Abstract Over the past four decades, as urbanization has increased in the Global South, pressures have mounted apace to convert slums to higher value use. In spite of policy shifts towards including residents’ viewpoints, involuntary resettlement remains inherently conflictive on at least two levels: between residents and outside actors and among residents themselves. In this paper we present a social mediation approach that addresses these two levels of conflict, illustrating its application in a slum relocation program in Ennakhil, Morocco. Social mediation occupies a middle ground between an authoritarian, urban planning approach to relocation and resettlement programs that have community empowerment as an explicit objective. We argue that a clear emphasis on mediating conflict should be more widely incorporated in slum relocation and other development programs. While the social mediation approach has clear advantages over authoritarian approaches, it is also better suited than the empowerment approach for projects that, like involuntary resettlement, inherently generate conflict and limit the opportunities for disadvantaged groups to control decisions.