Involuntary resettlement: A cross-country study on urban inequality and poverty

Research focus

Involuntary urban displacement is often violent, regardless of its causes. Displacement can be caused by various things including conflict, natural disasters, and infrastructure development. This project’s research will assess the relationship between violence and displacement in selected urban communities in Sri Lanka and India.

The challenge 

There is limited information on how displaced people cope with the risks associated with accommodation, eviction, nutrition, the basic needs of women and children, legal status, and protection at urban locations. This gap in comprehensive data has led to a lack of effective policy and planning strategies in development interventions for the displaced.

South Asia in particular has insufficient studies on violence, urbanization, and inequality experienced by such people in urban contexts. State, private sector, and international aid agencies, including humanitarian agencies, are unable to cope with the massive influx of displaced people in cities. Evidence-based strategies for those who are trying to rebuild their lives are therefore an urgent necessity.

The research

The research seeks to identify and, where possible, quantify the relationship between violence associated with the displacement of urban communities and the level of poverty and inequality. The project will investigate these linkages in two cities in Sri Lanka (Colombo and Jaffna) and one city in India (Cochin) where urban displacement and resettlement are significant issues. The study will target returned, resettled, and relocated people following infrastructure development or conflict-induced displacement, as well as their urban host communities.

Expected outcomes

The project is likely to generate a rich database with cross-country data on involuntary displacement, violence, poverty, and inequality. In addition, the following project outputs are expected:

  • Working papers published and presented at international conferences
  • Policy brief developed and shared with policymakers, civil society, government officials, and donors
  • An edited volume exploring the relationship between displacement, violence, poverty, and inequality in the urban communities
  • Articles in English, Sinhala, Tamil, and Malayalam.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Monday, April 1, 2013

End Date

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


36 months

IDRC Officer

Navsharan Singh

Total funding

CA$ 547,600


India, Sri Lanka, South Asia

Project Leader

Prof. Irudaya Rajan


Centre for Development Studies

Institution Country


Institution Website

Project Leader

Rajith W. D. Lakshman


International Centre for Ethnic Studies

Institution Country

Sri Lanka

Institution Website