Weakening resettlement policy

5 April 2001

The World Bank has long failed to implement its policy on how to treat those displaced by the projects it funds, currently some 3.2 million people. In recent years the Bank has been down-grading key aspects of its policies, including the one on resettlement, into weaker guidelines.

While claiming policies are just being “converted” into new formats, the new draft resettlement policy, posted on the Bank’s website in early March, shows that there are in fact numerous substantive and procedural changes which strip away rights from people in World Bank project areas.

Changes include:

  • reversing the policy regarding those without formal land title by providing compensation for loss of land only to those who are protected through the national legal framework;
  • giving the Bank the right to evict indigenous peoples even if this has “significant adverse effects” on their “cultural survival”;
  • giving borrower governments permission to exclude from compensation “persons engaged in illegal use of natural resources”, a concept that is not defined;
  • the elimination of consideration of ‘indirect impacts’ of Bank policies;
  • weak language on World Bank supervision of resettlement.

Not only do many of these policy changes ignore many public comments submitted on the Bank’s earlier draft policy, they also contradict international law and the findings of the World Commission on Dams. Whilst the Bank is not soliciting comments on its drafts, concerned individuals are writing to Ian Johnson, World Bank Vice President for Environmentally Sustainable Development, with copies to their country’s World Bank Executive Director (see below). The Bank’s Board may approve the policy in late April.

World Bank Executive Director list at: www.bicusa.org


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