Development projects have frequently brought clashes between claims for improvement for powerful groups nationwide and worldwide and the rights of marginal groups in project-affected areas, leading to ruinous forced resettlement of the latter. Economic cost-benefit analysis based on the potential compensation principle endorses sacrifice of weaker groups’ livelihoods and rights for the sake of benefits for groups in which many members are already (much) better off. The chapter examines and links two lines of response: the ethic of responsibilities from Penz, Drydyk and Bose, based on studying dam projects and the ‘human development ethic’ embedded in existing international agreements; and human rights-based approaches elaborated for mining projects. A global language of human rights, including principles of recognition, accountability and participation, proves a vital medium for mobilising and linking local and international civil society groups and getting seats for weaker local groups at project negotiating tables, which can then allow processes of mutual learning and accommodation. Serious attention to these principles and standards, together with other elements of a human development ethic and responsible development, should become routine in economists’ training and practice.

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Keywords development ethics, displacement, development projects, cost-benefit analysis, compensation principle, rights-based approaches social movements
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Gasper, D.R. (2014). The Ethics of Economic Development and Human Displacement. In George DeMartino and Deirdre McCloskey (eds), Oxford Handbook on Professional Economic Ethics, Oxford University Press, (expected in 2014). (pp. 1–20). Retrieved from