The Concept of Human Security as a Tool for Analysing the Consequences of Development-Induced Displacement and Resettlement

33 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2012 Last revised: 17 Dec 2012

Date Written: March 25, 2012


The consequences of development-induced displacement are the subject of research undertaken by experts from many disciplines. In addition to the specialist theoretical concepts (IRR Model; Colson-Scudder Four Stage Model), and useful general approaches (human rights, sociology, anthropology) an analysis on the basis of human security and development plays an increasingly important role. The classification of seven categories of human security, included in the UNDP Human Development Report, published in 1994, may be a valuable research tool for all specialists dealing with displacement studies. This fact is reflected by the growing scale of publications analyzing the intersection of environmental changes, conflict, and displacement (Suhrke, Westing, Myers). At least a few authors (Caspary, Bharali, Ozerdem & Jacoby) pointed out the usefulness of the concept of human security in the analysis of development-induced displacement and resettlement. Despite a stagnation of research in human security, observed in recent years, its application in the research of very dynamic global problems (such as famine and displacement) is still worthy of consideration.

The aim of this article is to consider the application of the most influential human security concepts to DIDR research. Taking into account the most influential human security classifications, I try to analyze the major problems facing displaced people. This analysis helps to determine what actions can help to improve the situation of displaced persons and to minimize the risks that affect them. Its connection to established models of analysis (IRR) can be helpful in specific development decisions in avoiding the problems typical for previous resettlement.

"Extensive research on development-induced displacement within the institutional framework of the World Bank began in earnest in the mid seventies. However, as early as the end of the fifties, sociologists were aiding Egyptian authorities in planning the resettlement of Nubian communities during the construction of Aswan High Dam. The next decade witnessed a period of extensive research on the social costs of dam building in Africa, undertaken on the basis of applied anthropology. The research report entitled Putting People First: Sociological Variables in Rural Development (edited by Michael M. Cernea), published by the World Bank in 1985, is considered one of the first attempts to conceptualize this issue. Research on development-induced displacement is therefore developed in parallel to another influential category of internal displacement: environmentally-induced displacement (then studied under the concept of 'environmental refugees'). Studies conducted on the initiative of the World Bank have been marked from the outset by strong indicators of negative social consequences resulting from development projects. Since the mid-fifties, the World Bank has been strongly criticized for politicizing their financial support, for the lack of control over the consequences of lending, and for other activities leading to the deterioration of the situation for people in developing countries. In February 1980 the World Bank adopted its first policy on involuntary resettlement caused by development projects.

In recent years, the social consequences of development-induced displacement have garnered increasing attention from specialists in several disciplines. Among the most prominent of these we can mention the study of: human development (development studies), human rights, internal displacement (refugee studies, forced migration studies, IDPs studies), sociology, social anthropology (applied anthropology, human ecology), and security issues. Let us now consider the key elements and research questions posed by representatives of each of these areas.

Research conducted by specialists on human development has focused on identifying the impact of development projects in order to improve the situation and maximize the well being of persons within their circle of impact. Development projects often lead to long-term economic and social benefits (e.g. decrease in energy prices, easy access to water, new jobs, development of tourism industry, modernization of society, and better adaptation of vulnerable groups to the new realities). Equally often, however, these projects cause irreversible marginalization or even extermination for persons residing in the immediate vicinity. Development projects such as dams are a root cause of poverty and of the marginalization of vulnerable groups. Therefore, these developments do not contribute overall to economic development or to the opportunity for the surrounding communities to improve their position in society. According to some studies the vast majority of development projects in India did not contribute to the growing of well-being of people affected by its consequences. Rather, such projects often result in negative dynamics of well being. Development caused displacement often leads to a decrease in all six basic dimensions of human development, mentioned by the UNDP (equity, empowerment, cooperation, sustainability, security, and productivity)."

Keywords: human security, environmental security, development-induced displacement, human development, internal displacement

Suggested Citation

Terminski, Bogumil, The Concept of Human Security as a Tool for Analysing the Consequences of Development-Induced Displacement and Resettlement (March 25, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

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