4 June 2024

Development Bank Must Prevent Forced Displacement

This article analyzes community-led complaints about forced displacement in development bank projects, including coercive resettlement agreements and violent removals, and suggests measures to prevent future harm.

“I refused [to resettle] and was beaten and lost my two upper teeth. My brother was beaten to death by the soldiers for refusing to go to the new village. My second brother was detained, and I don’t know where he was taken by the soldiers.”

“Because we had no access to food in the new village, I went back to my old village with my daughter to bring food. Suddenly, soldiers came…They beat me and my daughter and raped us both.”

These harrowing testimonies from members of the Anuak Indigenous People highlight the severe consequences of resettlement. In a complaint to the World Bank, members of the Anuak community reported severe human rights abuses associated with their forced displacement from ancestral homes in Gambella, Ethiopia since 2010, as part of the World Bank-financed Ethiopia Protection of Basic Services (PBS) Project.

Under a concurrent project, the Ethiopian government sought to resettle 45,000 villagers to areas with supposedly improved infrastructure, services, and food security, promising a “socioeconomic and cultural transformation of the people.” However, the Anuak community did not consent to such a “transformation.” Villagers were violently forced from their homes through physical violence, gender-based violence, retaliation, and intimidation, only to find infertile land and a lack of promised services after resettlement. They contend that PBS funds were diverted to finance this resettlement plan and pay government workers implementing it. This is not development—it is forced displacement, a disturbingly common issue in development bank projects.

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