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You are here: Home Research Resources Expert Guides Development-induced Displacement and Resettlement Mobilization againstDIDR

Mobilization againstDIDR

Mobilization against DIDR and/or in favour of improved standards

Over the last three decades of the twentieth century, movements have emerged throughout the world challenging dominant models of development as environmentally and socially unsustainable and harmful to the livelihoods of many. This same period, particularly the 1980s and 1990s, saw a dramatic increase in the number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the world, working on issues as diverse as human rights, democratization, poverty alleviation, inequality, gender, indigenous rights, and the environment. Social movements today commonly extend well beyond the local, involving alliances between "disempowered" indigenous communities and powerful domestic and international actors in politics, the media, academia, and activist coalitions. The spread of new telecommunications technologies, such as mobile phones and the Internet, has been key in facilitating these alliances.

Among the many social movements and organisations that have appeared, a number are comprised of, or are working in support of or on behalf of, development displacees. No coherent movement against DIDR can be said to exist. Rather, a spectrum of smaller movements can be pointed to. Some protest the conditions of resettlement and unequal sharing of costs and benefits, while others stand in outright opposition to displacement and the wider visions of development voiced and pursued by states and powerful multi-lateral lending agencies, such as the World Bank. A short list of organisations (with websites) engaged in research and/or activism on DIDR issues is provided below.

Gray (1996) discusses several different anti-dam movements among indigenous groups, some of which succeeded in halting projects, others of which failed. He concludes that several factors must coexist simultaneously for a government or multi-lateral development bank to change its mind: a local resistance movement must be effective and have strong international support; the government must demonstrate a willingness to listen to protestors; and, if a multi-lateral bank is involved, an influential sector within the bank must be opposed to the project and the plans of the government. However, even under these circumstances, success is not guaranteed, as was proven in the case of India's Narmada Dam Project. Local and international activism against the Project was key in pushing the World Bank to establish a commission to review its involvement in the project. The commission's report offered a damning critique of the Project and the Bank's involvement, which later led the Bank to withdraw its funding and, furthermore, to create and institutionalize an Inspection Panel, tasked with investigating claims of Bank negligence. However, despite the commission's critique and the Bank's withdrawal, the government of India stepped up its own support of the Project, pursuing it until the sluice gates were opened in 1994.

The working paper by Oliver-Smith (2002) , who has published widely on resistance amongst development displacees, provides an overview of mobilization against DIDR. Chapter ten of McCully's book (2001) articulates the history and current context of the international anti-dam movement, looking in particular at past and present movements in the United States, Australia, Eastern Europe, Brazil, Thailand, and India. Scudder (1996) considers mobilization against displacement in Canada's James Bay Power Project and in Botswana's Southern Okavango Integrated Development Project, neither of which were halted by activism but both of which were delayed and changed by it.

Bank Information Center
Cultural Survival
Friends of the Earth International
Friends of River Narmada
International Rivers Network
Ilisu Dam Campaign
Kashipur Movement protesting bauxite mining in Orissa, India
Probe International
Last updated Aug 17, 2011