Challenges in implementing the corporate responsibility to respect human rights in the context of project-induced displacement and resettlement

The endorsement of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011 has led to many multinational companies making public statements of support for human rights. We provide an in-depth analysis of the challenges company staff face in addressing human rights risks at large infrastructure project sites, especially in relation to their resettlement practices. The research was conducted with two projects in Mozambique: an open-pit coal mine; and the construction of a 900km railway line. With the cooperation of two multinational mining companies, the design, implementation and outcomes of their compensation and resettlement plans were analysed using a human rights lens. Within the companies there was awareness and commitment to ensure adequate replacement housing and to provide financial compensation at full replacement value. However, there were major challenges related to organizational aspects, including significant time pressure from technical departments, an initial lack of planning regarding the management of community impacts and a lack of experienced staff in social departments. Together with various contextual issues, these challenges ultimately resulted in a failure to compensate and resettle all affected people in a manner that was compliant with human rights. We make seven recommendations that are relevant to respecting human rights in relation to infrastructure projects: (1) companies should carefully consider the positioning of the community relations function within the project; (2) there needs to be greater commitment at the project site level and at all project stages to ensure that international standards for environmental and social performance are met; (3) there must be adequate human rights expertise at the project site level; (4) project resettlement and compensation plans and procedures must document how they will address human rights topics; (5) there must be adequate supervision of subcontractors; (6) projects must properly plan to manage human rights issues irrespective of the realities of complex operating environments; and (7) companies should consider human rights issues in acquisitions and de-acquisitions.
van der Ploeg, L. and Vanclay, F., 2018. Challenges in implementing the corporate responsibility to respect human rights in the context of project-induced displacement and resettlement. Resources Policy, 55, pp.210-222.
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Journal Article

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