Involuntary resettlement : The challenges in the extractive industry

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If petroleum and mining projects can provide significant help to local social and economic development in the countries in which they occur, they can also bring out many social conflicts from the local communities affected by these projects.

Indeed, when mineral deposits are located in areas inhabited by populations in rural areas, some controversy often arises because the displacement and expropriation they generate are not desired by the affected communities. The extent of this controversy fluctuates, among others, depending on the capacity of relocated communities to make contact with the company that operates the project, and according to the benefits, such as employment or compensation, that will be offered.

The relocation of a populations is a complex issue that involves several requirements such as having to recreate the social structure, economic and political development and maintaining or enhancing standards of living to levels that existed before the relocation decision. The World Bank estimates that more risks of loss are related to displacement: crop failure, unemployment, increased mortality, etc..  Although it is very difficult to neutralize all these risks, one method to minimize them is to plan and act with a consistent process that is fair and transparent for all affected groups.

As a matter of fact,  the World Bank has established an operational policy (OP 4.12) to structure the  involuntary resettlement of people. This policy proposes the development and implementation of tools such as the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) which provides guidance in planning and implementing involuntary resettlement projects.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), member of the World Bank Group, offers a comprehensive guide (Handbook For Preparing a Resettlement Action Plan) including procedures and actions which aim to properly resettle and compensate people  and communities affected by IFC’s projects investment.

In this context, a clean and efficient social data management  is an important prerequisite to successfully implement these procedures and it can often represent a challenging step. To this end, creating an information management system can ensure the establishment of a clear compensation and relocation procedure where the affected individuals represent a focal point. The need for such formal data management increases significantly with larger involuntary resettlement or compensation projects. Ensuring that the system is supplied with the correct data and conducting regular quality tests will allow to minimize errors while obtaining reports for decision making support. Such an approach will also ensure that all affected people and households will be treated fairly and according to their entitlements. These are essential factors in the successful implementation of a resettlement action plan.

Caroline Chaumont, Boréalis

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