Settlement, informal settlement and settler colony

Share This
« Back to Glossary Index

“Settlement” is the social science and planning term referring areas of human habitation, also referred to as "human settlement.” An inhabited area is also a "settlement,” irrespective of its density, the ethnic or religious composition of their population, or legal status. However, legal status may distinguish a human settlement as "formal” or "informal.” An "informal settlement” is a cluster of housing and other structures built without the formal consent of the planning authorities, or settlements that have only temporary permission to occupy the settled land. Thus, an informal settlement exists outside the conditions established in textual law.

The word "colony” has its etymological roots in Latin and Greek. The literal meaning of the word colonia is settlement. The act of "settlement” is an essential characteristic of colonialism, meaning the movement of people to a peripheral region or a foreign territory from a metropolitan state.

“Settler colony” is a term distinguished by its reference to wholly illegal human settlements of an Occupying Power’s population. Both the process and the actual structures forming "settler colony” violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, [Arabic] Article 49, and, under article 147, constitute “grave breaches.” Settler colonies form part of the practice of population transfer, recognized also as a “crime against humanity” (Article 7) and a "war crime” (Article 8) under the Rome Statute (1998). [Arabic]

The term "settler colony” is also used to distinguish between two types of historic European colonies: "settler (or settler invader) colonies” and "colonies of occupation” (or "exploitation colonies”). The primary difference between settlement and exploitation colonies is that settlers took possession of the land and cultivated it, stay permanently in "settler colonies,” without intending to return home. In "settler colonies,” according to Ashcroft, "the invading Europeans (or their descendants) annihilated, displaced and/or marginalized the indigenes to become a majority nonindigenous population” (Ashcroft: p. 193). In "exploitation colonies” or "colonies of occupation,” the European "settlers” consisted of a relatively small but powerful group of white planters concerned mainly with managing and supervising the exploitation of resources, as well as safeguarding the geopolitical interests of the metropolitan state. Those colonies seldom remained after the end of their mission.

The majority of the non-European world was colonized under the fictitious and now discredited Doctrine of Discovery in international law and practice. Under this legal principle, European countries claimed superior rights over Indigenous nations. The international trusteeship system was established by the UN Charter. [Arabic] Affirming the principle of self-determination, the Charter describes the responsibility of States for territories under their administration as "a sacred trust” in which the interests of their inhabitants are paramount. As the process of decolonization continued to advance, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), 14 December 1960) [Arabic]. That Declaration affirmed the right of all people to self-determination and proclaimed that colonialism should be brought to a speedy and unconditional end. 

Related Posts