Use of Country Safeguards Systems in Involuntary Resettlement – Stakeholders’ Consultation Workshop

Speech by ADB Sri Lanka Resident Mission Country Director Rita O'Sullivan on 22 May 2012 at the Taj Samudra Hotel, Sri Lanka

Thank you for inviting me to deliver the guest lecture for this important workshop.

Did you ever consider what you would do if you received a notice that you and your family were being involuntarily resettled?  I hope it never happens to any of us. But unfortunately, with Sri Lanka’s progressive march forward, many people are being faced with this issue. What is important is that they are treated fairly in this process and that there are checks and balances to ensure such fair treatment.

In 2009 ADB’s Board of Directors approved a Safeguard Policy Statement (SPS) covering both environmental and social safeguards which must apply to all projects funded by ADB.  When preparing the SPS, one of the key objectives was to discuss with member countries whether their country safeguards system (CSS) or any of the system’s components can be used where the system or parts are equivalent with ADB’s safeguard policies. The need to strengthen the capacity to implement a CSS by strengthening legal and policy requirements was examined, as was the need for any institutional development, training and other measures to bring a country’s safeguard system in line with ADB policies.

In 2005 ADB provided regional technical assistance (RETA 6285) which recommended that a country safeguard system review or assessment was necessary. At the same time, the World Bank pilot program was being undertaken called the country safeguard diagnostic review. These efforts harmonized development partner safeguards and responded to the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

From 2006 to 2010 the Technical Assistance program for Strengthening Country Safeguard Systems was undertaken to test various methodologies for equivalence and acceptability through five case studies (Peoples Republic of China, India, Kyrgyz Republic, Philippines and Vietnam). The Guidance Note for Review of Country Safeguard System was prepared in 2010 based on the findings of RETA 6285 for use by ADB staff and consultants engaged in country safeguard review. In 2011 the Planning and Implementation Good Practices Source Book for Involuntary Resettlement safeguards was released as a working document.

About 20 country safeguard reviews were completed from 2005 to 2012. The country safeguard review included equivalence and acceptability assessments, development of an action plan for gap filling, with disclosure and consultation of review findings during and after the review process.

During the last 15 years the Government of Sri Lanka has taken the initiative to establish a comprehensive involuntary resettlement framework to avoid the application of different policies and methods of compensation, displacement support and income restoration measures. The Cabinet approved the National Involuntary Resettlement Policy (NIRP) in 2001 and in 2009, Parliament approved new regulations to the Land Acquisition Act for a national compensation package. Despite such recent developments and because of scaling up of infrastructure development projects, the Government, in July 2010 recognized the need for a further review of land laws, national policies and other practices in land acquisition, compensation, relocation and resettlement.  This review was to identify gaps and to enhance the capacity of relevant Government ministries and departments to apply the revised framework in development projects in a more efficient and effective manner.

The ADB safeguard policy statement (2009) requires

  1. that social impacts are identified and assessed early in the project cycle;
  2. that resettlement plans are prepared and implemented in a timely manner to avoid, minimize and mitigate adverse social impacts; and
  3. that affected people are informed and consulted during project preparation and implementation. 

Sri Lanka’s safeguard system has requirements  to undertake social assessments, prepare and implement resettlement plans, carry out consultations and monitor the implementation of such plans.  However, there may be gaps and limited capacity to meet both the ADB and country safeguard  requirements.

ADB is responsible for explaining its policy requirements to borrowing countries and also for assisting to build capacity. In this context, ADB provided technical assistance to Sri Lanka to develop a national involuntary resettlement policy in 2001 and to undertake capacity development activities to ensure the country’s safeguard system is not only “equivalent” to ADB policies but also the existing resettlement policy and legal provisions can be implemented in an "acceptable" manner. ADB is very committed to assist Sri Lanka to strengthen its capacity to implement its improved legal system, new institutional arrangements, and to undertake training.

Sri Lanka’s TA sub project under RETA 7566: Strengthening and Use of Country Safeguard System commenced in November 2010. The first task was to prepare an inventory of land laws, regulations, guidelines, Cabinet approved compensation packages, judicial review of key issues, ministry circulars and other instructions. These form the legal and regulatory elements of Sri Lanka’s safeguard system. The legal provisions and regulations were compared with the policy, objectives and principles of ADB Involuntary Resettlement Policy (2009). This comparative analysis showed the extent of equivalence with ADB’s policy principles and with the  corresponding legal and regulatory elements. Recommendations were developed on how to bring them into greater coherence with international best practices.

The next task was to review of land acquisition, compensation, relocation and income restoration processes. Two road sector development projects were selected, namely, the famous Southern Transport development Project and the National Highway Sector Project. The design, planning and implementation experiences of these two cases show very clearly the strengths and weaknesses of application of both country safeguard system and ADB policies. This acceptability assessment was also useful to identify capacity enhancement needs.  As part of a capacity enhancement plan, the Ministry of Land and Department of Valuation conducted training workshops for officials engaged in land acquisition, valuation, surveys, compensation and resettlement administration. I want to acknowledge Ministry officials and staff for their efforts to undertake such training and their commitment to want to work effectively and efficiently in this important aspect of your work.

ADB believes that it is essential that the results of Sri Lanka’s safeguard review conducted under TA activities contribute the growing body of knowledge on Sri Lanka’s safeguard system. Further, we see that  the measures recommended to strengthen Sri Lanka’s safeguard system and the activities proposed under the action plan can further improve the system. This workshop will provide you all with the opportunity to discuss the results of Sri Lanka’s safeguard review  and to consider and debate the proposed  recommendations to further improve Sri Lanka’s safeguard system to bring it in line with ADB’s and other good international practices in the important field of resettlement.

I wish you good luck in your deliberations.