Oil-Induced Displacement and Resettlement: Social Problem and Human Rights Issue

Research Paper, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

24 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2012 Last revised: 29 May 2013

Date Written: 2011


Extraction and transportation of mineral resources today presents an increasing social problem, leading to environmental damage and the violation of human rights. In addition to economic and social controversies as well as political problems (such as corruption amongst state and local authorities), it caused population displacement on a large scale. The social costs of oil production illustrate, like no other issue, the asymmetric power relationship between transnational capital and the populations of developing countries, indigenous peoples in particular. Crude oil extraction also leads to massive environmental devastation, which clearly affects the living conditions of local communities. Furthermore, access to oil is a common cause of conflict, which obviously affects the scale of IDPs in many African states. Protests against the expansion of mining, oil exploitation and the topic of environmental destruction lead to violent clashes with police and forced evictions of entire villages and communities (the phenomenon of so-called petro-violence). Fearing for the safety of pipelines, national authorities often force the violent displacement of local communities, sometimes involving many thousands of people. For several reasons, displacement associated with the extraction of oil is a unique and interesting issue. The multidimensional nature of the problem breaks the general division of internal displacement into three or four categories: conflict-induced displacement, environmentally-induced displacement, disaster-induced displacement, and development-induced displacement. Existing classification, dating back to the late eighties, seems to be completely useless when confronted with a more detailed analysis of the displacement caused by oil extraction.

Population displacement caused by the extraction of oil is a common phenomenon in many regions of the world. The biggest problems we now see, however, arise in failed states and conflicted countries with poorly-established principles of democracy, ethnic antagonism or practices of discrimination against indigenous and tribal people, and low efficiency in the institutions of legal protection. Among the countries where such problems are highly visible we can mention: Nigeria, Sudan, and Ecuador. The problem of oil-induced displacement also occurs in some other countries in Africa, as well as in Asia (Burma) and South and Central America (Colombia). The environmental consequences of oil extraction is becoming a growing social problem in the Amazon. The widespread deforestation of the Rainforest is, in fact, preparing a place for subsequent ecological havoc: the extraction of mineral resources and inappropriate agricultural practices. Unfortunately, according to many scientific studies, oil production in developing countries almost never contributes to improving the situation of local communities. Loss of land lead to loss of economic base functioning of the whole community.

Keywords: oil exploration, pipelines, oil extraction, environmentally-induced displacement, development-induced displacedment and resettlement, development-induced displaced people, internal displacement, human rights, environmental law, indigenous peoples rights, mining, Sudan, Nigeria, Ecuador

Suggested Citation

Terminski, Bogumil, Oil-Induced Displacement and Resettlement: Social Problem and Human Rights Issue (2011). Research Paper, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2029770

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