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Development-Induced Displacement and Human Security: A Very Short Introduction - A General Overview of Development-Induced Displacement and Resettlement

16 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2013 Last revised: 8 Feb 2014

Bogumil Terminski


Date Written: November 28, 2012


According to specialists over fifteen million people each year are forced to leave their former place of residence as a result of major development projects (M.M. Cernea and H. Mathur, 2008; M.M. Cernea 2009). It is estimated that major development projects such as dams, roads and exploitation of raw materials led to the involuntary relocation of over 200 million people between 1988 and 2008. Alongside natural disasters, economic development is one of the greatest causes of contemporary internal displacement worldwide. The irreversible nature of many displacements caused by development can be compared only with the displacements in consequence of climate change and natural disasters or industrial accidents affecting large territories (such as the Asian tsunami of 2004 or the Chernobyl disaster in 1986). Just as in many cases of desertification, land degradation or shoreline erosion, the construction of large dams or creation of open-pit mines can make it impossible to resettle in the territory. The irreversibility of such displacements is one of the most important factors in their huge economic, social and cultural consequences. Especially dangerous is the displacement to far distant places due to irreversible interference with the natural environment. The result of the creation of large dams, expansion of mining, or oil exploitation does not have to be direct large-scale displacement. The negative environmental impact caused by development may lead to a substantial incidence of “secondary” forced migration of rural populations to cities or other territories. Developmentinduced displacement is primarily an socioeconomic issue associated with loss or significant reduction of access to basic resources on which communities depend. The most serious social consequences have accompanied displacement to territories which are completely different from those previously inhabited. Resettlement plans implemented in China and India should consider the displacement of the population of particular nearby economic territories into others similar to those previously abandoned. Displacement – understood as dislocation from the homeland territory without social support in the new place of residence – is a violation of the most fundamental human rights and should be entirely prohibited. Resettlement can be defined as a planned and organized relocation to a strictly specified new place of residence, accompanied by social support mechanisms and compensation for lost goods. In many countries even resettlement is only permitted in the case of projects for public use.

Keywords: development-induced displacement and resettlement, human security, internal displacement, displaced people, security studies

Suggested Citation

Terminski, Bogumil, Development-Induced Displacement and Human Security: A Very Short Introduction - A General Overview of Development-Induced Displacement and Resettlement (November 28, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

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