Standard 5

Displacement and Resettlement

SES Guidance Note

Additional Resources



UNDP seeks to avoid physical and economic displacement in its projects. In exceptional circumstances and where avoidance is not 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, social cohesion, well-being 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 and restore the livelihoods of all displaced persons, and to improve the standards of living and overall socioeconomic status of 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
  • To ensure that resettlement activities are planned and implemented collaboratively with the meaningful and informed participation of those affected


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, displacement activities significantly related to the project, and displacement activities that have occurred in anticipation of a UNDP project.1

The Standard does not apply to voluntary, legally recorded market transactions in which the seller is fully informed about available choices and has the genuine right to retain the land and refuse to sell​ it.2 However, if the sale may displace people other than the seller, who occupy, use, or claim rights to the land in question, then these requirements shall apply. The Standard also does not apply to restrictions of access to natural resources under community-based natural resource management arrangements (e.g. the establishment of a community conserved area) where the relevant community decides to restrict its own access to these resources based on an appropriate community-decision making process that reflects voluntary, informed consensus.

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



Prohibit forced evictions, allowing evictions in exceptional circumstances only: Prohibit forced evictions in all supported activities. Forced eviction is defined here as the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection. Forced evictions constitute gross violations of a range of internationally recognized human rights.3 Any evictions that may be associated with project activities shall occur only in exceptional circumstances and be carried out lawfully with full justification and meet all of the following criteria: authorized by national law; carried out in full accordance with relevant provisions of international human rights and humanitarian law; (c) undertaken solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare; (d) are reasonable and proportional, and (e) follow due process standards and are regulated so as to ensure full and fair compensation and rehabilitation. The protection provided by the requirements herein applies to all affected persons and groups, irrespective of whether they hold title to home and property under domestic law.

Avoid, minimize and mitigate physical and economic displacement: UNDP projects seek to avoid physical and economic displacement, and minimize and mitigate displacement impacts and inherent risks when displacement cannot be avoided. To this end, projects that may involve displacement4 include the following measures and others identified as necessary:

  • As part of the social and environmental assessment, consider all feasible project alternatives and measures to avoid displacement. Where a comprehensive options assessment, including the "no action" option, indicates that displacement is unavoidable, minimize its potential scale and demonstrate that any project-related land acquisition and/or restrictions on land use are limited to direct project requirements.
  • Where displacement cannot be avoided, utilize experienced professionals in establishing baseline information, designing displacement activities and assessing potential risks and impacts. Identify potentially affected persons, lands, and assets through census, socio-economic surveys and evaluations, and asset inventories, including claims of affected groups not present as part of census (e.g. seasonal resource users). Clarify the tenure rights and relationships of potentially affected persons to affected lands and resources, including recognition of customary rights and collective or communal forms of land tenure.
  • Where potential displacement may be significant undertake an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) to assess potential environmental and social impacts of the proposed land acquisition and/or restrictions on land and/or resource use and potential impacts on host communities. Pay particular attention to the needs of directly-affected persons who are marginalized and disadvantaged. Risks posed by natural and human-made hazards should be considered and minimized in the selection of any potential resettlement sites or alternative livelihood areas. Where potential displacement may be minimal, an ESIA may not be required and negotiated settlements may be reached that provide fair and just compensation for lost assets in accordance with the requirements herein.
  • Public dissemination in accessible form and language of a written justification for the displacement activity and public disclosure of an action plan (e.g. Resettlement Action Plan, Livelihood Action Plan) sufficiently in advance of displacement activities.5
  • Access to effective remedies and to timely and affordable expertise, including legal counsel, to provide an understanding of rights and options.
  • Effective and informed consultations with affected populations and good faith efforts to secure negotiated settlements, even when expropriation options are available. 
  • 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 integrates into the project documentation an action plan that has been developed transparently with the individuals and communities to be displaced, and meets the objectives and requirements of this Standard.

Action plans to address displacement impacts are proportionate to the risks and impacts associated with project activities. The degree of potential impacts is largely determined by the scope of physical and economic displacement and the vulnerability of affected persons.

A Resettlement Action Plan will typically be developed for physical displacement and a Livelihood Action Plan for economic displacement (noting that a combined plan may also be required). Displacement activities may also at times be conceptualized as a community development plan. Where the specific locations and magnitude of potential land acquisition and restrictions of land use are not fully known during preparation of project activities, a Resettlement or and/or Livelihood planning framework is required that specifies how further specific action plans will be developed once project components are defined and assessed. In all cases, action plans addressing project-related displacement impacts are to address the requirements of this Standard.​

Where impacts on the entire displaced population are minor, an abbreviated action plan may be developed that establishes eligibility criteria for affected persons; compensation procedures and standards at full replacement cost designed at a minimum to restore affected persons assets and livelihoods; and arrangement for participation and collaboration of affected persons. Impacts are considered "minor" if affected persons are not physically displaced, are relatively few in number, and if activities involve minor land acquisition (affecting less than 10 percent of productive assets) and do not have significant livelihood impacts.

Action plans for activities involving physical displacement or economic displacement with significant social and economic impacts on affected persons are to provide sufficient resources and opportunities to enable displaced persons to benefit directly from programming activities with the aim to improve affected persons livelihoods and living standards in real terms compared to pre-displacement levels or to levels prevailing prior to the start of implementation, whichever is higher. Such plans will at a minimum address the following relevant elements, taking into account the full social and economic costs to displaced persons:

  • Establish eligibility criteria, cutoff dates, and entitlements for all categories of affected persons;
  • Provide (a) fair and just compensation at full replacement cost (based where relevant on the cost of replacement at resettled sites and locations) prior to displacement for any losses of personal, real or other property or goods, noting that compensation and support may be collective in nature; (b) transitional support (both financial and in-kind) based on reasonable estimates of the time required to restore and improve income-earning capacity, production levels, and standards of living; and (c) development assistance such as land development, credit facilities, direct benefits, training or employment opportunities, and provision of expertise, as appropriate. The combination of compensation, transitional support and development assistance will seek to improve pre-displacement productive capacity and earning potential of displaced persons;
  • Provide to displaced individuals and communities secure access to necessary services, shelter, food, water, energy, and sanitation, as applicable;
  • Consider gender aspects, recognizing women and men as co-beneficiaries and providing single women with their own compensation; and
  • Ensure impoverished individuals and marginalized or disadvantaged persons and groups are provided equal access to programming benefits and resources.

Physical displacement: Where project activities involve physical displacement, the action plan shall address the following additional elements:

  • Specify the resettlement options chosen by displaced persons, respecting preferences to relocate in pre-existing communities wherever possible, and document all transactions;
  • Provide a choice of replacement property with secure tenure6 of higher value and better characteristics wherever possible7 for affected persons or communities with formal land rights or recognizable claims.8 Land-based resettlement strategies are utilized when affected livelihoods are land-based or where land is collectively owned;9
  • Ensure resettlement sites provide adequate housing with improved living conditions, necessary civic infrastructure and services. For housing to be adequate, it must, at a minimum, meet the following criteria: providing security of tenure; availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure; affordability; habitability; accessibility; location; and cultural adequacy;10
  • For affected persons without formal land rights or recognizable claims, compensate for loss of assets other than land (e.g. dwellings, other improvements) at full replacement costs, provide resettlement assistance in lieu of compensation for land sufficient to restore living standards at an adequate alternative site, and provide arrangements to allow them to obtain adequate housing with security of tenure so they can resettle without facing the risk of forced eviction;
  • Stipulate that compensation is not required for encroachers after the established cut-off date, provided that the date has been well publicized.

Economic displacement: Where project activities involve economic displacement with significant social and economic impacts, the action plan shall address the following additional elements:

  • Access to effective remedies and to timely and affordable expertise, including legal counsel, to provide an understanding of rights and options.
  • Ensure compensation covers all commercial losses (including costs of transfer and re-establishing commercial activity, lost net income during transition, lost employee wages) and for other assets such as crops, irrigation infrastructure or other improvements to affected areas;
  • Provide replacement property of improved value where legitimate tenure rights (both formal and informal) are restricted. Provide replacement agricultural sites of superior productive potential wherever possible, including through investments in increasing productivity. If it is clearly demonstrated that replacement land and resources are unavailable, offer cash compensation at full replacement cost and options and support for alternative income earning with evidence of mutual agreement;
  • Compensate economically displaced persons who are without legally recognizable claims to land for lost assets other than land (e.g. crops, irrigation infrastructure, other improvements made to the land), at full replacement cost;
  • Where displaced livelihoods are natural resource based, offer replacement land and access to alternative resources with a combination of productive potential, locational advantage, and other factors with improved livelihood-earning potential and accessibility, wherever feasible. Provide alternative income earning opportunities and support if it is demonstrably not possible to provide replacement land and resources;
  • If the programming activities restrict access to resources in legally designated parks or protected areas or other common property resources, establish a collaborative process with affected persons and communities to negotiate and determine appropriate restrictions and mitigation measures to improve affected livelihoods while maintaining the sustainability of the park or protected area.

Addressing prior displacement: When displacement has occurred in anticipation of a UNDP project, requirements of this Standard 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 ensures that corrective measures are pursued prior to, or if not feasible, then during implementation of the project.

Monitoring and completion analysis: UNDP projects with significant displacement impacts provide for independent monitoring by qualified experts of implementation of any action plans. Directly-affected persons are consulted on implementation of plans and collaborative monitoring with affected persons and communities is considered. Projects with significant displacement impacts prepare periodic monitoring reports and inform affected persons about monitoring results. A long-term monitoring plan is developed to assess impacts on standards of living of displaced persons and whether objectives of action plans have been achieved, taking into account baseline conditions. Project activities involving displacement are not considered complete until adverse impacts are addressed and plans are fully implemented. Utilizing experienced independent experts, undertake a completion analysis of whether livelihoods and living standards of affected persons were improved or at least restored, and where necessary, propose corrective actions.​



​(1) 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.

(2) Due diligence is required to ensure that the seller truly has the right to retain the land and is not compelled to sell it and that the accepted price is in line with the existing replacement cost. This may involve reviewing relevant agreements and meeting relevant parties.

(3) See UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 7: The right to adequate housing (Art. 11(1): Forced evictions (1997). Forced evictions are also prohibited by the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement (2007). See also UN Habitat/OHCHR, Forced Evictions, Fact Sheet No. 25/Rev.1 (2014).

(4) Including activities undertaken by third parties (e.g. contractors) engaged by UNDP-supported projects that may lead to physical or economic displacement.

(5) The UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-Based Evictions and Displacement calls for at least 90 days' notice prior to the date of displacement.

(6) Security of tenure means that resettled individuals or communities are resettled to a site that the can legally occupy, where they are protected from the risk of eviction and where the tenure rights provided to them are socially and culturally appropriate. Activities that involve physical displacement should adhere to the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT).

(7) Replacement property must at a minimum be of equal value of lost assets, with additional investment provided by supported activities to improve its value and characteristics.

(8) It may be appropriate to negotiate in situ land development arrangements whereby displaced persons or communities accept partial loss of land for improvements that increase property value. 

(9) Cash compensation for replacement property and assets is discouraged. Payment of cash compensation for lost land and other assets may be appropriate where livelihoods are not land-based or livelihoods are land-based but the land taken is a small fraction of the affected asset and the residual land is economically viable.

(10) See OHCHR/UN Habitat, The Right to Adequate Housing, Fact Sheet 21/Rev. 1.