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Resettlement as climate change adaptation: what can be learned from state-led relocation in rural Africa and Asia?

Arnall, Alex
Climate and development 2019 v.11 no.3 pp. 253-263
climate change, climatic factors, developing countries, politics, uncertainty, Asia, Mozambique
There is growing interest in helping people in developing countries cope with climate change by reframing population relocation as an adaptation strategy. However, there is also ongoing uncertainty surrounding what the advantages and disadvantages of resettling poor and vulnerable communities might be. This article helps address this knowledge gap by considering what might be learned from recent and ongoing state-led relocation programmes in rural Africa and Asia. It draws on a review of planned displacement and resettlement in eight countries, and six months’ experience researching a relocation programme in central Mozambique, to make three arguments: first, there is a need to uncover long-standing governmental perceptions of rural populations and the ways in which these affect state-led responses to climate shocks and stresses; second, it is necessary to develop a more sophisticated understanding of human choice, volition and self-determination during resettlement as adaptation; and third, greater attention should be paid to how development narratives are generated, transmitted and internalized during climate-induced relocations. Taking into account socioeconomic, political and historical realities in these ways will help to avoid situations in which present-day interventions to assist populations experiencing or threatened by climate displacement simply repeat or reinforce past injustices.