Final Seminar - 'State-led urban development, displacement, resettlement, and livelihoods: An integrated study in Thu Thiem, Vietnam

Urban development has displaced millions and caused widespread impoverishment across the world. Most literature investigates this problem using an “inadequate-input” approach, which attributes failures in restoring displaced people’s livelihoods to a lack of input investment (resources, finance, political will, etc.) in the planning and implementation of displacement and resettlement (DR). However, successful DR only accounts for a minority of cases. Evidence shows that even projects with adequate inputs fail to achieve their goals, supporting the argument by some scholars that DR involves complex interactions between internal and external factors, making the DR process non-linear and unpredictable.

Since the 1986 Doi Moi (Reform) in Vietnam, land has been extensively expropriated by the state. Vy Nguyen's research explores such complexity in the impacts of state-led urban development on the livelihoods of displaced people in Vietnam. Through a case study in Ho Chi Minh City of a large-scale urban development that has displaced 14,000 households, she will examine the planning and implementation of land acquisition, compensation and resettlement for those who had to make way for this development and their coping strategies in the post-displacement context. A systems approach and the sustainable livelihoods approach guide the analysis, along with on-site observation, in-depth interviews, and a survey. The results shed light on the complex pathways causing impoverishment among the displaced in a country with a socialist-oriented market economy, where land has increasingly been used as an engine for urbanization and economic growth. These pathways are complicated by a land recovery system that allows the state to benefit land developers by acquiring land from landholders for low compensation; a chaotic land and housing market due to land speculation; and an oversimplifying, reductionist approach to urban displacement and resettlement. Policy lessons are drawn from this complexity for better project outcomes.