN’s Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the Bank’s guidance on involuntary resettlement is not explicitly rooted in international human rights instruments but in development experience and good practice.
The guidance provided by the multilateral development banks recognizes that particular groups may be especially affected by DFDR – indigenous people and women, for example.
The displacement of large numbers of people by big development projects, especially dams, is well documented. However, there are often smaller-scale displacements which are not captured in statistics, like the establishment of national parks and forest preserves, facilities for sporting events such as the Olympics, and even projects to mitigate climate change.
Hidden losers are people adversely affected by a development project, but whose losses are not recognized by governments or agencies. They fall through the gaps in current programmes that provide compensation, protection and other assistance only to people whose livelihoods are directly undermined, and whose human rights are violated by being evicted and resettled.
That people are affected differently in the context of development displacement is easily forgotten. Sub-groups of displaced people – of class, caste, gender, ethnicity – can be marginalized and lose out in resettlement programmes.
The presence of hidden losers presents four major challenges to development and humanitarian actors. Firstly, unlike some forcibly displaced people whose rights are recognized, concern for hidden losers is largely missing from existing development policies.
Secondly, identifying vulnerable hidden losers requiring assistance and protection is a challenge in any intervention.
Thirdly, it is imperative to work closely with communities living in and beyond the target location, and for hidden losers themselves to claim their rights.
Lastly, given the spread and diversity of hidden losers, improving social protection can strengthen the overall resilience of people likely to be affected by displacement but not eligible for compensation. Here protection might include microfinance.
This is not a new challenge; rather it is a call for refined, comprehensive and creative intervention which will eventually contribute to improving the overall protection and economic well-being of the affected population.
The issue of ‘land-grabbing’ has generated considerable interest recently; about 70 per cent of such land acquisitions are in Africa. The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions found that some 4.3 million people were affected by evictions in 2007–2008, and there is clearly overlap between forced evictions and development-induced displacement.
It is also difficult to determine whether people are forcibly displaced to protect them, to implement a project which is genuinely in the public interest, or because powerful elites simply want their land or have a political agenda. One of the most criticized uses of resettlement incurred in the mid-1980s in Ethiopia amid a major famine in which some 300,000 people died and more than 400,000 people fled abroad.
With an increasing global population and consequent pressure on land, together with environmental degradation and global warming, it is likely that governments will use resettlement to deal with these pressures in the future.
“I grew up near the nuclear plant. The only safety instructions we got at school were that if something happened, we should go to the playground and we would be given pink pills,” says Ayako. “When we were evacuated,” she adds, “we followed the authorities’ instructions and ended up somewhere where the radioactivity was still high.”
More humanitarian organizations are developing competence in broad issues of housing, land and property. While humanitarians have always been involved in providing shelter, they are increasingly seeing it in terms of settlement and land issues.
Humanitarian organizations are recognizing that perhaps the major challenge of working in protracted IDP and refugee situations is the restoration of livelihoods – an issue which has been key to the resettlement of communities displaced by development projects.
As these organizations respond to the effects of climate change on mobility, they would do well to learn more about the experience of development actors in resettling communities. The challenges posed by climate change may offer unprecedented opportunities for collaboration between the humanitarian and development worlds.
Governments should uphold the rights of the displaced and develop policies which set out transparent processes for consultation with affected groups; they should ensure monitoring of the private sector helps to protect the rights of displaced people.
Humanitarian organizations should invite development actors to share good practice with resettlement in developing policies to resolve protracted displacement resulting from conflict and disaster.
Development banks and donors should publish estimates of the number of people displaced and resettled by the projects they support; they should evaluate compensation policies and consider incorporating a protection or human rights lens into operational guidelines.
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) should examine ways to enhance mutual learning from humanitarian and development actors in planning for displacement, migration and planned relocations, given the likely effects of climate change.
An IFRC project / www.ifrc.org