Tag Archives: AusAid

The ADB involuntary resettlement policy: Fifteen years on, the poorest still bear the brunt of development

by Natalie Bugalski

It has been more than 15 years since the Asian Development Bank (ADB) adopted a policy on involuntary resettlement with the objective of ensuring that “displaced people are at least as well-off as they would have been in the absence of the [ADB-financed] project.” The rationale behind the policy was a shift away from the perception that development-induced displacement and attendant harms suffered by those physically and economically displaced is a “sacrifice” some people have to make for the larger good. It is apparent, however, that despite the adoption of increasingly progressive and rights-oriented policies, the utilitarian view of development-induced displacement continues to dominate the culture and individual staff views of the ADB and many other aid and development institutions.

The report Derailed released by Bridges Across Borders Cambodia (BABC) this month (which I co-authored with Jocelyn Medallo) describes the policy and international human rights law obligations meant to protect the rights of resettled families and provides evidence of how these obligations continue to be flouted in practice. The Rehabilitation of the Railway in Cambodia Project, principally financed by an ADB concessional loan and an ADB-administered grant from the Australian Government, is affecting over 4,000 households that are being involuntarily resettled or must move back out of the railway’s “corridor of impact” (COI) into the residual right of way (ROW).

Despite decades of global evidence of the necessity of injecting sufficient financial and technical resources into resettlement planning and processes as an integral part of the infrastructure project itself, resettlement under the railways project has been treated as peripheral and has been left almost entirely in the hands of the Cambodian Government. Rather than internalizing the costs of resettlement into the project’s budgets from the start and ensuring that the full costs of policy and legal compliance are covered including though ADB and AusAID contributions, the Cambodian Government is responsible for footing the bill.

Given the well-known poor track record of the Government on forced evictions coupled with the incentive to reduce costs, the alarming result – as recorded in the BABC report – was blatantly foreseeable at the time of the project’s inception. Competent planning and sufficient resourcing from the beginning could have avoided and mitigated the hardships resettled families are now experiencing. Key findings of the report  include the following (a fuller list of the findings is appended to the end of this post):  Continue reading

New report on railway rehabilitation and displacement in Cambodia – Natalie Bugalski to guest-post

by Rhodri C. Williams

Bridges Across Borders Cambodia (BAB-C) released a new report this week on displacement in Cambodia caused by donor-funded rehabilitation of the country’s railway system (the PR is reprinted after the jump, below).

The findings are consistent with bad practice in development-induced displacement everywhere – poor planning, little consultation, thinly-veiled coercion, badly located and serviced resettlement sites, resulting in precisely the type of impoverishment risks that the standards long espoused by donors such as the World Bank and (more to the point in this case) the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are meant to prevent.

However, the report also reflects a particularly Cambodian failure to act on decades of advice and occasional pressure to comply with standards that would allow the country – at relatively little cost – to be seen to live up to its international commitments and to avoid the human tragedy and bad optics associated with forced evictions. After all, it is only six months since the Cambodian Government appeared to make tactical concessions in a standoff with the World Bank over evictions in Phnom Penh, but subsequent events indicate a reversion to form.

In this case, it is also over a year since early research on the very project criticized in the BAB-C’s new report forecast the problems that the latter now documents. For instance, Natalie Bugalski guest-posted at the time on the tragic drowning death of two children sent to fetch water because water sources available at the resettlement site where they lived were “polluted by chemicals used for rice growing and … caused skin diseases and other illnesses.”

Natalie will shortly be providing TN readers with another guest-posting with observations on BAB-C’s new report. As is often the case in Cambodia, all of this will make awkward reading not only for the Cambodian government, but also for international donors (in this case the ADB and AusAid) that are responsible for ensuring that the Cambodian Government accepts their resettlement standards along with their funding. For the time being, acceptance of this principle remains elusive.

UPDATE: read Natalie’s guest-posting here:  The ADB involuntary resettlement policy: Fifteen years on, the poorest still bear the brunt of development (23 February 2012)

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Tracking aid in Cambodia: Monitoring the resettlement impacts of the Railways Rehabilitation Project

By Natalie Bugalski

In October 2010, I traveled with a small research team from the rights groups Bridges Across Borders Cambodia (BABC) and Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) to Battambang in northwest Cambodia to interview families resettled to make way for the rehabilitation of Cambodia’s rail network.  The trip was a part of an NGO effort to monitor the resettlement impacts of the railways project and assess whether it is being implemented in accordance with the Asian Development Bank’s Involuntary Resettlement Safeguard Policy, international human rights norms, and Cambodian laws. The ADB is contributing US$84 million in concessional loans to the Rehabilitation of the Railways in Cambodia Project (hereafter “the Project”) and the Australian Government is contributing US$21.5 million in aid.

Although we had heard from community representatives that there were serious problems at the resettlement site, we were appalled to find the families living in deplorable conditions. Our interviews at the Battambang resettlement site raised a plethora of serious problems relating to a lack of access to food and basic services, and increased impoverishment. It appears that almost all families have been forced to borrow money to survive, rebuild houses, connect to electricity (other families remain unconnected because they simply cannot afford to do so) and in some cases earn less per day than their interest repayments. Widows have been treated particularly unfairly and in some cases have not received a separate plot of land.  Instead they have been told to live with their parents or children, despite having lived separately at their former location. These women are extremely vulnerable and have received insufficient support, if any at all. Every family we spoke to reported that they were significantly worse off now than before they moved. They feel desperate and abandoned.

Most alarmingly, four days after the families had been resettled in May, two children  – a brother (9) and sister (13) – had drowned in a nearby pond. We were told by the brother of the deceased children and other members of the community that the children had gone to collect water for household chores. Since piped water has not been provided at the resettlement site, families there had no choice but to trek through a muddy rice field to access water from the pond, or use water directly from the adjacent rice field. These water sources are polluted by chemicals used for rice growing and have caused skin diseases and other illnesses. On this occasion the children went to the pond and never returned. The community searched for many hours, and the bodies were eventually found at the bottom of the eight-meter deep pond.

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