6a Balancing Rights and Risks in
Forced Migration in India and Malaysia
Summary The World Bank sociologist Michael Cernea’s Risks
and Reconstruction model shows how displacement goes hand in hand
with physical, social and economic exclusion which culminates in
a broad range of impoverishment risks. This model has been highly
influential in research and policy work on forced displacement;
however, it is not without limitations. For example, Cernea’s
model treats affected communities in a relatively undifferentiated
way, and fails to capture the more symbolic and intangible issues
around displacement such as changes in socio-cultural identity,
geographical space, worldviews etc. Also, by focusing on risks,
it ignores the need to focus on the rights of displaced people.
This research will make the shift from risks to rights in forced
displacement research and programmes both conceptually and through
research among displaced people, drawing on research in India’s
Narmada Valley and amongst communities displaced by conservation
initiatives in Malaysia. It will make comparisons across both countries
and situations (e.g. forced displacement due to development or conflict)
to understand the optimal institutional mechanisms required to safeguard
the rights of displaced people, in particular the most vulnerable
Key Research Questions
What are the livelihood impacts of forced
displacement, and how are these differentiated by gender, caste/and
How do oustees and refugees mobilise around
their rights in different contexts of forced migration?
How can policies and programmes seek to
incorporate lessons emanating from oustees’ and refugees’
struggles around rights?
What are the constraints and challenges
around operationalising rights-based-approaches in forced migration?