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close this bookResettlement of Displaced Population - 1st Edition (DHA/UNDRO - DMTP - UNDP, 1995, 60 p.)
close this folderPart 5: Program strategies to aid resettlement & recovery
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentLand based strategies
View the documentAssistance directed to families
View the documentAssistance directed to systems and groups
View the documentCASE STUDY: Options for assistance for Cambodian returnees

Land based strategies

The planned establishment of new settlement communities may be the strategy of choice for aiding recovery. Particularly when whole communities have been displaced and wish to reconstitute a new community in a different location, the establishment of alternative planned settlements is often considered. Many variations exist in the development of new settlements but, in general, they may be characterized as either agency planned and built settlements or aided settlement development.


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Agency planned and built settlements are developed by government or non-governmental agencies. Often, the site, land-uses and settlement layout are defined by the planning organization. The buildings and infrastructure are built by contractors hired by the reconstruction agency. New permanent houses are constructed. Basic services are planned and installed. Experts do the planning, often based on some consultation with the people. Farming schemes and income generating programs are started. Efforts are made to "sell" or convince potential settlers of the feasibility and virtue of the community designed for them. The high capital investment and significant professional input in the schemes are often justified on the basis that such inputs are necessary because displaced people do not have the skills or resources to develop such settlements on their own.

Reviews repeatedly suggest a low rate of success, despite best intentions and the expenditure of vast amounts of resources.

Although agency planned resettlement projects have been attempted in most countries, reviews repeatedly suggest a low rate of success, despite best intentions and the expenditure of vast amounts of resources. Reasons for their failures are related to the factors cited in Part 3. Most significantly, often these new settlements do not prove economically viable; the poorest families have no opportunities to earn a living in a way that is commensurate with their interests and skills. Often the new settlements are cited on poor land. If the settlement is isolated, residents may suffer from not being integrated into the local social and commercial systems. If it is well sited and with attractive opportunities, displaced recipients for whom the settlement was constructed are replaced by better-off families. The better the infrastructure and services, the less likely that the poorest can afford to live and support the standards imposed on them.

The physical layout of the community and type of houses constructed often mimics urban or alien styles rather than the forms and construction preferred by the families, who having no part in the siting, design and construction, often have no sense of ownership. Most settlement plans articulate strategies for overcoming such problems, however, planning failures are mainly due to centrally planned and executed projects which are designed and implemented for rather than by recipients.

Agency designed and built settlements are an example of a "paternalistic" or persuasive approach, which is imposed from outside. This approach may create dependency, lower adaptive capacity of people to their environments and encourage use of inappropriate technology in lieu of cultural values and preferences. It often wastes productive capacity of labor and management, delays the recovery process and often results in people remaining for long periods in refugee camp like situations (Bates and Peacock, 1989).


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Aided settlement development is based on the need for the construction of new settlements but depends on settlers for much of the input. A sites and services approach is an example of an aided-settlement development strategy. Sites and services programs make planned sites available and ensures the availability of adequate safe water and sanitation but leaves the construction of housing and other community amenities to the settlers. In the Philippines, after a massively destructive flash flood, various resettlement programs were initiated by government and non-governmental organizations by securing tracts of land for affected families to collaboratively built standardized "core" houses with the aid of loans, materials and technical support provided by the agencies.