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Oil-induced displacement and resettlement: social problem and human rights issue

Extraction and transportation of mineral resources today presents an increasing social problem, leading to environmental damage and causing population displacement on a large scale. This publication presents a broad view of displacement caused by the exploitation of oil, drawing attention to the political contexts of displacement and their relationship with indigenous people. The paper particularly focuses on 5 case studies in 5 developing countries: Nigeria, Sudan, Ecuador, Colombia, Burma.

The author notes that:

  • there is a massive displacement associated with the processes of exploration of crude oil, notwithstanding the following steps of exploitation
  • in several cases crude oil production led to an uncontrolled spiral of large-scale displacement, organised violence, and many other social and environmental problems
  • indeed, the displacement caused by the exploitation of crude oil fits well with the issues of civil war and religious and ethnic discrimination

The document recommends the following measures for dealing with the most negative environmental and social consequences of oil:

  • encouraging local communities to establish NGOs aimed at defending the interests of those affected by oil production
  • involving as many stakeholders as possible in project preparation and implementation of resettlement; programs of this type should be based on the cooperation of local communities, NGOs, government, and the corporate sector
  • encouraging firms to publicise reports on the implementation of resettlement plans, and accompanying resettlement by public infrastructure agreements governing subsequent access by communities to common goods
  • publicising negative practices in the media; western corporations do not care about opinion in developing countries because the information must reach developed countries before a difference will occur in their bottom line
  • making the problem of development-induced displacement and resettlement the subject of international cooperation

Moreover, the paper stresses that the rights of local communities to participate in the distribution of profits from the exploitation of resources have to be guaranteed.