Involuntary resettlement is a complex phenomenon, which is often a direct consequence of development. In this thesis, resettlement is regarded as a process involving the relocation of individuals or a group of people from their original place of residence to new settlement areas. This process ideally should include the restoration of social and economic opportunities to a level commensurate with standards in their previous location.
In many cases, the resettlement process has failed during the implementation stage, with severe consequences for resettled people and host communities. A consistent finding from the research is that the implementation of resettlement projects in which the responsibility is vested in the State often falls short of accepted international standards, particular for large scale projects (McMillan et al., 1998; Sonnenberg and Munster, 2001; Robinson, 2002; Zaman, 2002; De Wet, 2004; Scudder, 2011). Resettlement scholars and practitioners have sought to better understand and manage resettlement impacts using various risks identification frameworks. These include Scudder’s Four Stage model, Cernea’s Impoverishment Risks and Reconstruction model, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC)’s Performance Standards. These frameworks have, until recently, focused on specific actor groups and lack the ability to capture the risks associated with different governmental and social contexts. These limitations have impaired our ability to comprehend government-managed resettlement and associated impoverishment risks.
The primary question for this thesis is: “What are the structural characteristics and limitations of government-managed resettlement and associated impoverishment risks?” This study seeks to increase understanding of government-managed resettlement through the impoverishment risks potentially facing affected people, along with the processes involved and the capacity of the government, company, and affected people to manage these processes. To support this overarching aim, the focus of this study is a mine-induced resettlement project underway in central Vietnam, which epitomises the limitations of government-managed resettlement and accordingly provides a robust case study for identifying the conceptual and practical gaps in the existing resettlement literature.
A key contribution of the study is the development of a conceptual framework to provide a more holistic and integrated approach to assess resettlement risks and assist with the process of addressing the key deficiencies discussed in the literature review. This framework, which links the literature to the research aims, and questions, is considered as the analysis lens applied to this study.
A multi method approach was considered to be the most appropriate for the study context. The main research methods applied were semi-structured interviews and observation, both of which are qualitative methods. Along with this, secondary data collection was used in conjunction with participatory methods including informal conversation, participatory mapping and the transect walk. Data collection comprised two phases: scoping of the two candidate case studies and then conducing fieldwork in the selected research site – the Thach Khe Iron Ore mine. A total of seven months was spent in Vietnam collecting fieldwork data. The main source of qualitative data was semi-structured interviews with 25 participants, drawn from key actor groups associated with the mine.
A key focus of this study is on what happens when the responsibility for resettlement implementation is left entirely up to the government authorities, with no onus placed on the project investors. The absence of a resettlement policy and framework led to unclear and overlapping responsibilities among agencies during the implementation of land acquisition and resettlement. This situation was compounded by the fact that the level of cooperation between local governments and the company was minimal. In addition, both the government and the company have very limited capacity with regards to resourcing, knowledge and relevant skills. The participation of affected people in the resettlement process prior to physical relocation was also minimal.
With regards to associated resettlement risks, eight common risks were perceived by participants from three key actor groups. These were: landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, marginalisation, loss of access to common property and services, social disarticulation, loss of access to education and financial insecurity. While the first six risks have been covered in Cernea’s Impoverishment Risks and Reconstruction (IRR), two additional risks that have been considered in this study are not included in Cernea’s IRR model: these are “loss of access to education” and “financial insecurity”. This study argues that government-managed resettlement due to development will be more robust and effective where there is more active participation by key actors and additional context-related, not included in Cernea’s IRR model are considered. Implications of these findings, directions for future research and the contribution to theory are also discussed.