World Bank “Action Plan” developed to address resettlement issues

On March 4, the World Bank released a report, “Action Plan: Improving the Management of Safeguards and resettlement practices,” in response to “internal World Bank reports that identified serious shortcomings in the implementation of its resettlement policies.”

The organization said it thinks adhering to the Action Plan will “improve the oversight and management of resettlement practices to ensure better protection of people and businesses affected by Bank-funded projects.”

Three reports, “2014 Internal Audit Department (IAD) Advisory Review of the Bank’s Environmental and Social Risk Management” and two internal draft working papers, “Involuntary Resettlement Portfolio Review Phase I and II,” identify significant weaknesses in the World Bank’s implementation of its operational policies.

When reviewing more than two decades of World Bank projects that involved possible resettlements, the World Bank said it found that: “oversight of those projects often had poor or no documentation; lacked follow-through to ensure that protection measures were implemented; and some projects were not sufficiently identified as high-risk for populations living in the vicinity.”

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, said, “We took a hard look at ourselves on resettlement and what we found caused me deep concern.

“We found several major problems. One is that we have not done a good enough job in overseeing projects involving resettlement; two, we haven’t implemented those plans well enough; and three, we have not put in place strong tracking systems to make sure that our policies were being followed. We must and will do better.”

According to the World Bank, the Action Plan proposes to strengthen systems, staffing, and policy implementation. The plan focuses on improving preparation, supervision and implementation of resettlement, given the disruptive impact it can have on the lives of affected people.

The plan also includes the use of a new Tracking Social Performance (TSP) Database. TSP was developed to eliminate weakness found in two of the reviews. Metadata of project-impacts was difficult to obtain via the existing World Bank systems.

TSP was developed to better track resettlement issues for all Bank-funded projects in which involuntary resettlement is a component. The database, according to the World Bank, will also enable generated resettlement reports in real time. A similar tracking system is also now in place for environmental issues.

The World Bank said, both the IAD report and the two internal reports found shortcomings in the implementation and oversight of our current safeguards policies in relation to resettlement. In response, the plan proposes actions in nine areas:

− Risk Assessment;
− Monitoring of Mitigation Measures;
− Checks and Balances and Accountability Arrangements;
− Assignment of Technical Expertise;
− Skills Development;
− Funding for Environmental and Social Risk Management;
− Institutional Leadership in Environmental and Social Risk Management;
− Resettlement Planning;
− Management and Supervision; and
− World Bank Policy Reform.

“Our policy is that if we resettle someone from their home, we will assist efforts to improve, or at least to restore, their incomes and living standards,” Kim said. “Strong policies like ours require strong execution and it requires properly funding reviews and empowering those who work on safeguards. That will change with our action plan.”

What is involuntary resettlement?

Involuntary resettlement refers to two distinct but related processes. Displacement is a process by which development projects cause people to lose land or other assets, or access to resources. This may result in physical dislocation, loss of income, or other adverse impacts. Resettlement or rehabilitation is a process by which those adversely affected are assisted in their efforts to improve, or at least to restore, their incomes and living standards.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for

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