Bank resettlement policy conversion

15 September 1999

In July some NGOs received letters from Maninder Gill at the World Bank seeking comments on the proposed conversion of its Operational Directive (OD) on Resettlement. The deadline for comments is the end of October. Seasoned Bank-watchers will remember that the World Bank started in 1993 an initiative to “convert” many of its ODs, the policies which tell Bank staff how to prepare and supervise loans. The Bank once hoped to finish this conversion exercise by mid-1996, but it looks likely to continue for some time.

The Bank says the reformatting is to clarify which parts of the Directives are mandatory (now to be written as Operational Policies and Bank Procedures) and those which are advisory (to become Good Practice statements). A letter to the Bretton Woods Project in 1997 stated that:

“the conversion process was never conceived as the opportunity to reformulate policy” but admitted that separating mandatory and advisory sections of policies “can be a gray area and judgement comes into play”.

An excellent analysis by the Bank Information Center of the proposed resettlement policy changes finds that “the new draft policy is clearer and does seem to have taken into account a number of NGO concerns expressed in 1997″, but that:

“for all practical purposes [the draft is] a new policy, not a conversion, as it varies significantly from the OD 4.30. The new policy endorses cash compensation, limits land-for-land compensation, and establishes a new internal committee that will settle disputes about the scope and application of the policy. The new policy also divorces monitoring from supervision and places the former task squarely with the borrowing government. The new policy, however, also closes a number of loopholes, extends coverage to those project-affected-people who are economically displaced, and appears to require the implementation of resettlement components before a project’s main components are implemented.”

The draft policy is on the Bank’s website, www.worldbank.org under the policies section. Contact the Bretton Woods Project for NGO comments.