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Resettlement in Laos Part 1

A paper presented at the International Conference on Lao Studies<br>
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA, <br>May 20-22, 2005<p>


AIDING OR ABETTING?<p>
Internal Resettlement and International Donors in the Lao PDR <p>

Bruce P. Shoemaker and Ian G. Baird <p>
Abstract<p>
A number of programs and policies currently in place in the Lao PDR are promoting the internal resettlement of mostly indigenous ethnic communities from the more remote highlands to lowland areas and along roads. ;; These ongoing initiatives are often linked to policies calling for the rapid elimination of swidden agriculture and opium cultivation, security concerns, and the concentration and integration of rural populations. ;; International Organizations, bilateral aid agencies, and Non-Governmental Organizations have all played key roles in facilitating these initiatives√ƒ¬Ę??sometimes intentionally or conditionally and other times with little understanding of the issues or the implications of their support. ;; There is now a compelling volume of evidence demonstrating that internal resettlement and related initiatives in Laos are having a devastating impact on the general well being, livelihoods and cultures of many indigenous ethnic communities and people. ;; The question is therefore raised: are aid groups, through their involvement in internal resettlement, facilitating violations of the basic rights of the people they are intending to help? ;; If so, how they can avoid doing so in the future? <p> ;; ;;


INTRODUCTION: INTERNAL RESETTLEMENT IN THE LAO PDR<p>

A number of programs and policies currently in place in the Lao People√ƒ¬Ę??s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR or Laos) are promoting, albeit often indirectly, the internal resettlement of mostly indigenous ethnic communities from the more remote highlands to lowland areas and along roads. ;; These ongoing initiatives are often linked to government policies calling for the rapid elimination of swidden agriculture and opium cultivation, security concerns, and the concentration and integration of rural populations. ;; Donors, including International Organizations ;; (IOs), bilateral aid agencies, and International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs), have played a key role in facilitating these initiatives√ƒ¬Ę??sometimes intentionally or conditionally, and other times with little understanding of the issues or the implications of their support. ;; <p>

There now exists a compelling and growing volume of well-documented evidence demonstrating that internal resettlement and related initiatives in Laos are, in many cases, having a major and generally negative impact on the social systems, livelihoods and cultures of many indigenous ethnic communities and people (Goudineau 1997; State Planning Committee 2000; ADB 2001; Chamberlain 2001; ILO 2001; Daviau 2001, 2003; Romagny and Daviau 2003; Vandergeest 2003; Ducourtieux 2004; Alton and Rattanavong 2004; Moizo 2004; Evrard and Goudineau 2004; Baird 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005). ;; Over the last decade a large proportion of remote upland communities in Laos have been resettled (Evrard and Goudineau 2004). ;; ;; <p>

We have been researching the role of international development agencies and donors in internal resettlement for a number of years, and are preparing a substantial report on the issue, which will be available in late 2005. ;; ;; Our research is based on a literature review, extensive interviews with IO, bilateral, and INGO representatives, and direct field observations in rural Laos. ;; Here, we provide a summary of some of the key concepts and programs associated with internal resettlement in Laos, a review of the extensive research that has been completed in recent years regarding its impacts in Laos, and a summary of the approaches of international agencies and donors in promoting and facilitating√ƒ¬Ę??or in working to prevent, or at least reduce√ƒ¬Ę??the extent of internal resettlement in Laos. ;; We are also including one case study based on our field observations, in Attapeu province, in order to illustrate some of the points described in more general terms in other sections of this paper.<p>

Why is internal resettlement occurring?
Periodic resettlement and movements of people-whether voluntary, negotiated, forced, coerced, manipulated, or strongly encouraged--have been a prominent aspect of recent Lao history. ;; ;; While there were no major shifts in populations during the French colonial period (Evrard and Goudineau 2004), there was a lot of resettlement during the 1960s and early 1970s, much of this being related to the war--and US bombing of the country. ;; After the Lao PDR government (GoL) was established in 1975, a significant amount of relocation of mostly indigenous people from mountainous and remote areas began, initially mainly related to security concerns. ;; Although some internal resettlement did take place prior to the war, this resettlement generally occurred infrequently, was often undertaken in rather traumatic conditions, and in many cases only required relatively short distance movements within existing village forest boundaries. ;; Efforts were also made by the Pathet Lao as early as 1968 to bring √ƒ¬Ę??development√ƒ¬Ę?? to the uplands, but by 1985 most of the focus had switched to bringing highlanders to the lowlands (Evrard and Goudineau 2004).<p>

Over the last ten years the pace of internal resettlement ;; in Laos has been steady, although it has occurred in uneven spurts in different provinces and districts throughout the country. ;; This resettlement has been fundamentally different from the resettlement that took place in pre-war periods, as it involves promoting the movement of people, almost always ethnic minorities, from more remote upland areas to relatively accessible lowland areas, or adjacent to major roads. ;; The causes relate to four main GoL motivations: ;; elimination of swidden/shifting agricultural cultivation, opium eradication, security concerns, and, service provision and cultural/economic integration. ;; All these initiatives have been justified, in one way or another, under the overall expressed goals of √ƒ¬Ę??poverty alleviation√ƒ¬Ę?? and √ƒ¬Ę??rural development√ƒ¬Ę??. ;; The result is a dramatic deconstruction and restructuring of upland Lao societies over very short periods. ;; Goudineau (2000) has discussed internal resettlement in Laos in terms of a double process: √ƒ¬Ę??deterritorialization√ƒ¬Ę??, which implies leaving traditional territories and changing traditional ways of life associated with those areas, and √ƒ¬Ę??reterritorialization√ƒ¬Ę??, which involves physically moving into a new territory and often accepting and integrating into the cultural references that are bound up with it. ;; ;; Internal resettlement in Laos represents a huge social experiment with potentially serious negative implications for livelihoods, health and cultural protection. ;; In recent years, issues surrounding internal resettlement have been, according to several observers, ;; √ƒ¬Ę??the biggest thing happening in upland areas of Laos at the present time.√ƒ¬Ę?? ;; ;; <p>

Swidden agriculture: ;; Beginning in the early 1980s but increasingly√ƒ¬Ę??and with donor encouragement--in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the GoL, began to express considerable concern over the shifting cultivation/swidden agriculture practices of ethnic minority groups in the country. ;; A central rationale of many of the early large-scale village development initiatives supported by donors beginning in the late 1980s/early 1990s became the provision of lowland wet-rice paddy for upland swidden cultivators. The 1990 Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP) for Laos, supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, reported on and implicitly supported the resolution adopted at the First Lao National Conference on Forestry in May 1989 that by the year 2000 there would be a permanent change in the lifestyles of 60% of the 1.5 million people engaged in shifting cultivation. ;; The plan was expected to affect 90,000 people a year over the next ten years (Evrard and Goudineau 2004). ;; The idea was to promote agricultural intensification, land tenure reform, and industrial forms of forest exploitation, such as commercial logging and industrial fast-growing tree plantations. ;; The TFAP provided key support to the GoL√ƒ¬Ę??s policy, and encouraged them toward greatly intensified efforts to eradicate swidden cultivation (Goudineau 1997:14). ;; In 1995, the Politburo of the Central Party Committee adopted a policy to eradicate all shifting cultivation from the country by the year 2000. ;; Several major donors moved to support the government in this endeavor, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which initiated a loan for a √ƒ¬Ę??Shifting Cultivation Stabilization Project√ƒ¬Ę?? in 1998 (ADB 1998). ;; ;; <p>

;; While not presented as an explicit policy objective, internal resettlement has become an important tool used to achieve the objective of stopping shifting cultivation (Evrard and Goudineau 2004). ;; Thus, the intensification of resettlement activities in the mid-1990s was often linked to the eradication of swidden agriculture, with a considerable burst of internal resettlement taking place in 1996 and 1997. ;; Much of this resettlement was to lowland areas where wet rice paddy production could supposedly occur, although some was also along or near major roads in upland areas. ;; ;; <p>

Initially, few donors questioned the need to eliminate swidden agriculture and many actively supported the policy. ;; As concerns grew over the impacts on food security and associated resettlement (see below), however, some reassessment began to quietly occur. ;; By the late 1990s, the initiative was sarcastically being referred to as the √ƒ¬Ę??Project to Stop Eating√ƒ¬Ę?? (khong kan youtti kan kin) by some Lao development workers due to the impacts it was having on upland communities. ;; While the stated rationale for the initiative was to conserve upland forests, observers have noted that there was simultaneously a large increase in commercial logging in these same forests, directed by the central government and Lao army, and implemented in a non-transparent manner (Watershed 2000:57-64). ;; ;; <p>

Recent studies from different parts of Laos, and involving many ethnic groups, have clearly shown that the eradication and severe restriction of swidden agriculture is often associated with chronic food shortages, increased and over-exploitation of forestry and fishery resources, decreased human and animal health, and increased soil degradation and other types of biodiversity degradation caused by adopting fallow cycles that are too short to allow for forest or soil regeneration. ;; The end result is generally increased poverty levels (State Planning Committee 2000; Chamberlain 2001; ADB 2001). ;; While there is not a province in Laos which has not been impacted by the swidden agriculture eradication policy, it has been especially significant for mountainous northern and eastern parts of the country, which present few good opportunities for developing large-scale wet rice paddy cultivation. ;; Hundreds of thousands of families are being affected by restrictive shifting cultivation policies. ;; In the late 1990s, 280,000 families, or 45% of the villages in the country, were dependent on shifting cultivation for their subsistence (State Planning Committee and National Statistical Centre 1999).<p>

Swidden agriculture has been unfairly blamed for forest destruction and for always being unsustainable. ;; Most researchers and academics working on upland agriculture now recognize that swidden agriculture is neither always appropriate nor necessarily inappropriate (Warner 1991; Fox et al. 2000). ;; ;; In some cases, upland agriculture is being practiced sustainably in Laos and can be for many more decades due to low population densities and the occurrence of rapidly growing plant species, including many species of bamboo. ;; In other cases some assistance and technical support may be needed for upland agricultural adaptations. ;; Some types of √ƒ¬Ę??pioneering√ƒ¬Ę?? shifting cultivation, as practiced by some ethnic groups, can be problematic, but even these problems are often exaggerated. ;; However, rather than using a moderate approach that carefully considers all the factors involved, on a case-by-case basis, harsh broad-brush blanket restrictions against swidden cultivation have been applied in Laos without adequately considering local conditions. ;; Swidden agriculture is often depicted negatively, and termed √ƒ¬Ę??slash-and-burn√ƒ¬Ę??. ;; The official Lao media often equates eliminating √ƒ¬Ę??slash-and-burn√ƒ¬Ę?? agriculture with eliminating poverty (Vientiane Times 2003a; Vorakham 2002)√ƒ¬Ę??even when it may in reality be having the opposite effect.<p>

As efforts to eradicate swidden agriculture continued in the late 1990s, it became evident that this was a much greater task than originally expected and it was not going to be possible to achieve this challenging goal by 2000. ;; In many areas there are few available lowland sites. About 80% of the country is considered to be mountainous or hilly. ;; Considering these realities, the deadline for eradicating swidden agriculture was extended in 2001 at the 7th Party Congress to 2005. ;; More recently, some GoL accounts report that the deadline is now 2020, with plans to reduce swidden cultivation significantly by 2010 (pers. comm., Steeve Daviau 2005).<p>

Although the GoL remains committed to eradicating swidden agriculture (Vientiane Times 2004a, b, c), there has been some recent reconsideration of the policy at some levels (Baird 2004, 2005). ;; For example, the deputy governor of Savannakhet province has stated that pioneering shifting cultivation is banned, especially when large trees are cut down, but that rotational shifting cultivation is allowed, and is not considered to be targeted for eradication efforts (Baird 2004). ;; Some observers saw the conference on uplands agriculture organized by the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI) in January 2004 in Luang Prabang as a landmark in bringing the debate over swidden agriculture out into the open. ;; Some officials in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have stated unofficially that changes are in the works, although it may take years for them to become evident to local people (Baird, 2004, 2005). ;; State press accounts have been mixed. ;; At times there has been a reduction in anti-shifting cultivation rhetoric, at other times pro-resettlement, anti-shifting cultivation stories continue to dominate both the English and Lao language press.<p>

Opium eradication: ;; Historically, many upland communities in parts of northern Laos have grown poppies to produce small to moderate amounts of opium, mainly for local consumption and sale (Cohen 2000; Epprecht 2000). ;; In some cases, when addiction becomes widespread, opium can impoverish families and communities. ;; But overall, it has been an essential cash crop in areas with chronic rice shortages (Epprecht 2000). ;; Until relatively recently, opium eradication was not a GoL priority√ƒ¬Ę??although there was a willingness to institute development programs that would eventually reduce the need for growing opium in upland communities. ;; But it was stressed that development must come first, before wholesale eradication could be attempted (UNDCP 1999). ;; <p>

Despite producing a relatively insignificant (compared to Burma or Afghanistan) amount of opium for export, Laos has been criticized by the US government due to its status as the third largest opium producer in the world. ;; The US has become the largest bilateral donor for anti-drug programs in Laos, contributing US$ 1.9 million in 2004 (Sithirajvongsa 2003). ;; The US has also been the main donor to the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) in Laos, now restructured as the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). ;; <p>

In 2000 the UNDCP radically stepped up its anti-opium efforts in Laos, promising the GoL US$ 80 million in aid if they would agree to make the country √ƒ¬Ę??opium-free√ƒ¬Ę?? by 2005. ;; The GoL, facing continued US pressure to crack down on the opium trade, agreed to support the new policy. ;; In 2001 the 7th Congress of the Party declared that Laos would indeed be opium-free by the end of 2005. <p>

In the UNDCP√ƒ¬Ę??s expressed vision of a √ƒ¬Ę??balanced approach√ƒ¬Ę??, livelihood alternatives for those growing opium as a cash crop are supposed to be provided before poppy cultivation is completely eliminated (UNDCP 1999). ;; But following the Party resolution, local officials aggressively pursued eradication√ƒ¬Ę??despite slow progress in developing economic alternatives for opium cultivators (Vientiane Times 2003a, c, d; Baird 2005). ;; This has, over the last three years, created a √ƒ¬Ę??push-pull√ƒ¬Ę?? effect, forcing many poppy-growing communities to move out from the uplands. ;; Some left with few income alternatives are migrating to lowland areas. ;; Government pressure to move accelerates this process. ;; While some donors have expressed concern about this timeframe, the GoL has continued aggressive eradication and has suggested the country could be free of opium cultivation by March 2005 (Thammavongsa 2004c), although it is likely to continue to have a large number of addicts (Latsaphao 2004a; Thammavongsa 2004a, b, c, d; Vientiane Times 2003b, e; 2004d; Phouthonesy 2004).<p>

Security concerns: ;; Most of the internal resettlement associated with security issues took place during and shortly after the war, and during the turbulent years of the late 1970s and early 1980s. ;; Security is no longer the primary motivating factor for most resettlement in Laos, although it remains a factor in some areas, and with regards to some ethnic groups. ;; In parts of the country where armed rebels are active, have a history of being active, or are believed to have the potential for becoming active, security concerns often play an important role in whether villages are resettled or not, and the nature of the resettlement, but they are rarely the only factor, or an explicit factor. ;; <p>

Service Delivery and Cultural/Economic Integration: ;; In upland areas many indigenous ethnic groups live in small scattered settlements far from roads--but near to the forests, streams, and agricultural lands on which they depend for their livelihoods. ;; The concentration of these scattered communities, as well as their cultural and livelihood integration into ethnic lowland Lao society, has long been a goal of the ethnic Lao dominated central government (Vientiane Times 2002; Vorakham 2002; Evrard and Goudineau 2004). ;; The justification is that by moving scattered remote communities into more accessible areas it will be easier and cheaper for development services--such as health care, sanitation serves, education, roads, irrigation and electricity--to be provided and that, by gaining access to markets, those resettled can better integrate into the dominant cash-based economy. ;; ;; It is assumed that they will benefit from having √ƒ¬Ę??permanent occupations√ƒ¬Ę?? in a particular location (chat san asip khong thi), the intensification of agricultural production, and that there will be a cultural integration of ethnic groups (Evrard and Goudineau 2004). <p>

Unfortunately, these assumptions often lack an appreciation of the existing livelihoods base of these more remote communities. ;; There is a tendency to devalue such important issues as the availability of adequate land for farming and grazing livestock as well as access to forestry and fishery resources. ;; There is also an implicit ethnic bias in the whole concept√ƒ¬Ę??it is assumed that having minorities become more √ƒ¬Ę??Lao√ƒ¬Ę?? (adopting Lao language, clothing, housing structures, religion, and other customs) will make them more √ƒ¬Ę??developed√ƒ¬Ę?? and √ƒ¬Ę??civilized√ƒ¬Ę??. ;; For example, in Attapeu province, the government has specifically built √ƒ¬Ę??Lao-style√ƒ¬Ę?? houses in recently resettled ethnic minority villages in order to, √ƒ¬Ę??teach the people how to make Lao permanent houses√ƒ¬Ę??. <p>

Many observers note that resettlement often involves more than one of the above factors. ;; Donor-supported initiatives to resettle communities based on opium eradication or swidden cultivation elimination provides the GoL with a convenient justification for resettling remote ethnic communities, even when the main motivation may actually be security or ethnic integration, or simply to make it easier for government officials to access them. ;; <p>

Key Components of Internal Resettlement
There are three very important components or initiatives that have a strong direct relationship to internal resettlement in the Lao PDR√ƒ¬Ę??Focal Sites, Village Consolidation, and Land and Forest Allocation. ;; Some donor or aid agency staff have failed to clearly understand these concepts and this has at times resulted in their agencies finding themselves unintentionally involved in facilitating internal resettlement. ;; ;; <p>

Focal Sites (khet chout xoum): The concept of Focal Sites is to concentrate large numbers of ethnic minority families into certain selected areas so that they can be provided with development assistance in an efficient and cost-effective manner (GoL 1997; 1998; 2000; GO Bolikhamxay 2000). ;; ;; Focal Sites are chosen by provinces and districts in order to concentrate development resources in certain geographic locations. ;; Focal Site development is very infrastructure oriented√ƒ¬Ę??roads, schools, health clinics, irrigation, market facilities, etc. ;; This has made the concept popular with government officials at all levels as well as with some large donors. ;; Some are developed outside of any existing village. ;; However, in many cases there is an existing ethnic Lao community in the area. ;; Other ethnic groups are then brought to the site. ;; <p>

The term √ƒ¬Ę??Focal Site√ƒ¬Ę?? first came into use in the early 1990s. ;; The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) began assisting a Focal Site in Xieng Khouang province as early as 1992 (CLCRDO UNDP and ILO 2000). ;; From the start, the GoL has relied on foreign aid to fund at least 80% of their costs (UNDP 1998). ;; In 1994, the GoL established the Central Leading Committee for Rural Development to implement rural development work emphasizing Focal Sites. ;; Many sites were designated and began to be developed by the mid-1990s. ;; In 1998, the GoL announced plans to create 87 √ƒ¬Ę??national level√ƒ¬Ę?? Focal Sites by 2002, bringing together 1,200 village and 450,000 people (12% of the rural population in Laos at the time) into these areas, of which half were expected to come from displaced communities (GoL 1998; Evrard and Goudineau 2004). ;; In 1998, each Focal Site was expected to have an average of 16 villages and 5,200 people (GoL 1998). ;; In addition, provinces and districts have developed their own Focal Sites. ;; Local governments then attempt to steer donors to work or fund projects in designated Focal Sites. ;; This has led many donors, including INGOs, into involvement in Focal Sites, at times without much awareness or understanding. ;; <p>

The UNDP was the original donor most heavily involved in promoting and supporting Focal Sites. ;; Indicative of the support they provided, the UNDP helped the Lao government craft a major appeal to international donors to buy-into and support the concept of Focal Sites as the basis of their rural development assistance (GoL 1998, CLCRD UNDP and ILO 2000). ;; Various UN agencies (UNICEF, UNCDF, UNDCP, and the FAO) all provided support to Focal Sites in the mid-1990s. ;; Both the ADB and the World Bank, and many other funders, have also been heavily involved in support for infrastructure development associated with Focal Sites. ;; Of the US$ 115 million that was expected to be used for the 1998-2002 five year Focal Site and resettlement plan, 83% was expected to be raised through foreign funding (GoL 1998).<p>

Some observers appear unclear about the background of Focal Sites, and have incorrectly claimed that they are a new (post-1997) initiative providing a positive alternative to the poorly implemented resettlement of the past (Maertens 2000). ;; But it is precisely at these GoL Focal Sites where many of the serious negative impacts of internal resettlement have occurred and been documented. ;; In reality, there is very little change in the concept of Focal Sites from when they were first initiated in the early 1990s. ;; ;; The GoL continues to see Focal Sites as an important part of their rural development strategy (KPL 2002). <p>

Village consolidation ;; (tao hom ban) and (chat san ban khong thi): ;; Village consolidation involves combining scattered settlements or small villages into larger villages that are more easily administrated and are permanently settled in one place. ;; This process has been taking place since the 1970s. ;; However, over the last few years the policy has become increasingly central to the GoL√ƒ¬Ę??s plan to concentrate human populations in small areas. ;; Efforts to promote village consolidation have intensified, and have recently become one of the main justifications for internal resettlement in Laos (Baird 2004; 2005). ;; In 2004 the Politburo of the Central Party Committee of Lao PDR issued an order declaring that lowland villages should not have less than 500 people and that upland villages should not have fewer than 200 people (Lao Revolutionary Party Political Central Committee 2004). ;; <p>

At times some GoL officials have tried to distinguish village consolidation from resettlement. ;; ;; Before one INGO began work in remote areas of Pha Oudom district, Bokeo province, the agency informed local authorities that they were not willing to work in recently resettled villages or ones slated for resettlement. ;; ;; They were told that none of the villages in which they planned to work would be resettled for at least 50 years, if at all. ;; However, when preparing to begin implementation of activities in the area, the INGO became aware of plans to √ƒ¬Ę??consolidate√ƒ¬Ę?? a number of smaller villages into large ones. ;; Villagers were generally opposed to these plans, for livelihood and cultural reasons, especially as different ethnic groups and sub-groups with different Animist practices were involved. ;; In subsequent discussions, local officials claimed that √ƒ¬Ę??village consolidation√ƒ¬Ę?? is actually not resettlement at all. ;; When the INGO questioned the situation, they were told that no resettlement was going on, as stated earlier, and that village consolidation is not the same as resettlement.<p>

In reality, village consolidation involves similar dynamics and can often be as traumatic or even more disruptive of livelihoods and cultures than other sorts of resettlement. ;; Some observers see this as merely a change in vocabulary or a √ƒ¬Ę??repackaging√ƒ¬Ę?? of resettlement spurred by the donor reaction against resettlement in 1998. ;; Village consolidation certainly qualifies as internal resettlement using any conventional definition of the term. ;; It still involves the movement of people and communities to new locations, sometimes far from their traditional fields and forests and outside the spirit boundaries of their original villages. It is particularly problematic when people from different ethnic groups are forced or coerced to consolidate into single villages. ;; Conflicts related to different types of livelihoods often follow. ;; For example, ethnic Khmu villagers generally prefer to let their pigs roam free, but once they are consolidated into ethnic Lao villages, they are often forced to tie their pigs up, which conflicts with their livelihood practices. ;; <p>

;;Donor support is often used to entice smaller communities to move into larger villages, even without donor approval. ;; This was observed during fieldwork conducted by the second author in Kaleum district, Xekong province in 2004. ;; Government officials convinced three smaller villages to move into a single new larger village, using the pretext that an INGO working in the area would provide them with additional development support if they made the move. ;; Those moved were then very disappointed when that development support did not materialize after the move was made. ;; The INGO was not fully aware that the development support that they were providing in the district was being presented to villagers in a way designed to convince them to consolidate.<p>

Land and Forest Allocation (beng din beng pa) Land and Forest Allocation is a process designed to classify land uses and improve natural resource management. ;; It was initiated in the 1990s as part of a strategy to conserve forest areas in the uplands and to provide clear title to land to individuals in the lowlands and was developed with technical assistance from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and Vietnamese advisors. ;; While Land and Forest Allocation is often seen as a useful program for lowland communities, when employed in upland areas it has severely restricted the land available for swidden cultivation. ;; Fallow times are drastically reduced to just two or three years, making the proliferation of weeds a serious obstacle to achieving good harvests, leading to the rapid deterioration of soil quality, and also often leading to increased agriculture pest and disease problems (State Planning Committee 2000; ADB 2001; Chamberlain 2001). ;; <p>

While not explicitly associated with internal resettlement, the severe restrictions on the swidden agricultural practices of upland communities, and the resulting impacts on their food security, have been a major √ƒ¬Ę??push√ƒ¬Ę?? factor in inducing them to relocate. ;; Conditions for conducting uplands agriculture are made so difficult that upland farmers often feel obliged to follow government recommendations to resettle into the lowlands or along roads. ;; Importantly, Land and Forest Allocation is critical for achieving the spatial reorganization of people (Evrard and Goudineau 2004; Vandergeest 2003).<p>
;;
Donors, including INGOs, are often asked to support Land and Forest Allocation as part of area development projects. ;; In some cases, the requests are just for the per-diems and expenses that local officials will get when they undertake the allocation work. ;; Given the problems that have been associated with poorly-implemented Land and Forest Allocation, this has the potential to put the donor in the position of funding activities that will be harmful to the livelihoods of the people they are supposedly assisting.<p>
;;
In recent years there have been efforts to review and correct flaws in the Land and Forest Allocation Policy (Jones 2002), but so far few substantial changes in the program√ƒ¬Ę??s approach to swidden agriculture appear to have been implemented at the local level, leaving many critical obstacles largely unaddressed in practice. ;; Some INGOs and other donors are working on newer approaches that may resolve some of the problems seen in the past and end up having a positive impact. ;; However, these approaches take considerable research, analysis, community organizing, and technical expertise. ;; It is not a matter of just handing over per-diems to local governmental counterparts. ;; ;; <p>

THE IMPACTS OF INTERNAL RESETTLEMENT<p>

There is a large and growing volume of research studies and literature that documents the social, cultural, economic, and environmental impacts of the internal resettlement, village consolidation, Focal Site, and land and forest allocation initiatives promoted by the GoL and often directly or indirectly supported by many international donors (Goudineau 1997; ADB 2001; Chamberlain 2001; 2002; Daviau 2001; 2003; Romagny and Daviau 2003; Vandergeest 2003; Ducourtieux 2004; Alton and Rattanavong 2004; Moizo 2004; Evrard and Goudineau 2004; Baird 2002; 2003; 2004; 2005). ;; This documentation has been very useful in helping people in the development community gain a better understanding of the causes and impacts of internal resettlement in Laos but, unfortunately, many important studies have not yet been widely distributed or acknowledged√ƒ¬Ę??or perhaps many have just been ignored, even by people planning and implementing rural development work in Laos. ;; ;; This section summarizes some of the key findings of this research conducted over the last ten years: ;; ;; ;; <p>

UNESCO/UNDP/Goudineau Study
The first major study of internal resettlement in Laos, sponsored by UNESCO, UNDP and ORSTOM, was conducted in 1996 by a team from the Ministry of Education and led by French anthropologist Yves Goudineau. ;; Their report, Basic Needs of Resettled Communities, covered six provinces (Xieng Khouang, Oudomxay and Luang Namtha in the north and Xekong, Saravan, and Attapeu in the south), 22 districts, 67 villages, and 1000 families (Goudineau 1997). ;; They examined the Focal Site concept, which UNDP had been heavily promoting (GoL 1998; GO Bolikhamxay 2000), and village relocation in general. ;; Their disturbing findings include these key points:<p>
;;
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Current Lao development initiatives are unable to meet the goals of stopping slash and burn, resettling people, or improving the livelihoods of rural populations. ;; Instead they are leading to further uncontrolled migration.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Regarding agriculture, the forced transition from upland rice production to paddy rice has caused √ƒ¬Ę??great difficulty√ƒ¬Ę?? for those relocated√ƒ¬Ę??resulting in lower overall rice production and longer periods of food shortage (Goudineau 1997: 33). ;; In the majority of cases alternative crops have not given enough revenue to provide villagers with any significant profits√ƒ¬Ę?? (Goudineau 1997: 32-33).<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Relocation has severe impacts on health. ;; The first three years are particularly severe with epidemics and greatly increased disease rates. ;; People have been weakened due to hunger leading to sickness. ;; Some villages have √ƒ¬Ę??literally been decimated (with up to 30% dying, mostly due to malaria√ƒ¬Ę?? (Goudineau 1997: 28). ;; These changes have long-term impacts, as shown by continued high infant mortality rates. ;; Relocated highlanders have not benefited much from the supposed improved access to health services and √ƒ¬Ę??will only turn to local health facilities as a last resort√ƒ¬Ę?? (Goudineau 1997: 29). ;; <p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;It takes a number of years for communities to recover from the severe impacts of relocation√ƒ¬Ę??and even then there is very little, if any, improvement from their previous lives in the mountains. ;; ;; <p>
;;
Participatory Poverty Assessment (PPA)<p>
The comprehensive Participatory Poverty Assessment (PPA) in 2000, implemented under the State Planning Committee and supported by the ADB, was the first Lao government-issued report to frankly acknowledged the negative impacts on poverty and livelihoods of the resettlement, Focal Site, and land allocation initiatives throughout the country. ;; The report details who in Laos is poor and why they are poor. ;; The most striking finding is perhaps the extent to which many rural Lao people, particularly ethnic minority people, considered themselves newly poor√ƒ¬Ę??that is they understand their acute poverty to be a recent phenomena, not a long-standing condition. ;; Rather than alleviating poverty, the study found that the poor themselves see Land and Forest Allocation and village relocation as directly contributing to their increased poverty (State Planning Committee 2000; ADB 2001; Chamberlain 2001).<p>

√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;With regards to Land and Forest Allocation, √ƒ¬Ę??the result has been the impoverishment of swidden families through decreased rice yields, and increased deterioration and degeneration of wildlife and forest resources by families attempting to compensate for rice shortages√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬¶.in many areas villagers in the assessment blame Land and Forest Allocation for ecological changes and epidemics of pests√ƒ¬Ę?? (Chamberlain 2001: 8). ;; In Phongsaly province a third of the entire ethnic Khmu group, approximately 13,000 people have fled the province due to land allocation.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;In regards to resettlement, the PPA found the same dramatic impacts on health, as did the earlier Goudineau study: √ƒ¬Ę??Another impact on health has been relocation of villages from highlands to lowlands as highlanders have poor resistance to lowland diseases and climatic changes generally. ;; Relocated villages in the PPA included one of 194 households in Long district of Luang Namtha where 80 people died within one year, and another in Sing district, a large consolidation of approximately 500 households, where 300 died in the first two years√ƒ¬Ę?? (Chamberlain 2001: 9). ;; <p>

This report was followed-up with a report entitled, Assessment of Economic Potentials and Comparative Advantages of the Minority Groups of the Lao PDR (Chamberlain 2002), which incorporates and expands on much of the analysis first presented in the PPA.<p>

ACF Long District Study 2001 ;; <p>
Through its water supply and other rural development assistance work in both northwestern and southern Laos, the INGO Action Contre la Faim (ACF) became increasing concerned about the impacts of resettlement on the communities where they were working. ;; In 2001 ACF conducted a study of the impacts of resettlement and the Focal Site initiative in Long district of Luang Namtha province in northwestern Laos√ƒ¬Ę??a district where a large number of villages had been moved or were expected to move. ;; This detailed study of over 100 pages gathered information from 45 villages (Daviau 2001). ;; Among its findings:<p>

√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;District initiatives to restrict swidden agriculture are unsustainable and implemented without alternative income generation or agricultural alternatives being provided. ;; This has caused increased vulnerability and impoverishment among shifting cultivators.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Some villages that had been moved had very high mortality rates, especially for young children and other vulnerable people.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Focal sites were created at the expense of the traditional lands of some ethnic groups, creating conflict. ;; Environmental pressures around focal sites increased tremendously due to population pressure and land shortages. ;; The initiative has benefited some individuals at the expense of the overall community.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Due to the √ƒ¬Ę??saturation√ƒ¬Ę?? of the lowlands, together with donor concern over supporting additional resettlement, it appeared that additional large-scale resettlement in Long district was no longer likely.<p>

;;
SIDA Poverty Alleviation in the Uplands Study 2002 ;; <p>
Following publication of the PPA, some donors further examined issues of resettlement and indigenous communities. ;; This study (Chamberlain and Phomsombath 2002) by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), focused on development options for the uplands. ;; Points related to resettlement include: <p>

√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;√ƒ¬Ę??It is safe to conclude that involuntary resettlement has not been successful and that it has been the cause of much hardship and poverty√ƒ¬Ę?? (Chamberlain and Phomsombath 2002: 28).<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;√ƒ¬Ę??At the present time there is no evidence that population density in the uplands poses a threat to swidden systems, nor is there evidence of growth rates that would affect this situation in the long term√ƒ¬Ę?? (Chamberlain and Phomsombath 2002: 29).<p>

ACF Long District 2003<p>
In 2002 ACF learned that, contrary to their earlier impression that resettlement was winding down, it was in fact accelerating√ƒ¬Ę??due mainly to an intensification of opium eradication efforts. ;; Many villages in Long district, Luang Namtha province where ACF had planned work, were now slated to be moved. ;; ACF conducted a new survey in response (Daviau 2003), and then prepared a report summarizing all the resettlement-oriented studies they have conducted in Long district, Luang Namtha province in recent years (Romagny and Daviau 2003). ;; Among the findings: <p>

√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Severe impacts on health and mortality have occurred following poorly implemented resettlement. ;; ;; ACF, which also works in emergency relief in many countries, noted that the levels of human loss and suffering were of a magnitude usually only seen when assisting internally displaced people in conflict or war zones. <p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;The displacement of people due to resettlement is severing many from their traditional self-sufficient livelihoods to becoming day laborers--at wages of less than one US $1 (8000 kip) per day. ;; <p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;By 2005 district authorities planned to move 50% of the entire district population, and it was expected that 6000 villagers would be moved without any assistance or support. ;; ACF warned that, based on past experience, the implementation of this plan would lead to a √ƒ¬Ę??human and sanitary tragedy for these populations√ƒ¬Ę?? (Romagny and Daviau 2003: 8-9).<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;The involvement of international organizations, particularly Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), funded by UNODC, in actively supporting physical opium eradication was leading to a destruction of traditional economies without sufficient alternatives being in place (Daviau 2003:26). ;; <p>

CCL Economic Impacts of Resettlement in Phongsaly Province
The French-based INGO Committee for Cooperation with Laos (CCL) has been implementing rural development work in Phongsaly province in northern Laos for more than 10 years. ;; In 2003 a survey of 40 villages in the area where CCL has been working was conducted (Ducourtieux 2004) examining three programs local authorities had been implementing: resettlement of forest mountain zone villages to roadsides, mandatory cash cropping , and land allocation. ;; The results indicate conclusions completely contrary to the key rationales for these programs: ;; <p>

√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Rather than helping to improve livelihoods, cash cropping is leading to indebtedness and increased poverty.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Due to land allocation, about half of the forestland of each village is √ƒ¬Ę??protected.√ƒ¬Ę?? ;; This has led to increased use of remaining land, falling yields, and higher production costs. ;; Rice shortages are √ƒ¬Ę??becoming the norm√ƒ¬Ę?? (Ducourtieux 2004: 19). ;; If rice was being replaced by other alternatives this might be acceptable. ;; However, the study also found:<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Income from livestock is decreasing as families sell animals to buy rice, losing their savings. ;; The average income in resettled roadside villages is half of that in forest villages. ;; Poverty is increasing massively and rapidly and √ƒ¬Ę??the aim set√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬¶to cut poverty in half by 2005 will not be reached in Phongsaly; it is more likely to have been doubled√ƒ¬Ę?? (Ducourtieux 2004: 24). ;; <p>

This last point is particularly important. ;; The main rationale for relocation is that people will gain access to markets and services, improving the quality of their lives. ;; But in reality those moved had their incomes cut in half. ;; Without access to the natural resource base on which they have always depended, people are impoverished. ;; A few gain, but most lose, increasing disparities. ;; <p>

UNDP/ECHO 2003-4 Livelihoods Study: Xekong and Luang Namtha ;; <p>
Increasing attention to the resettlement issue in Laos following the PPA and INGO reports led the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to fund a new study through UNDP and the GoL√ƒ¬Ę??s National Economic Research Institute (NERI). ;; This took place in 2003-2004 in Xekong and Luang Namtha provinces. ;; In April 2004 the report, Service Delivery and Resettlement: Options for Development Planning (Alton and Rattanavong 2004) was released. ;; Some key findings: <p>

√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Resettled villages studied in both provinces were significantly poorer and sicker than the national average, particularly immediately after being resettled. ;; Despite access to health services, mortality rates remain elevated even after the first year of resettlement.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Only one of the 16 villages surveyed was self-sufficient in rice. ;; Most resettled villages face food insecurity due to shortages of farming land. ;; ;; Furthermore, the lack of paddy land has increased reliance on shifting cultivation, contributing to increased environment pressure.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Relocated people incur significant financial expenses when resettled, and most must build their own new homes. ;; Many are also forced to try to purchase paddy land if it is available.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Poorly implemented resettlement has caused conflicts between villages and ethnic groups.<p>

Other Research<p>
A number of other studies and published papers have also recently been produced on internal resettlement and related aspects of development policy in the uplands of the Lao PDR. ;; These include a critical examination of how space is being fundamentally reorganized through land and forest allocation and internal resettlement (Vandergeest 2003), a study about the nutritional implications of internal resettlement and other changes in livelihoods (Krahn 2003), a critical examination of land and forest allocation in Laos (Evrard 2004), a review of how some communities are resisting efforts to resettle them and limit swidden agriculture in areas historically farmed by local people (Moizo 2004), and an assessment of how the resettlement process might actually be causing unplanned and unexpected migrations, leading to the complication of the implementation of rural development policy and the political management of interethnic relations (Evrard and Goudineau 2004) . ;; Cohen (2000) also found that resettlement does not reduce opium addiction, and Lyttleton (2004) has recently shown that it sometimes leads to new forms of addiction, especially with methamphetamines. ;; <p>

A study on refugee resettlement in Laos (Ballard 2003) makes some points of relevance about the internal resettlement debate. ;; Despite an enormous per-capita investment by donors, significant international attention, and ongoing monitoring by the UN refugee agency, INGO, and US embassy staff, the resettlement of 1000 Hmong refugees back to Laos from refugee camps in Thailand suffered from serious problems, mainly due to land issues and conflicts. ;; Benefits were very inequitably distributed, with many of the poorest and least influential families completely excluded. ;; Conflicts also emerged with existing villages in the area, and significant corruption occurred, which saw local officials capture many of the benefits intended for the returnees. ;; <p>

None of these studies have found resettlement to be of benefit to the vast majority of indigenous ethnic communities in Laos. ;; In addition, ACF is now in the process of releasing a new comprehensive field survey of resettlement issues in eight provinces of Laos. ;; This study is also expected to be critical of much of the internal resettlement that has occurred to date. ;; <p>

Summary on Impacts of Internal Resettlement
Taken together, these findings raise serious questions over many of the central assumptions behind current rural development initiatives and policies for the uplands of the Lao PDR. ;; Whether or not these policies have been well intentioned, it is now very clear that their results are mostly disastrous for many people and communities. ;; While usually undertaken in the name of √ƒ¬Ę??poverty alleviation√ƒ¬Ę??, these initiatives have largely contributed to long-term poverty, as well as environmental degradation, cultural alienation, and increasing social conflicts. ;; The resettlement initiative is attempting to control and reorganize the whole spatial orientation of upland people, from changing their agricultural practices, to altering their access and forest-use practices, to reorganizing the spatial layout of villages along roads and even their houses, to being more √ƒ¬Ę??permanent√ƒ¬Ę?? and sturdy houses like the lowland Lao have. ;; This spatial reorganization is being done to facilitate cultural integration into the dominant culture. ;; Planned internal resettlement has also sparked new spontaneous and often unpredictable migrations of people, led to increased drug addiction, and a host of other problems.<p>

While there are certainly cases of individuals and families that have benefited from internal resettlement and rapid spatial reorganization, and where communities themselves have desired to be resettled, widespread livelihood improvements for the majority of impoverished indigenous ethnic people who have undergone resettlement have yet to be realized. ;; In reality, many of them have endured tremendous suffering.<p>

THE INVOLVEMENT AND RESPONSE OF INTERNATIONAL DONORS<p>

International donors have been involved in many aspects of internal resettlement in Laos. ;; This has included substantial support and encouragement for the adoption of GoL policies that have directly or indirectly promoted internal resettlement in the first place--particularly those related to stopping shifting cultivation and eradicating opium cultivation. ;; Many more donors√ƒ¬Ę??IOs and bilateral agencies as well as INGOs--have been involved in facilitating and assisting village relocation at the local level. ;; However, the reaction and response of international donors to the extensive and compelling evidence of the severe impacts on indigenous communities of the initiatives they have been supporting has been very mixed. ;; <p>

In 1998, following the release of the Goudineau (1997) report, and some international media attention focused on the human rights implications of internal resettlement in Laos (Agence France Press 1998), there was a period of moderate donor concern over the issue. ;; In May 1998 large donors met and several indicated an unwillingness or reluctance to fund further internal resettlement in Laos (UNDP 1998). ;; <p>

Differing Donor Responses<p>
Based on interviews conducted in 2003-2005, the response of aid agencies since 1998 to the mounting evidence over the impact of internal resettlement--and the issue of how aid groups should approach involvement in this--appears to fall into four general approaches which we term: Ignorance, Disinterest, and Denial, Active Support, Conditional Involvement, and Active Resistance. <p>

Ignorance, Disinterest and Denial: ;; At the time of our interviews a surprisingly large number of aid agency representatives and other senior staff were either unaware or, apparently, uninterested in these issues. ;; The degree of ignorance was particularly noticeable among certain INGO and IO expatriate representatives as well as some of their local staff. ;; Several of these same agencies are working in rural development in upland areas in the Lao PDR. ;; While it may seem inconceivable that these people have been responsible for implementing these projects without understanding or confronting these fundamental issues of Lao rural development policy, this does seem to be the case. ;; <p>

What became especially apparent during our study is that many agencies in this category have been supporting internal resettlement to some degree without clearly knowing they are doing so. ;; Not knowing what questions to ask, they have been led to work in Focal Sites or in support of village consolidation without understanding what those terms even mean. ;; Sometimes they confuse forced or coerced resettlement with √ƒ¬Ę??voluntary√ƒ¬Ę?? resettlement, believing that they are supporting the latter when they are actually supporting the former. ;; In one sobering case, the representative of an INGO with one of the longest-running involvements in the country had, in 2003, no idea what a Focal Site was. ;; He was then surprised to learn that the new district development program he had just committed his agency to work in was to concentrate almost entirely on Focal Site development.<p>

Other agency representatives stated that internal resettlement is a √ƒ¬Ę??political issue√ƒ¬Ę?? that they √ƒ¬Ę??do not engage in.√ƒ¬Ę?? ;; This appeared to mean that they viewed any questioning of government policy as √ƒ¬Ę??political√ƒ¬Ę?? while supporting whatever the GoL policy is at the time is √ƒ¬Ę??not political.√ƒ¬Ę??<p>

In a couple of cases, agencies initially declined even to be interviewed, claiming that they √ƒ¬Ę??are not involved in resettlement.√ƒ¬Ę?? ;; When an interview with one of those groups was finally arranged, it turned out that the agency had a long track record of work in upland communities in areas where resettlement is common. ;; Despite being one of the largest INGOs in the world and with over 10 years of experience in Laos, the country director and senior program officer √ƒ¬Ę??were not sure√ƒ¬Ę?? if they were currently working in recently relocated communities. ;; Neither of them indicated any real awareness of the debate over internal resettlement in Laos nor were they familiar with any of the main studies on the issue. ;; ;; ;; <p>

Active Support: ;; Some aid workers and agencies in Laos are uncritically supporting the GoL√ƒ¬Ę??s resettlement initiatives, working in Focal Sites and other resettlement areas, and actively assisting in opium eradication. ;; In a few cases the agencies indicate a belief that the Focal Site concept remains completely valid and worthy of support by donors and that the associated problems with resettlement have mainly been due to a lack of financial support. ;; They indicate a belief that the initial suffering people often face in the early years after being resettled is likely to be followed by better conditions in the long-term. ;; The Luxembourg government√ƒ¬Ę??s development agency, Lux Development, is an agency seen by many in the development community in Laos as being particularly enthusiastic and supportive of the Focal Site concept. ;; They have been heavily involved in support to Focal Sites in both Bolikhamxay and Oudomxay (GoL 1998; Latsaphao 2004b; pers. comm., Lux Development staff 2004-2005). ;; The ADB has also recently built roads specially designed to link Focal Sites, has supported anti-shifting cultivation activities directly associated with internal resettlement, and has also recently supported the construction of a number of schools in Focal Site resettlement areas in Attapeu province (see below).<p>

;;More often, aid agencies believe they are taking a pragmatic approach by going along with support for resettlement work. ;; They indicate a belief that resettlement is inevitable and that √ƒ¬Ę??if you don√ƒ¬Ę??t support it you can√ƒ¬Ę??t work in Laos√ƒ¬Ę?? (pers. comm., director of the UN√ƒ¬Ę??s World Food Programme in Laos 2005). ;; They see the role of outside agencies as to try to make the initiative work as well as possible, whether or not the concept is flawed and the overall result detrimental to impacted communities. ;; While the UNDP itself has been somewhat more cautious about actively supporting resettlement since the Goudineau report, many other UN agencies continue to work in Focal Sites and appear to be uncritically supporting the GoL√ƒ¬Ę??s rural development policy. ;; UNICEF has worked extensively in Focal Sites, as has the FAO. ;; The UNODC√ƒ¬Ę??s US funded anti-opium crusade remains a major impetus for resettlement in some northern provinces. ;; UXO Lao has been giving priority to unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance in Focal Sites. ;; Some INGOs, such as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in southern Laos, have worked extensively in support of recently resettled villages without any apparent advocacy or dialogue with their local counterparts that would indicate they object to the policy or would like to see alternatives.<p>

Some agencies claim a √ƒ¬Ę??humanitarian√ƒ¬Ę?? mandate, stating that they have an obligation to support suffering people regardless of how they have managed to fall into their desperate circumstances. ;; They argue that it is not the fault of local people that they have been resettled, and that they should be supported in order to reduce the amount of severe human suffering facing these communities. ;; The Red Cross, AFSC/ Quaker Service Laos and others have at times taken this position in justifying the provision of assistance to recently resettled communities. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) felt obliged to provide some small-scale agricultural support for government resettled ethnic Atel hunter and gatherer peoples moved into a village where they were already working in Bulapha district, Khammouane province. ;; Those resettled were already much more disadvantaged than others in the village, and WWF did not want to increase the gap by only supporting those not resettled. ;; On a different scale, the World Food Programme takes a similar approach in providing emergency food aid. ;; In many cases this assistance is provided uncritically and without any attempts to work with local counterparts to ensure that critical analysis is done, or to prevent such emergencies from occurring in the future. ;; ;; ;; <p>

Conditional Involvement: ;; Some agencies acknowledge that internal resettlement in Laos is a severe problem but still provide some assistance to the process under certain conditions: ;; <p>

√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;First, quite a number of agencies claim they will support resettled communities if the resettlement has been √ƒ¬Ę??voluntary√ƒ¬Ę??. ;; This critical issue is further addressed in a separate section below.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Some agencies also take a √ƒ¬Ę??humanitarian√ƒ¬Ę?? approach, as described in the above section, but on a much more conditional basis. ;; ACF is critical of internal resettlement, but has provided some short-term relief to recently resettled communities in order to prevent immediate large-scale hunger and illness. ;; They limit this to short-term emergency relief and will not provide longer-term development support to resettled villages, in order to avoid facilitating what they view as a fundamentally flawed initiative. ;; When providing this short-term support, they take the opportunity to enter into discussions with their local counterparts in order to ensure that lessons are learned. At the same time they work with existing upland communities and local governments in order to provide alternatives to further internal resettlement.<p>

Active Resistance: ;; A relatively small number of aid agencies are refusing to have any involvement in facilitating internal resettlement and are actively promoting alternatives. ;; This approach is based on a number of points, not all mentioned by all of these groups:

<p>√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Supporting recently resettled communities will legitimize an illegitimate resettlement program, fraught with human rights issues. ;; Donor support to the process masks the serious problems associated with resettlement and thus prolongs initiatives that cannot stand up without donor support due to their fundamental flaws and weak foundations. ;; <p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Supporting recently resettled communities in effect subsidizes the GoL in implementing an ill-conceived policy. ;; Not having to pay the costs relieves the GoL of taking responsibility for the problems inherent in the policy and makes it easier for them to proceed with further resettlement.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Due to a lack of land availability, many Focal Sites will never be viable in supporting the numbers of people authorities want to move into them. ;; ;; They are almost never able to achieve their goals of improving human welfare, but are instead more often places where resettlement-induced disease and mortality rates are artificially high, and where food shortages and chronic poverty will be ongoing, despite outside assistance. ;; Therefore, it is a waste of limited resources to provide support to these areas.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;The Participatory Poverty Analysis did not endorse or recommend that aid agencies facilitate relocation. ;; It clearly states that it is time for donors to listen to the poor and concentrate their efforts in assisting upland communities through building on what they already know: swidden fields, livestock, and the forest (State Planning Committee, 2000: 15). ;; ;; <p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;Donors should be using their limited funds to support communities to overcome natural disasters and with sustainable development rather than in solving policy-induced health and welfare problems that could have been avoided if better strategies for alleviating poverty were adopted.<p>
√ƒ¬Ę?√‚¬Ę ;;It is very difficult for donors to determine the true reasons why people resettle, and if the resettlement is voluntary, coerced, enticed, negotiated, or forced (see below). ;;

In seeking alternatives to resettlement, some agencies--including ACF, Concern Worldwide, Christian Reform World Relief Committee (CRWRC), VECO Lao, CCL, and others--have been implementing innovative programs to assist people living in remote upland areas. ;; They are supporting the government and local people in ways that help provide positive options to resettlement. ;; <p>

One past GoL argument in favor of resettlement has been that aid agencies will not work in remote areas without vehicle access. ;; A number of agencies are now explicitly deciding to work in remote areas off of roads and to make much stronger efforts to hire indigenous local staff in order to better support remote ethnic communities who prefer to remain where they are. ;; This involves pro-active negotiations with local authorities designed to determine what development support is needed in order to help villages avoid resettlement. ;; In this way, some agencies have helped prevent resettlement. ;; Rather than accepting it as inevitable, they are demonstrating that there are ways in which donors can engage in the resettlement issue and promote alternatives while continuing to work cooperatively with the GoL and local people.<p>
;;
Some INGOs are also working with resettled communities in order to help provide them with options for either returning to their former lands, or in order to provide other settlement reorganization options for local people. ;; For example, the Belgian INGO VECO Lao is working in one ethnic Lahu community in Meung district, Bokeo province, and is actively promoting an option that would allow for part of the population in a resettlement area to move to another area in order to decrease land pressures for the remaining population.<p>

Among larger donors the Swedish bilateral agency SIDA has since 2002 taken a strong stand against further support for internal resettlement. ;; It has commissioned studies on the issue and is actively supporting alternative strategies for development work in the uplands. ;; This has included support for the NAFRI uplands conference and in trying to use its considerable influence in awareness raising among other donors and its GoL partners. ;; <p>

DISCUSSION: DIFFERENT DONOR APPROACHES TO ADDRESSING INTERNAL RESETTLEMENT ISSUES IN THE LAO PDR
 
There is certainly some overlap in the above approaches or positions on internal resettlement, even when it comes to individual organizations, and one of the striking points about our research is the lack of consistency among international aid organizations, and even within the agencies themselves, on this issue.  Most have not developed any formal organizational or country-specific policies or strategies for addressing internal resettlement, although there are some notable exceptions. 
 
Based on the substantial volume of evidence and literature on the subject that now exists, there appears to be very little justification for aid agencies involved in rural development........


Copyright 1991 The Akha Heritage Foundation