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You are here: Home Research Resources Expert Guides Development-induced Displacement and Resettlement Policies and international instruments relevant toDIDR

Policies and international instruments relevant toDIDR

Policies and international instruments relevant to DIDR

The development of policies, standards, and guidelines on involuntary resettlement

While there is nothing new about development-induced displacement, it was long the case that project sponsors – be they governments, multi-lateral or bilateral development agencies, export credit agencies, or private developers – had no policies or guidelines on involuntary resettlement. It was common for states to have policies on eminent domain, many of which dealt solely with the legal process of expropriation, a number of which outlined compensation mechanisms, but none of which dealt in detail with resettlement in ways that would prevent impoverishment.

In 1980, the World Bank broke ground by formulating the first policy on involuntary resettlement of any development agency engaged in funding or constructing projects that caused displacement. Cernea (1993) offers a brief history of the policy's birth and development up to the early 1990s. Since it first appeared, the World Bank's policy has been through a number of upgrades and alterations, although its core has remained the same. The latest version (OP/BP 4.12) was released in December 2001. The World Bank's Operations Evaluation Department (WBOED) has produced two reports – one in 1993 and one in 1998 – examining the World Bank's experience with involuntary resettlement and measuring it against the policies and standards that have been developed since 1980. The World Bank also has a policy on indigenous peoples, which is relevant in many cases of involuntary resettlement. It aims to ensure that "the development process fosters full respect for the dignity, human rights and cultures of indigenous peoples."

The Asian Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have followed suit, developing their own policies on involuntary resettlement, the latest versions of which were released in 1995 and 1998 respectively. The African Development Bank's Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Unit (PSDU) is in the process of formulating a similar operation policy. Governments have been slower in developing their own policies on involuntary resettlement, although the larger multi-lateral lending agencies, particularly the World Bank, have at times used their leverage to push this process along. Today, relevant policies on involuntary resettlement exist in a number of countries, including China, Côte d'Ivoire, Uganda, and the Central African Republic. Three states in India – Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka – also have resettlement legislation.

Several initiatives aimed at regulating private-sector activity in international business have appeared in recent years. Among others, these have included the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) guidelines regarding human rights, sustainable development, and the environment for corporations operating in or from one of its member countries; the United Nations Global Compact; and the UN Working Group on the Working Methods and Activities of Transnational Corporations, which has formulated a code of conduct for corporations based on human rights standards. While these initiatives have produced guidelines for private companies, none of these documents are legally binding. As Feeney (2000) points out, the non-binding nature of current efforts makes them ineffective. Szablowski (2002) offers a discussion of the regulatory impact of the World Bank's involuntary resettlement policy, and the legal field that surrounds it, upon relationships between mining companies and affected communities in situations where the policy is called upon to fill perceived voids in domestic law. The article looks in detail at a case study of mining operations in Andean Peru.

In 2000, international "best practice" was informed by the findings and recommendations of the WCD, which was tasked with reviewing the development effectiveness of large dams and formulating international standards and guidelines for large dam projects, including those concerning resettlement. The WCD's findings criticized the level of displacement and inequitable distribution of benefits in past dam projects. Its recommendations called for a socially and environmentally more comprehensive and transparent decision-making procedure. The WCD report has increased pressure on institutions dealing with dam projects to reform (or create) resettlement policies safeguarding the needs and rights of displacees. However, as of 2003, little has been done by institutions dealing with resettlement to push these recommendations into binding policies.

World Bank
Operational Policy on Involuntary Resettlement (OP 4.12), December 2001
Operational Policy on Involuntary Resettlement (OP 4.12), Annex A – Involuntary Resettlement Instruments, December 2001
Bank Procedure on Involuntary Resettlement (BP 4.12), December 2001
Draft Operational Policies on Indigenous Peoples (OP 4.10), March 2001
Draft Bank Procedures on Indigenous Peoples (BP 4.10), March 2001
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
Involuntary Resettlement Policy, August 1995
Handbook on Resettlement: A guide to good practice, 1998
Summary of the Handbook on Resettlement: A guide to good practice, 1998
Inter-American Development Bank (IADB)
Operational Policy on Involuntary Resettlement (10/98, IND-103, E, S), October 1998
Involuntary Resettlement in IDB Projects. Principles and Guidelines, November 1999
International Finance Corporation (IFC)
Operational Directive on Involuntary Resettlement (OD 4.30), June 1990
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): Development Assistance Committee, Guidelines on Aid and Environment(3 – Guidelines for Aid Agencies on Involuntary Displacement and Resettlement in Development Projects, 1992
Working Party on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, 31 October 2001
United Nations
United Nations Global Compact
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, United Nations Draft Human Rights Responsibilities for Companies, 2003
World Commission on Dams ( WCD)
"The Way Forward", Part III of WCD report, WCD (World Commission on Dams), Dams and Development: A new framework for decision-making. London: Earthscan, 2000

International instruments

DIDR raises a number of human rights questions. In particular, debates often occur over whether or not the rights of displacees are violated by forcible resettlement or by specific strategies of resettlement. Where governments or other agencies have resettled with impunity, basic rights listed in the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights have often been violated. In other cases, the rights to adequate housing, education, participation in cultural life, or the advisability of measures, all listed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, or the right to culture, listed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, have been breached.

Shihata (1993) offers an overview of some of the important legal issues – including those relating to eminent domain and human rights law – relevant to involuntary resettlement. In her essay, Ricarda Roos (1999) examines whether or not the prohibition of genocide in international law can be applied in cases of forced resettlement of indigenous peoples or ethnic minorities. She concludes that, while a broad interpretation of "intent to destroy" might cover cases of physically and culturally harmful resettlement, the case law of the international criminal courts does not support such a wide application. Yildiz's WCD submission (2000) discusses human rights abuses in the context of Turkey's ongoing Ilisu Dam Project.

With regard to the rights of indigenous peoples, the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries stipulates that government signatories must respect the right of indigenous peoples to participate in development planning that affects them. It furthermore requires that signatory governments take measures to preserve the institutions, goods, culture, and environment of indigenous populations.

University of Minnesota Human Rights Library: International Labour Organisation Convention No. 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, entered into force 5 September 1991
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted 10 December 1948
Declaration on the Right to Development, adopted 4 December 1986
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, entered into force 3 January 1976
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, entered into force 23 March 1976
Last updated Aug 17, 2011