Guidelines on Compulsory Displacement and Resettlement in USAID Programming

These Guidelines describe good practices regarding compulsory displacement and resettlement (CDR). This voluntary tool is intended for use by USAID Operating Units and their partners at all stages of the program cycle, whether for implementation of activities or as a good practice guide for project design. Ensuring that CDR, in particular resettlement, avoids, minimizes and mitigates risks of impoverishment of affected legitimate landholders is critical to achieving the Agency’s mission “to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies.”

CDR is when displacement and resettlement of legitimate landholders is compelled by USAID programming, and when legitimate landholders do not have the genuine right or ability to refuse displacement and resettlement (Box 1). These Guidelines are consistent with international good practices established over the decades. Since the 1980s, development experts and donors have increasingly recognized CDR risks related to development and have taken concrete actions to address them. Many multilateral development banks and bilateral donors have standards, practices, or policies to avoid CDR or, when unavoidable, minimize and mitigate its associated risks.

These Guidelines are also consistent with USAID’s mission and core values and will help ensure that USAID programs involving CDR do not undermine desired development objectives. The Vision for Ending Extreme Poverty recognizes that property rights and secure land tenure are essential for inclusive economic growth. Similarly, in the Democracy, Human Rights and Governance Strategy, USAID commits to elevating human rights as a key development objective, including respect for economic, social, and cultural rights. The Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy acknowledges that women in developing countries are more vulnerable with respect to their land and resource rights. Further, USAID’s Environmental Compliance Procedures (22 CFR 216) identify resettlement as a class of action with a “significant effect” on the environment and therefore requiring, as appropriate, an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The CDR Guidelines could inform these mandatory analyses.

Finally, the CDR Guidelines are consistent with the leading international standard on land and resource tenure—the UN Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Forests, and Fisheries in the Context of National Food Security, endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in 2012 (UN Voluntary Guidelines).

Specific guidelines that will enable USAID Operating Units and partners avoid, minimize and mitigate CDR risks include:

  1. Understand the legal and institutional context;
  2. Identify all legitimate landholders and relevant risks;
  3. If physical displacement is unavoidable, develop a Resettlement Action Plan;
  4. Promote informed and meaningful engagement;
  5. Improve livelihoods and living standards; and
  6. Provide additional protections to vulnerable groups, especially women and indigenous peoples.

Ensuring that CDR in USAID programming supports development outcomes and respects legitimate landholders is a complex but manageable process. In following these Guidelines, USAID Operating Units are not alone. USAID and its partners have considerable technical expertise in this area to guide the process if potential CDR issues are encountered.