Safeguards and Sustainability Series, Volume 1, Issue 3: Review of the implementation of the African Development Bank’s 2003 Involuntary Resettlement Policy

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This study critically reviews the African Development Bank’s Involuntary Resettlement Policy and its implementation on AfDB-funded operations on the African continent with the aim of identifying opportunities and areas of improvement to ensure its adherence to internationally recognized best practices.

The African Development Bank Group’s Involuntary Resettlement (IR) policy was adopted in 2003 to cover involuntary displacement and resettlement of people caused by Bank-financed projects. The Bank adopted its IR policy in 2003 to guide the involuntary displacement and resettlement of people under Bank-financed operations. The policy applies when, because of a Bank project, people living in the project area are compelled to relocate or they lose their shelter, their assets or livelihoods, and their access to natural resources is restricted.

After a decade of implementing the policy, it was deemed necessary to review its efficiency and effectiveness in terms of its implementation and coherence. It is with this background, therefore, that the Bank commissioned this study with the main objective of critically assessing the implementation of the Bank’s Involuntary Resettlement Policy.

The study has shown that, through the policy, the Bank has made some gains in achieving its development objectives, contributing in some instances to better payment of compensation for lost assets, providing infrastructure and offering community facilities alongside projects involving IR. In the process, the governments of the Bank’s regional member countries (RMCs) and implementing agencies have, in some cases, improved their institutional capacity by implementing Resettlement Action Plans as required by the AfDB policy.

There is widespread recognition of the need to address the needs of vulnerable groups, particularly the poor and squatters, by some RMCs. The study notes the appreciation of other key requirements of the policy such as full replacement cost in valuing affected properties, information disclosure and adequate consultations by vulnerable groups.

The study also shows that the interpretation and execution of the “Compensation Principle” is highly arbitrary among different countries. While some countries emphasize property rights over land as the basis of eligibility or entitlement, the common practices tend to be selective, arbitrary and at the whims of the administrative officials.