World Rainforest Movement

New World Bank Resettlement Policy Is Flawed

The World Bank has been drafting a new resettlement policy for the past three years. After a long period of external consultation, a revised policy has now finally been submitted to the Bank’s ‘Committee on Development Effectiveness’, but it was not accepted and is now to be reconsidered internally.

A leaked copy of the draft policy shows that it retains serious deficiencies:

– it makes less secure provisions for people who lack recognised rights to land than the previous policy
– it falls far below the proposed standards of the World Commission on Dams
– it makes a questionable distinction between voluntary and involuntary resettlement
– it does not require improvements to the livelihoods or standards of living of those displaced

NGOs are also indignant that the Bank has gone back on its promises to make public a ‘matrix’ which was to set out the reasons why the Bank has rejected civil society recommendations for strengthening the policy. The policy also has very serious implications for forest-dwelling peoples, particularly those affected by protected areas.

The draft policy proposes a different process for those people whose livelihoods are adversely impacted by World Bank projects in conservation areas (para 3 b). In such cases, the communities are not to be consulted until project implementation instead of during the project preparation phase (para 7). Likewise provisions for those who are involuntary resettled (under para 3 a), such as being informed about their options and rights, being consulted about alternatives, provided with prompt compensation, ensured the timely sharing of information, infrastructural support, provisions of alternative livelihoods, and (where possible) replacement land for land lost, are *not* assured for those (under para 3b) whose livelihoods are restricted by protected areas (paras. 6, 10 and 12). Instead these people are only offered assurances that the borrower, without any obligation to consult with the affected peoples, will provide a ‘draft process framework’ during project appraisal and during implementation will provide a plan, ‘acceptable to the Bank’ (but not necessarily to the peoples themselves) (para 30) aimed at ‘at least’ restoring their livelihoods ‘in real terms’ (whatever that means) (para 7). Whereas those involuntarily resettled by other development schemes are assured that the borrower is obliged to develop one of three kinds of resettlement plan or framework, the details of which are set out in an Annex on ‘Involuntary Resettlement Instruments’, no such details are provided for those for whom the borrower only has to develop a ‘draft process framework’.

This kind of discrimination is unacceptable on both moral and legal grounds. Experience shows that the distinction that the policy seeks to draw between forced displacement and involuntarily ‘restricted access’ is both unfair and unfounded. Detailed studies of peoples affected by protected areas show how imposed restrictions on their livelihoods and effective loss of their lands may inevitably force people to relocate because their lives become inviable. Frequently, peoples whose lands are designated as protected areas are indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, pastoral ‘nomads’ and marginalised forest-dwelling groups, whose traditional extensive systems of land use depend on their mobility over, and access to, large areas. Very often these peoples’ rights to their territories are not recognised in national laws. These peoples deserve the same consideration and concern as those whose lands and livelihoods are expropriated by any other imposed developments.

It is patently evident that the artificial distinction being drawn by the World Bank in paragraphs 3a) and 3b) is intended to ‘panel proof’ the World Bank against further complaints to the Inspection Panel such as that made about the ‘Ecodevelopment’ project in India. These kinds of manipulations benefit no one in the long term and will do lasting harm to the credibility of the World Bank.

By Marcus Colchester, Forest Peoples Programme, 30/1/2001,