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Beyond ‘do-no-harm’: development, social safeguards policies, and human rights


Jayantha Perera

Royal Anthropological Institute, London, GB
About Jayantha
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Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) have in­troduced environmental and social safeguard policies to protect the environment and improve human conditions. The paper at­tempts to demonstrate why MDBs should combine safeguard policies with the human rights to combat poverty and promote shared prosperity. It highlights MDBs’ reluctance to link safe­guards policies with human rights and how such reluctance has emboldened borrowers to ignore or to pay lip service to the human rights of development-affected persons and communi­ties. In this context, MDBs need to update their safeguard poli­cies to accommodate human rights and use approaches such as material incentives, persuasion, and long-term acculturation to encourage and lead borrowers to adhere to safeguard policies and human rights in planning and implementing development projects. In 2013, in India, such persuasion and incentives re­sulted in introducing in 2013 a comprehensive social safeguard framework covering physical displacement and resettlement and adverse project impacts on tribal people. Similarly, the For­est Dwellers Act of 2007 brought distinct benefits and a legal framework for tribal people to gain benefits of development and respect for their human rights. In Sri Lanka, a series of procedural reforms introduced from 2001 to the Land Acqui­sition Act of 1950 has helped to include several international safeguard best practices in the local regulatory framework such as land compensation at replacement cost and assistance to the untitled land users. However, the continuity of urgency clause (Section 38a) of the Act weakens the reforms’ impact.
How to Cite: Perera, J., 2021. Beyond ‘do-no-harm’: development, social safeguards policies, and human rights. Sri Lanka Journal of Social Sciences, 44(1), pp.5–14. DOI:
Published on 30 Jun 2021.
Peer Reviewed


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