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Standard 5: Displacement and Resettlement

UNDP will seek to avoid physical and economic displacement in its Projects. In exceptional circumstances and where avoidance is n​ot possible, displacement may occur only with full justification, appropriate forms of legal protection and compensation, and according to the following requirements.​​

Activities that involve physical and economic displacement, including through land acquisition or restrictions on land use or access to resources, pose impoverishment risks. Potential impacts may include loss of livelihoods, homelessness, food insecurity, and other adverse impacts. These impacts may lead to social unrest and political instability.
  • To recognize and respect the prohibition on forced evictions
  • To anticipate and avoid, or, when avoidance is not possible, minimize adverse social and economic impacts from land or resource acquisition or restrictions on land or resource use
  • To enhance or at least restore the livelihoods of all displaced persons and to improve the standards of living of the displaced poor and other displaced groups and to support efforts to progressively realize the rights to adequate housing and adequate standards of living for displaced populations
Scope of Application
The applicability of this Standard is established during the social and environmental screening and categorization process. It applies to all UNDP activities that may involve physical displacement (i.e., relocation or loss of shelter), whether full or partial and permanent or temporary, or economic and occupational displacement (i.e., loss of assets or access to assets that leads to loss of income sources or means of livelihood) as a result of Project-related land or resource acquisition or restrictions on land use or access to resources (including through Project externalities such as pollution and impacts to biodiversity or ecosystem services) that people depend on for physical, economic, social, cultural, or spiritual well-being.

This Standard also applies to displacement activities occurring for associated facilities (i.e., components that are not funded as part of the Project but whose viability and existence depend on the Project), displacement activities significantly related to the Project, and displacement activities that have occurred in anticipation of a UNDP Project. (58)​

For displacement and resettlement activities that may impact indigenous peoples, Stand​ard 6: Indigenous Peoples shall also apply. This Standard shall be interpreted in a manner to be consistent with Standa​rd 6.

Prohibit forced evictions, allowing evictions in exceptional circumstances only: Forced evictions include acts and/or omissions involving the coerced or involuntary displacement of individuals, groups, or communities from homes and/ or lands and common property resources that were occupied or depended upon, thus eliminating or limiting the ability of an individual, group, or community to reside or work in a particular dwelling, residence, or location without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection. (59) Lawful evictions are those meeting all of the following criteria: (i) authorized by national law; (ii) carried out in accordance with international human rights law (ii) undertaken solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare; (iv) reasonable and proportional; (60) (61) and (v) follow due process standards and are regulated so as to ensure full and fair compensation and rehabilitation. The protection provided by these requirements applies to all affected persons and groups, irrespective of whether they hold title to home and property under domestic law.

Avoid and mitigate physical and economic displacement: UNDP Projects will seek to avoid physical and economic displacement, and mitigate displacement impacts and inherent risks when displacement cannot be avoided. To this end, Projects that may involve displacement will include the following measures and others identified as necessary. While not responsible for implementation of these measures, UNDP will verify and document that these measures have been addressed:
​a) As part of the social and environmental assessment, identification of Project options (including ‘no action’ and ‘in situ’ options), their potential impacts, and avoidance measures. Assessment will include a survey of potentially affected individuals and communities and an evaluation of their relationship and rights to lands and resources used and occupied.

b) Public dissemination in accessible form and language of a written justification for the displacement activity and at least 90 days notice to affected persons prior to the date of displacement.

c) Access to effective remedies and to timely and affordable expertise, including legal counsel, to provide an understanding of rights and options.

d) Effective and informed consultations with affected populations and good faith efforts to secure negotiated settlements, even when expropriation options are available.

e) A Resettlement Action Plan or Livelihood Restoration Plan (see paragraphs 9 and 10 of this Standard) to be publicly disclosed at least 90 days prior to displacement activities.

f) Ex-post evaluation of livelihood levels to examine if objectives of this Standard were met.
Develop plans for displacement: When physical displacement or economic displacement is unavoidable, UNDP will integrate into the Project documentation a Resettlement Action Plan or Livelihood Action Plan that has been developed transparently with the individuals and communities to be displaced, and meets the objectives of this Standard. All plans will achieve the following aims and incorporate the relevant specific elements listed in paragraphs 9 and 10 of this standard: (i) identify the persons who will be displaced by the Project, determine who will be eligible for compensation and assistance, and discourage ineligible persons from claiming benefits; (ii) identify how the needs and priorities of potentially affected individuals and communities will be met; (iii) ensure that fair and just compensation is provided, prior to displacement, for any losses of personal, real or other property or goods, including rights or interests in property recognized by Applicable Law; (62) (iv) establish an adequate budget and timeframe for displacement activities; (v) establish the entitlements of all categories of affected persons (including host communities); (vi) ensure that support is provided for communities to return to pre-displacement locations or status when possible; (vii) provide particular attention to the needs of the poor and marginalized and avoid discriminatory activities, including against vulnerable and marginalized groups and individuals; (viii) provide to displaced individuals and communities secure access to necessary services, shelter, food, water, energy, and sanitation; and (ix) clarify tenure rights and provide secure tenure consistent with Applicable Law; (x) allow for independent monitoring of displacement and resettlement activities; and (xi) support, as appropriate, efforts to progressively realize rights.
Resettlement Action Plan: Prior to physical displacement, a Resettlement Action Plan is required that includes the following elements: (63)
a.   Resettlement option chosen by displaced persons, including compensation at full replacement cost for any economically assessable damage, as appropriate and proportional to the gravity of the violation and the circumstances of each case. Where appropriate, benefits and compensation may be collective in nature. (64)

b.   Compensation for the loss, salvage and transport of affected properties of all those displaced, irrespective of whether they hold title, including the original dwelling (unless adequate replacement housing is chosen as an alternative to cash compensation) and lost or damaged land.

c.  Where land is taken from those with rights to it under Applicable Law, replacement land commensurate in quality, size and value or better. In these circumstances, cash compensation does not replace real compensation in the form of land and common property resources.

d.  Where the dwellings or land provide a source of livelihood for the displaced inhabitants, loss assessment to account for the value of business losses, equipment/inventory, livestock, land, trees/crops, and lost/decreased wages/ income. Where relocation affects commercial structures, affected business owners are compensated for the cost of reestablishing commercial activities elsewhere, for lost net income during the period of transition, and for the costs of the transfer and reinstallation of the plant, machinery, or other equipment.

e. Where livelihoods or income levels are adversely affected, adequate opportunities to improve means of income-earning capacity, production levels, and standards of living are provided, and confirmed by independent review considering assessment baseline data. Where these livelihoods are natural resource-based, measures will either allow continued access to affected resources or provide access to alternative resources with equivalent livelihood-earning potential and accessibility.

f.    Transitional support is provided as necessary, based on a reasonable estimate of the time required to restore income-earning capacity, production levels, and standards of living.
g.   Women and men are co-beneficiaries of all compensation packages, and single women and widows are provided their own compensation.
h.    Relocation assistance is provided.
i.    All transactions to acquire land rights, provide compensation and relocate are documented.

Livelihood Action Plan: Prior to economic displacement (including situations in which access to resources is restricted but no physical relocation is necessary), a Livelihood Action Plan is required that ensures the following:
​a. Displaced individuals and communities are compensated for loss of assets or loss of access to assets at full replacement cost. Additional considerations include the following:
​​​- In cases where land acquisition or restrictions on land use affect commercial structures, affected business owners will be compensated for the cost of reestablishing commercial activities elsewhere, for lost net income during the period of transition, and for the costs of the transfer and reinstallation of the plant, machinery, or other equipment.

- In cases affecting persons with legitimate tenure rights, whether those rights are formal or informal, (65) replacement property (e.g. agricultural or commercial sites) of equal or greater value will be provided.

- Economically displaced persons who are without legally recognizable claims to land will be compensated for lost assets other than land (e.g. crops, irrigation infrastructure, other improvements made to the land), at full replacement cost. (66)
b. In addition to compensation for lost assets, if any, economically displaced persons whose livelihoods or income levels are adversely affected will also be provided opportunities to improve, or at least restore, their means of income​-earning capacity, production levels, and standards of living. An independent review, considering baseline data, will confirm that capacity, production levels and standards of living have been improved or restored. Additional considerations include the following:
​​- For persons whose livelihoods are land-based, (67)​ replacement land that has a combination of productive potential, locational advantages, and other factors at least equivalent to that being lost should be offered as a matter of priority

- For persons whose livelihoods are natural resource-based and where Project-related restrictions on access apply, measures will be undertaken to either allow continued access to affected resources or provide access to alternative resources with equivalent livelihood-earning potential and accessibility. Where appropriate, benefits and compensation associated with natural resource usage may be collective in nature.

- In Projects involving involuntary restrictions of access to legally designated parks and protected areas, the nature of restrictions, as well as the type of measures necessary to mitigate adverse impacts, will be determined with the participation of potentially displaced persons. Measures to assist the displaced people to improve their livelihoods, or at least restore them, while maintaining the sustainability of the park or protected area, will be identified. Where the parks or protected areas in question involve the lands, resources and territories of indigenous peoples, paragraph 5 also applies.

- If circumstances make it difficult for the Project to provide land or resources as described above, and if evidence exists of mutual agreement with affected people for alternative measures, alternative income earning opportunities ​may be provided, such as credit facilities, training, or employment opportunities.​

​​c. Transitional support is provided to displaced persons and communities as necessary, based on a reasonable estimate of the time required to restore their income-earning capacity, production levels, and standards of living.

Addressing prior displacement: When displacement has oc​curred in anticipation of a UNDP Project, requirements of this Standard will apply. When an unoccupied site from which prior residents were displaced is provided for a Project, but not in anticipation of a Project, UNDP shall determine if requirements of this Standard were met and, if not, if corrective action is feasible. If corrective action is feasible and would improve the standard of living of the displaced persons, UNDP will ensure that corrective measures are pursued prior to, or if not feasible, then during implementation of the Project.​​

(58) As part of UNDP’s commitment to ensure that potential cumulative impacts of multiple projects in a given area or landscape are identified and addressed, UNDP may require that impacts of displacement activities being planned or carried out contemporaneously with the Project are also addressed.
(59) Evictions include all forms of displacement. Forced evictions are clearly prohibited by the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement, which were prepared by the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing in 2007, and acknowledged by the Human Rights Council in 2007, available at Note, additionally, the UN Human Rights Commission description of forced eviction as a gross violation of human rights, See also General Comment No. 7 by the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural rights, interpreting the definition of the ‘right to an adequate standard of living’ and ‘right to adequate housing’ in the ICESCR.
(60) Whether an activity is considered ‘reasonable and proportional’ involves a transparent and participatory process to consider three factors: suitability, necessity, and the absence of disproportionate impact. ‘Suitability’ requires that a measure affecting a protected interest be causally linked to the purpose being pursued. ‘Necessity’ requires that the proposed measure be indispensable to achieving the objective pursued. ‘Absence of disproportionate impact’ requires that the disadvantages to which a contested measure gives rise do not exceed its advantages, regardless of the existence of a less restrictive measure. See Nicolas de Sadeleer, Environmental Principles: From Political Slogans to Legal Rules, (2002), pp. 292-301 (citing as example, Case C-151/98, Pharos SA v Comm’n, 1999 E.C.R. I-08157).
(61) In regards to potential displacement in the context of protected areas, proposed activities should be reasonably likely to achieve biodiversity-protection and other related objectives (suitability); should not impose more restrictive measures than available alternatives (necessary), and should be such that advantages of establishing the protected area must outweigh the disadvantages resulting from impact to the rights and interests of local communities (absence of disproportionate impact).
(62) Including ‘full replacement value’ when compensation is in cash and not in the form of land and common property resources.
(63) See UNDP’s Social and Environmental Screening Procedure for more information on the required elements of a Resettlement Action Plan and a Livelihood Action Plan.

(64) Compensation is typically provided by the host country.
(65) UNDP’s approach to land tenure is based on FAO’s “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security” (2012), available at

(66) Compensation or assistance is not required for those who encroach on the Project area, including protected areas, after the cut-off date for eligibility, provided the cut-off date has been clearly established and made public.

(67) Similar considerations should apply for affected persons or groups whose livelihoods are water-based, such as fishing communities.