Other types of forced migration
Conflicts are not the only cause of forced migration. Development projects, including dams, roads, ports, railways, mines, and logging, displace millions of people throughout the world. According to the World Bank, over 10 million people are forced to leave their homes every year by development projects – with great risk of impoverishment. Although the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed. DIDPs are not usually covered by the protection afforded by refugee and humanitarian law, and assistance is very poor (they are even more disadvantaged than conflict-induced IDPs). Even when international donors or organizations create guidelines, enforcement is very difficult.
Development-induced displacement has serious human rights and socio-economic impacts. It breaks up entire communities and families, making it more difficult for them to cope with the uncertainty of resettlement. Risks are usually higher for vulnerable groups, such as children, women, the elderly, ethnic minorities, and indigenous people. The impact of development-induced displacement is also different for women and men. Women, for instance, are usually excluded from compensation policies, while the effects of displacement and resettlement on lone women, especially female heads of household, are not considered. However, women should not be seen as just victims. While being among the most vulnerable, women have also shown their strengths and capabilities in such contexts, often being at the forefront of resistance to development-induced displacement (see for example, the Save the Narmada Movement).
Respecting the rights of DIDPs is crucial, especially since the risks involved in resettlement are huge. Attention needs to focus on how to reconstitute economic livelihoods and socio-cultural systems; how to deal with relations between resettled communities and the wider regional and national systems; how to address the power differences due to gender, race, ethnicity, and other factors; and how to ensure the participation of those affected. Research has shown that a greater flexibility is required in resettlement policies to take into account the particularities of each context and differences of age, gender, and wealth within affected populations, as well as increase consultation and involvement of those affected, if outcomes are to be improved and resistance reduced.
- International Network on Displacement and Resettlement (INDR) http://www.displacement.net
- Forced Migration Review Issue 12 (January 2002) http://www.fmreview.org
- Findings and Recommendations of the First International Conference on Development-Induced Displacement and Impoverishment http://www.ted-downing.com/OXFORD/recs95.htm
- Friends of River Narmada http://www.narmada.org
Natural disasters have caused major loss of life and widespread social, economic, and environmental destruction over the last decade. Usually, it is less-developed countries and/or regions that are most affected, with the vulnerable in such areas at higher risk. Disasters affect men and women differently, and also have a different impact depending on the cultural and socio-economic context. This is important for disaster reduction approaches and sustainable development.
Women, due to their greater marginalization and gender inequalities, are thought to be more at risk, although there is a lack of gender-sensitive statistics. Their vulnerability arises from their unequal work burden, due to productive and reproductive responsibilities, their lack of control over resources, restricted mobility, and limited education and employment opportunities.
Bangladesh, for example, has been hit by many disasters since its formation in 1971, with the loss of many lives and much destruction. Those worst affected have been the poorest, with specific impact on poor, rural women because of cultural and gender ideologies – for instance, the moral and economic dependency of women on male relatives, issues of 'purity', restrictions on women's mobility and paid work. All of these make it more difficult for women to cope with disaster-induced displacement and life in camps – especially for women with no male protection and female-headed households. Both during disaster and after, women enjoy less protection and fewer resources for recovery.
However, once again, is important to avoid generalizations and be aware of context specificities, as well as to recognize women's (and men's) agency in disaster situations. There is a need for more research on the gender impact of disaster-induced displacement and for mainstreaming of gender issues in disaster reduction and relief.
- International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) S. Briceño, 'Gender Mainstreaming in Disaster Reduction' http://www.unisdr.org