NO MORE DISPLACEMENT!

A new policy brief calls for a halt of projects that cause displacement.  Displacement causes irreparable harm, and well-intended resettlement policies and practices perpetuate and justify further displacement. This brief busts 5 myths about resettlement and argues that new policies are needed that prioritise human-scale development that does not require displacement and resettlement.

Read and download the full brief: ‘Saying NO to development-forced displacement and resettlement: myths and alternatives‘.

In the process of being resettled from the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique, this family had prepared their belongings to be transported to the new site. Photo credit: Anonymous displaced person (the owner of this house)

Scholars and practitioners have collected and analyzed decades of evidence about the devastating consequences of displacement, poring over stories and numbers from different experiences across the world in search of a way to improve the dismal outcomes. Lending institutions have adopted different policy approaches and on the ground resettlement technicians have experimented with different ways to measure losses and generate adequate compensation packages.  Still, evidence shows that no matter how it is done, the damage that displacement causes is colossal and trying to ‘do it better’ simply justifies the continuation of the practice. 

The authors of this brief, Jessica Milgroom, member of AgroecologyNow at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience in the UK, Asmita Kabra from Ambedkar University Delhi in India and Brooke Wilmsen from La Trobe University in Australia have each been working in and researching development-forced displacement and resettlement (DFDR) for 15-25 years in different parts of the world. We have come together to call for a moratorium on projects that cause large scale displacement. It is time to recognize that resettlement cannot mitigate the harm caused by displacement.  

It is time for donors to stop funding projects that cause displacement of people from their lands and livelihoods.

This house in the Philipines has been marked for demolition while people are still living in it. Photo credit: Brooke Wilmsen

5 MYTHS THAT PERPETUATE THE HARMFUL PRACTICE OF DISPLACEMENT

We identified 5 myths that perpetuate the harmful practice of displacement. New policies are needed that prioritise human-scale development that does not require displacement and resettlement.

Myth 1: Displacement is inevitable for development.  Displacement is a consequence of one particular model of development.  The tenets perpetuating the prevailing development model have left little room for development pathways based on other values.

Myth 2: Resettlement can bring development to displaced people. Resettled people may be provided with houses, roads and other essential infrastructure, but rather than leading to development, resettlement widens existing inequalities and creates new ones. Loss of existing livelihoods and coping strategies hits vulnerable groups very hard and is difficult to recover from. This deepens poverty, widens existing inequalities and creates new vulnerabilities.

Myth 3: Resettlement can be voluntary and consensual. True volition requires that each affected person is accurately informed, understands the choices and has the right to refuse resettlement without fear of adverse consequences – yet this is hardly ever the case.

Myth 4: People can meaningfully participate in resettlement and rehabilitation planning. Structural constraints of resettlement projects thwart the best efforts of those committed to meaningful and genuine participation.

Myth 5: Resettlement can be successful if ‘best practices’ are followed. Rather than questioning the fundamental logic underlying resettlement, failure is blamed on a range of other causes. Uncritical belief in best practices normalises new rounds of harmful displacement.

This wall was build to keep people out of a newly created conservation area in India. The wall keeps people from harvesting in a forest they have been stewarding for generations. Photo credit: Asmita Kabra

SO, WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?

Instead of large-scale projects, water, energy, conservation and other needs can be met through locally appropriate, human-scale technological and governance interventions that are non-displacing and socially just. Local knowledge,

1. CALL FOR A MORATORIUM ON FUNDING PROJECTS THAT DISPLACE PEOPLE

International donors, development banks, private companies and governments must refuse to participate in initiatives that entail large-scale displacement.

2. RAISE AWARENESS OF THE SYSTEMIC FAILURE OF RESETTLEMENT

Media, civil society and community-based groups, transnational alliances, researchers and impact assessment professionals should unite to highlight the systemic failure of resettlement projects around the world.

3. NORMALISE NON-DISPLACEMENT ALTERNATIVES IN POLICY

There are many development approaches that do not displace people and that are socially and environmentally sustainable. Policy attention is needed to mainstream them and scale them up. Development banks, international development agencies, private companies and philanthropists, the private sector and governments all have an important role to play

4. PRACTISE IN-SITU, HUMAN-SCALE APPROACHES TO DEVELOPMENT

An in-situ, human-scale approach incorporates development infrastructure into multi- use landscapes using local, Indigenous and women’s knowledges, and works with nature and existing adaptive practices. Plans must be co-produced and implemented with wide representation of local people to identify their preferred futures without imposing mainstream development goals that prioritise economic growth.

FOR MORE DETAILS, READ THE FULL BRIEF HERE.

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