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Turkey's development plans violate human rights

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), the human rights body monitoring the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), has stated in a report of 20 May 2011 that Turkey violates several human rights enshrined in the ICESCR with the constructions of dams and hydroelectric power plants. The Committee made particular reference to dam constructions in Ilisu, Munzur and Coruh.
The Committee determined violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food, water and housing (article 11 ICESCR), the right to health (article 12 ICESCR) and the right to take part in cultural life (article 15 ICESCR). In addition, the Committee was of the view that the prohibition of discrimination (article 2(2) ICESCR) was breached because vulnerable groups like nomads, Alevi, Kurds and the tural poor carry a disproportionate burden of dam-related impacts. Also, the failure of the Turkish government to pursue a human rights oriented approach to forced evictions constitutes a violation of article 4 ICESCR, which lays down the conditions for lawful intereference with the rights defined in the Convenant.
The Committee proposed the following to Turkey:

We recommend that the State party reconsider its dam policy as a matter of principle. In doing so it should give special attention to considering the cumulative nation-wide impacts of its dam policy and to ensure a participatory approach providing for meaningful consultation of civil society and the free prior and informed consent of affected communities as well as that appropriate measures are taken to ensure that no form of discrimination is involved.

It is widely known that developement projects like dam constructions often interfere with and violate human rights. One of the most tragic examples is the Three Gorges Dam in China (Yichang), which caused the relocation of more than a million people. While development projects serve the public interest and are therefore considered to be justified by national governments, it is often the manner in which these projects are carried out which leads to breaches of human rights.  In 2007, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing presented to the Human Rights Council a set of “Basic principles and guidelines on development-based evictions and displacement“. These guidelines aim to assist states in developing policies and legislations to prevent forced evictions at the domestic level. Paragraph 37, one of the core parts of the guidelines, lists a number of elements that must be taken into account prior to evictions: 

Urban or rural planning and development processes should involve all those likely to be affected and should include the following elements: (a) appropriate notice to all potentially affected persons that eviction is being considered and that there will be public hearings on the proposed plans and alternatives; (b) effective dissemination by the authorities of relevant information in advance, including land records and proposed comprehensive resettlement plans specifically addressing efforts to protect vulnerable groups; (c) a reasonable time period for public review of, comment on, and/or objection to the proposed plan; (d) opportunities and efforts to facilitate the provision of legal, technical and other advice to affected persons about their rights and options; and (e) holding of public hearing(s) that provide(s) affected persons and their advocates with opportunities to challenge the eviction decision and/or to present alternative proposals and to articulate their demands and development priorities.

Turkey and any other nation carrying out development projects should review their law and regulations according to these UN guidelines.

One Comment

  1. J. Doherty J. Doherty 24 January 2012

    Excellent article,
    The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.
    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.
    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.
    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.

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