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Climate Change, Development Projects and Internal Displacement In Africa

  • Romola Adeola (a1) and Frans Viljoen (a1)

Given the need for legislation to protect internally displaced persons, African Heads of State and Government adopted the Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa in Kampala in October 2009. The convention, which entered into force on 6 December 2012, is an important binding instrument on internal displacement. Article 10 of the convention requires states to prevent displacement caused by development projects, including climate-based development projects. This article examines the content of this obligation within the context of climate-based development projects.

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LLM, LLD (Pretoria). Postdoctoral fellow, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.


LLM (Cantab); MA, LLD (Pretoria). Director and professor of international human rights law, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.

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1 As of August 2018, the last ratification of the Convention was on 24 May 2017. As at 24 May 2017, at total of 40 African Union member states had signed the Convention and 27 had ratified it. See “List of countries which have signed, ratified / acceded to the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa”, available at: <> (last accessed 26 August 2018).

2 Viljoen, F International Human Rights Law in Africa (2nd ed, 2012, Oxford University Press) at 347–49.

3 Framework Convention (1992), art 2.

4 Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention, adopted by the Conference of State Parties to the UN Framework Convention (11 December 1998).

5 The Cancun Agreements: Outcome of the Work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention, adopted at the 16th session of the UN Framework Convention Conference of the Parties, Cancun, Mexico (29 November – 10 December 2010).

6 Abbott, D and Wilson, G The Lived Experience of Climate Change: Knowledge, Science and Public Action (2015, Springer); Olawuyi, DS The Human Rights-Based Approach to Carbon Finance (2016, Cambridge University Press) at 9.

7 See Adeola, RThe right not to be arbitrarily displaced under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement” (2016) 16/1 African Human Rights Law Journal 83.

8 AU Model Law for the Implementation of the AU Convention for the Protection of and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (2018) (AU Model Law).

9 In instances where reference is made to the subject, the nature of states’ obligation under art 10 of the Convention is not clearly articulated. See Nuhu, SADevelopment induced displacement in the African context: What says the African Union Convention?” (2012) 2/1 Journal of Internal Displacement 6 at 15; Juma, LProtection of development-induced internally displaced persons under the African Charter: The case of the Endorois community of northern Kenya” (2013) 46 Comparative and International Law of Southern Africa 211; Abebe, A The Emerging Law on Forced Displacement in Africa: Development and Implementation of the Kampala Convention on Internal Displacement (1st ed, 2016, Routledge) at 157.

10 M Lopes “Miners Vale, Rio Tinto accused of neglecting displaced Mozambicans” (23 May 2013) Reuters.

11 M Mis “Women pay the price for Zambia mining expansion” (15 September 2015) Reuters.

12 P Kingsley “Egypt to build new Suez Canal” (5 August 2014) The Guardian, available at: <> (last assessed 11 August 2018); P Kingsley and M Abdo “Thousands of Egyptians evicted without compensation for Suez project” (3 September 2014) The Guardian, available at: <> (last assessed 11 August 2018); “‘New Suez Canal’ construction displaces over 2,000 people in Egypt” (1 October 2014) Middle East Eye, available at: <> (last assessed 11 August 2018).

13 Human Rights Watch “‘They pushed down the houses’: Forced evictions and insecure land tenure for Luanda's urban poor” (15 May 2007) at 8.

14 Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions “Housing rights for everyone, anywhere” (August 2005) 1/3 Evictions Monitor 1 at 10.

15 Bayrak, MM and Marafa, LMTen years of REDD+: A critical review of the impact of REDD+ on forest-dependent communities” (2016) 8/7 Sustainability 620.

16 Les Amis de La Terre “REDD+ in Madagascar: You can't see the wood for the carbon: Field study in Madagascar” (July 2013); S Pritchard “Evicted by charity” (1 December 2014) New Internationalist, available at: <> (last assessed 11 August 2018); Lund, JF et al. “Promising change, delivering continuity: REDD+ as conservation fad” (2017) 89 World Development 124.

17 “Congo, DR: Inga Dams mean big business for corporations and no benefit for local communities” (30 January 2009) 138 World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, available at: <> (last accessed 11 August 2018).

18 International Rivers Infrastructure for Whom? A Critique of the Infrastructure Strategies of the Group of 20 and the World Bank (2012, International Rivers Publications) at 13.

19 World Bank “Report and recommendation: Kenya: Natural resource management project” (World Bank report no 77959-KE, World Bank Inspection Panel, 29 May 2013) at 24.

20 World Bank “Project appraisal document on a proposed credit in the amount of SDR46.0 million (approximately US$68.5 million) to the government of Kenya for a natural resource management project” (World Bank report no 37982-KE, SD Operations for Eastern Africa, Eastern Africa Country Cluster Two, Africa Region, World Bank, 26 February 2007) at 1.

21 Republic of Kenya “Indigenous peoples planning framework for the western Kenya community driven development and flood mitigation project and the natural resource management project” (2006).

22 Conservatory Orders (26 March 2013) by Justice Fred Ochieng in Eldoret High Court, petition no 6 of 2013 David Kiptum Yator and Others (on Behalf of the Sengwer Community) v Kenya Forest Services and Others.

23 A Langat “On the edge of home: The forcible evictions of the Sengwer in Kenya” (28 April 2014) Think Africa Press, available at: <> (last accessed 11 August 2018).

24 Adrien, SMThe DRC case study: The impact of the Carbon Sinks of Ibi-Batéké Project on the indigenous Pygmies of the Democratic Republic of Congo” in Abhainn, M, Bernard, KM and Grey, S (eds) Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change: Vulnerabilities, Adaptation and Responses to Mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol: A Collection of Case Studies (2007, The International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests) 45.

25 Mushieta, O and Merrill, AIBI Batéké Carbon Sink Plantation: An African forestry pilot case” (2010) 4/4 Carbon and Climate Law Review 351 at 352.

26 Adrien “The DRC case study”, above at note 24 at 60.

27 Ibid.

28 Id at 61–62.

29 Mushieta and Merrill “IBI Batéké Carbon Sink Plantation”, above at note 25 at 355.

30 Adrien “The DRC case study”, above at note 24 at 61.

31 Id at 65.

32 M Gauthier “Mai-Ndombe: Will the REDD+ laboratory benefit indigenous peoples and local communities: Analysis of the cumulative impact and risks of REDD+ initiatives” (2018, Rights and Resources Initiative) at 8.

33 M Grainger and K Geary “The New Forests Company and its Uganda plantations” (2011, Oxfam International) at 3.

34 J Vidal “Ugandan farmer: ‘My land gave me everything. Now I'm one of the poorest”’ (22 September 2011) The Guardian, available at: <> (last assessed 11 August 2018).

35 CDM - Executive Board “Clean development mechanism: Project design document form: For afforestation and reforestation project activities” (CDM-AR-PADD, version 05) at 132.

36 Grainger and Geary “The New Forests Company”, above at note 33 at 4.

37 See Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, 1155 UNTS 331, art 31(1).

38 See Macmillan Dictionary at: <> (last accessed 8 July 2018).

39 See Adeola, R and Viljoen, FThe right not to be arbitrarily displaced in Africa” (2017) 25/4 African Journal of International and Comparative Law in Africa 459 at 473–75.

40 Case Concerning Elettronica Sicula SpA (ELSI) (United States of America v Italy) ICJ (20 November 1950) (1950) ICJ general list no 76, para 128.

41 Udombana, NJThe African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the development of fair trial in Africa” (2006) 6 African Human Rights Law Journal 299 at 300.

42 UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, UN doc E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.1 (1998) (Guiding Principles), para 88.

43 The Zambian Guidelines for Compensation and Resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons, while not specifically mentioning the types of impact assessments that should be conducted in DID situations, require the Department of Resettlement to “carry out an assessment and / or verification on the potential displacements” of development projects. See Zambian Guidelines for Compensation and Resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), 2013 (Zambian Guidelines), para 29(i).

44 F Vanclay “International principles for social impact assessment” (2003) 21/1 Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 5 at 8.

45 Inter-Organisational Committee on Guidelines and Principles for Social Impact Assessment “Guidelines and principles for social impact assessment” (1995) 15/1 Environmental Impact Assessment Review 11.

46 Sairinen, RAssessing social impacts of urban land-use plans: From theory to practice” (2005) 9 Boreal Environment Research 509 at 510.

47 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted by UN General Assembly res 2200A (XXI), UN doc A/6316 (16 December 1966) (ICESCR), art 11(1).

48 Id, art 6; African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, adopted by the Organisation of African Unity, OAU doc CAB/LEG/67/3 rev 5 (27 June 1981) (African Charter), art 15.

49 ICESCR, art 12; African Charter, art 16.

50 Declaration on the Right to Development, adopted by UN General Assembly res 41/128, UN doc A/RES/41/128 (4 December 1986) (Development Declaration), art 1; African Charter, art 22.

51 ICESCR, art 13; Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) 1577 UNTS 3, art 28; African Charter, art 17(1).

52 ICESCR, art 15(a); African Charter, art 17(2); Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by UN General Assembly res 217 A(III) of 10 December 1948, art 27(1).

53 ICESCR, art 9.

54 The Convention, art 4(1).

55 Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) v Nigeria ECW/CCJ/JUD/18/12 (SERAP).

56 Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC) and Another v Nigeria (2001) AHRLR 60 (ACHPR 2001) (Ogoniland), para 52.

57 This due process requirement is recognized under the Ugandan Policy on Internal Displacement as integral to the provision of sustainable solutions in situations of internal displacement. See Ugandan National Policy for Internally Displaced Persons, 2004, para 3.4(2).

58 UN General Assembly Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Mr Frank La Rue, UN doc A/68/362 (4 September 2013), para 19.

59 ATI Model Law (2013, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights) at 11.

60 Id, art 1.

61 Art 18(2) of the AU Model Law (above at note 8) lends further credence to this assertion in requiring that persons likely to be displaced “shall have full access to information on the reasons and procedure for the displacement, and where applicable, also information on compensation and relocation”.

62 This element of consultation reverberates strongly in the Kenyan Prevention, Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons and Affected Communities Act as a pertinent condition in the formulation of durable solutions: Act No 56 (2012), arts 8(3), 9 and 22.

63 Smith, BCParticipation without power: Subterfuge or development?” (1998) 33/3 Community Development Journal 197 at 198.

64 Cornwall, AUnpacking ‘participation’: Models, meanings and practices” (2008) 43/3 Community Development Journal 269 at 270.

65 The Brookings Institution and University of Bern Project on Internal Displacement Moving Beyond Rhetoric: Consultation and Participation with Populations Displaced by Conflict or Natural Disasters (2008, Brookings Institute) at 4.

66 Sinclair, IM The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1984, Manchester University Press) at 128.

67 IASC Framework on Durable Solutions for IDPs (2010) at A-1.

68 Juma “Protection of development-induced internally displaced persons”, above at note 9 at 224.

69 Development Declaration, art 2(3).

70 Above at note 42.

71 ECOWAS Directive on the Harmonization of Guiding Principles and Policies in the Mining Sector (2009), art 16(3). While operationalization of this Guiding Principle is yet to be seen, Ghana gazetted this directive in 2011. See Ghana Investment Promotion Centre “Ghana gazettes ECOWAS directives on mining sector” (2011), available at: <> (last accessed 8 July 2018).

72 See A Niber et al The Right to Decide: Free Prior Informed Consent in Ghana (report by Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining and Center for Public Interest Law, 3 March 2015).

73 Res on the Right to Adequate Housing and Protection from Forced Evictions, adopted at the 52nd ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire (9–22 October 2012) in C Heyns and M Killander Compendium on Key Human Rights Documents of the African Union (2013, Pretoria University Law Press) 442 at 443.

74 The essence of this element derives from the need to mitigate the impact of internal displacement, which resonates as an important theme in the prevention of arbitrary displacement. See Zambian Guidelines, para 10.

75 UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-Based Evictions and Displacement, UN doc A/HRC/4/18, annex I (5 February 2007) (Kothari Principles), para 40; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development “Guidelines for aid agencies on involuntary displacement and resettlement in development projects” (1992) at 6.

76 Adrien “The DRC case study”, above at note 24 at 65.

77 World Bank Project Completion Report Ecuador: Pastaza Biodiversity Conservation Project (GEF MSP grant no TF-051726-EC, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela Country Managing Unit, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Sector Unit, Latin America and the Caribbean Region, World Bank, 5 September 2006).

78 Id at 6; M Ying and Y Watanabe “Indigenous peoples and the GEF” (1 May 2013) GEF-CSO Network.

79 World Bank Project Completion Report, above at note 77 at 22.

80 Id at 7; Global Environment Facility Indigenous Communities and Biodiversity (2008, Global Environment Facility Publications) at 23.

81 World Bank, id at 23.

82 Kothari Principles, para 31.

83 Cernea, MMCompensation and investment in resettlement: Theory, practice, pitfalls, and needed policy reform” in Cernea, MM and Mathur, HM (eds) Can Compensation Prevent Impoverishment? Reforming Resettlement Through Investments and Benefit-Sharing (2008, Oxford University Press) 15 at 78.

84 The element of “last resort” is specifically emphasized in Somaliland's IDP policy. See Somaliland Internal Displacement Policy, 2016, para 4.4.1(iv). See also Res on the Right to Adequate Housing, above at note 73 at 443.

* LLM, LLD (Pretoria). Postdoctoral fellow, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.

** LLM (Cantab); MA, LLD (Pretoria). Director and professor of international human rights law, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.

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