Forced Evictions

Most development projects, at face value, are aimed at improving the lives of people. However, for those living on or near the proposed projects, the reality may be quite different. Families may be moved off their land and out of their homes often with little or no notice to make way for projects benefiting only a few. Forced evictions are a violation under international law.

Forced evictions are involuntary, and regularly do not uphold obligations to fully consult, fairly compensate or adequate resettle communities. Ultimately, development projects - whether a dam, shopping center or sports stadium - should not cause human rights abuses. Every community should be at the center of decision-making involving their homes and land.

And still 15 million people are forcibly evicted each year. WITNESS works to incorporate video advocacy into local and global campaigns for housing and land rights with international and local partners in Brazil, Cambodia, Egypt, India and Mexico.


NEW! In collaboration with Amnesty International, we are excited to announce the launch of the Forced Evictions Advocacy Toolkit, a multimedia resource for activists, social movements and communities fighting evictions. Learn more about the Toolkit on our blog.

Select a language below to download the Toolkit for free, or contact us to request additional languages or a DVD version. 


Arabic>>     English>>     French>>     Italian>>      Khmer>>     Portuguese>>     Romanian>>     Spanish>>

Fighting a Forced Eviction? Maybe this will help!


Screening Guide

Guide to Filming a Forced Eviction



Tip Sheet

Guide to Filming a Forced Eviction



Filming Guide

Filming Guide




Forced Eviction Advocacy Videos







April 9, 2014 - By Jackie Zammuto
Um DVD de Ferramentas especialmente para líderes comunitários, militantes de movimentos sociais e ativistas lutando pelo direito à moradia e resistindo aos despejos forçadas. The post DVD de...
April 8, 2014 - By Madeleine Bair
Video from human rights groups and activists is shifting the attention to forced evictions carried out in the lead up to the World Cup. The post As World Cup Stadiums Go Up, Brazilians’ Homes Are...
April 3, 2014 - By Jackie Zammuto
WITNESS is headed to Medellín, Colombia to participate in screenings, round table debates and video advocacy training sessions this April 5-11. The post Join WITNESS at the World Urban Forum &...

Footage of Neighborhood in Brazil being demolished for the World Cup

Source: ELITES TV | March 4, 2013

WITNESS partnered with Rio People's World Cup and Olympics Committee to document how the World Cup is resulting in the forced evictions of entire communities. Citizens are still fighting to get a fair compensation after their neighborhood was bulldozed without warning.

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Youth to sue the government to save the environment

Source: The Register-Guard | March 4, 2013

In the final keynote at the 31st annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon, several of the TRUST campaign plaintiff spoke about their motivations in suing state and federal government to protect natural resources.


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Article highlighting WITNESS’ Minidoc in partnership with Rio People's World Cup and Olympics Committee [PT]

Source: Publica | February 1, 2013

Hundreds of families are without homes after tractors came to demolish a whole neighborhood in the community Restinga. WITNESS helped residents to tell their stories via video.


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Each year an estimated 15 million people across the globe are forcibly uprooted from their homes, farmlands, fishing areas, forests to make way for dam reservoirs, irrigation projects, mines, plantations, highways, and tourist resorts. Urban slums are bulldozed to make way for luxury condominiums, sporting facilities and shopping centers.

Forced eviction tends to go hand-in-hand with the use or threat of violence. Under represented communities and those living in poverty are affected most dramatically and each project underscores the discrimination rooted in the existing financial, legal and political systems. A forced eviction exacerbates poverty, social unrest, environmental degradation and loss of cultural identity. Its affects remain long after the last home is torn down.

Communities in every corner of the globe have long struggled to keep their land and homes or, if the project is being built, to receive just compensation and rehabilitation. Too often governments proposing a project do not effectively consult communities at risk of displacement and therefore activism frequently occurs after a project receives approval and funding. In the past three decades, communities and activists have campaigned for international guidelines and safeguards on development-induced displacement. Many major development banks and more than 60 private banks lending funds to governments and corporations for large-scale projects have adopted at least minimum safeguards to prevent human rights abuses associated with forced evictions.

Despite these guidelines and safeguards, the UN in 2010 reported that forced evictions are on the rise. Routinely, implemented projects do not follow the financial institution's own safeguard policies and investors and governments often ignore obligations to avoid or at least minimize displacement. Domestic laws protecting the rights of persons forcibly evicted vary greatly from country to country and, in practice, there is often little recourse domestically for communities challenging a forced eviction.

The reality for communities living at or near a project – be it a dam, a sports complex, or a shopping mall – is often quite different. A project being developed on their land, on their homes, is often about the destruction of communities, the disruption of lives, and the impoverishment of people. These development projects result in the forced eviction of an estimated 15 million people each year. Forced evictions are involuntary, and regularly do not uphold obligations to fairly compensate, resettle and rehabilitate people and the physical and social infrastructures that once made them a community. Human rights abuses such as a lack of adequate housing, no access to water, schools or hospitals, can be the results of a forced eviction.

WITNESS and the Habitat International Coalition (HIC) are working together to incorporate video advocacy into local and global campaigns on forced evictions across HIC’s worldwide network in Brazil, Cambodia, Egypt, India and Mexico and will continue into other countries over the course of the 3-year partnership.