WASHINGTON, March 4, 2015 —Acting on internal World Bank reports that identified serious shortcomings in the implementation of its resettlement policies, the World Bank today released a plan that will improve the oversight and management of resettlement practices to ensure better protection of people and businesses affected by Bank-funded projects.
Three reports, which reviewed over two decades of World Bank projects involving possible resettlements, 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.
“We took a hard look at ourselves on resettlement and what we found caused me deep concern,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “We found several major problems. One is that we haven’t done a good enough job in overseeing projects involving resettlement; two, we haven’t implemented those plans well enough; and three, we haven’t put in place strong tracking systems to make sure that our policies were being followed. We must and will do better.”
The action plan released Wednesday 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 the people.
The plan is aligned with the World Bank’s ongoing safeguards review process, and is largely based on recommendations from three reports: a 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 l and Phase ll.
Since late 2012, the World Bank has been consulting with stakeholders on strengthening its environmental and social safeguard policies, including its policies regarding land acquisition and resettlement. On March 1, the World Bank concluded the second phase of consultations on the proposed Environmental and Social Framework, which would strengthen, update and clarify our existing safeguard policies.
On resettlement, World Bank operational teams are already implementing many of the measures identified in the action plan released today, including a comprehensive review of its current policies, additional staff guidance, a systematic risk management framework, and strengthened accreditation of specialist staff.
The plan also includes the use of a new Tracking Social Performance (TSP) Database, in response to a weakness found in two of the reviews that information on the scale and scope of project impacts is difficult to obtain in World Bank systems. This database was developed to better track resettlement issues for all Bank-funded projects with involuntary resettlement, and enable resettlement reports to be generated in real time. A similar tracking system is also now in place for environmental issues.
“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.