Reforming resettlement through participation

Resettlement or involuntary displacement of people is usually forced and against the choice of those being resettled. Resettlement can occur for various reasons, including development projects, conflicts, and social and economic dynamics. For instance, governments may move communities and tribal groups against their wishes to exploit their land or to break their resistance to assimilation or political domination. Such programmes are usually carried out with little regard for the social impact on family groups or communities, for the health of those concerned or for their means of livelihood at their destination. In addition, villagers can be tempted to accede to such relocation without adequate information having been communicated to them to make an adequate decision. It is considered that participation by cross-sectoral dialogue, information exchange and planning between potential resettlers and resettling authorities can significantly reduce detrimental resettlement impacts. Participation may allow local people to be actively involved in directing the course that resettlement will take, though opposition may always remain.
Major development projects, such as the large dams funded by the World Bank, have resulted in the involuntary resettlement of large numbers of people. The Bank estimates that projects underway in 1993 will displace 756,000 people in East Asia, 837,585 in South Asia, 239,875 in Latin America and 120,000 in Africa. 1993 reports to the Bank's executive indicated that as a result resettlers living conditions have been worsened. However, with the 200-meter dam at Zimapan, Mexico, and the 17-meter Pak Mun dam on the Mun River in Thailand, the resettlement impact was taken into account when the dams were designed. Technical options suggested locating the Pak Mun dam slightly upstream and lowering its height would reduce the number of people to be resettled from roughly 20,000 to 2,000. Detailed resettlement plans were prepared to help affected farmers recover their livelihoods. Added pressure from NGOs and community groups resulted in information sharing, preparing meetings and publications to inform resettlers of their rights and entitlements, and providing farmers with good-quality replacement farmland. The parent company of Mexico's Zimapan project set up a unit which included social workers, anthropologists, economists, technicians and architects, who lived in the affected villages, help identify local concerns and resettlement preferences, and provide a channel of communication between the villagers and the company. In neither case has the increased participation by local people in resettlement planning led to the disappearance of opposition, but it has led to substantial improvements in what may always be a difficult process.
Constrained by:
Enforcing mass resettlement
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies