Involuntary Resettlement: A Cross-Country Study on Urban Inequality and Poverty

Involuntary displacement in urban areas takes place when people are forced to leave and do not have the option to stay. It can be caused by development projects, conflict, or natural disasters. It is a traumatic process because it can involve loss of housing, income, livelihoods, assets, and access to natural resources. This research project will examine the interplay between involuntary displacement, violence, inequality, and poverty on re-settled populations living in urban communities.

The project will seek to identify and, where possible, quantify the links between the violence of forced displacement and the level of poverty and inequality. Researchers 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.

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. The lack of context-based household survey data has hindered the process of:
- counting the numbers of those affected;
- planning strategies to help them; and,
- creating evidence-based interventions.

South Asia has little in the way of studies on the violence, urbanization, and inequality experienced by displaced people in urban contexts. The state, private sector, and international aid agencies have been unable to cope with the massive influx of displaced people into cities. It is therefore essential to develop evidence-based strategies to help those trying to rebuild their lives.

This study will target returned, resettled, and relocated people following development-induced or conflict-induced displacement. It will look at their urban host communities which have been mostly spared from displacement. Researchers will conduct an extensive literature review. They will also conduct a quantitative and qualitative survey to document the impact of violence on settlers in the fragile post-war reality of Sri Lanka and the relatively stable reality of Cochin, India.

This project is part of the Safe and Inclusive Cities (SAIC) research initiative designed to build an evidence base on the connections between urban violence, poverty, and inequalities. Jointly funded by IDRC and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, the SAIC program also seeks to identify the most effective strategies for addressing these challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Friday, December 21, 2012

End Date

Monday, May 30, 2016


36 months

IDRC Officer

Navsharan Singh

Total funding

CA$ 547,600


India, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom


Governance and Justice, Safe and Inclusive Cities

Project Leader

Rajith W. D. Lakshman


International Centre for Ethnic Studies

Institution Country

Sri Lanka

Institution Website

Project Leader

Prof. Irudaya Rajan


Centre for Development Studies

Institution Country


Institution Website