Forest Peoples Programme Supporting forest peoples’ rights

Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC)

‘Free prior and informed consent’ (FPIC), is the principle that a community has the right to give or withhold its consent to proposed projects that may affect the lands they customarily own, occupy or otherwise use. FPIC, for years advanced by FPP, is now a key principle in international law and jurisprudence related to indigenous peoples.

What does FPIC mean to forest peoples?

FPIC implies informed, non-coercive negotiations between investors, companies or governments and indigenous peoples prior to the development and establishment of oil palm estates, timber plantations or other enterprises on their customary lands. This principle means that those who wish to use the customary lands belonging to indigenous communities must enter into negotiations with them. It is the communities who have the right to decide whether they will agree to the project or not once they have a full and accurate understanding of the implications of the project on them and their customary land. As most commonly interpreted, the right to FPIC is meant to allow for indigenous peoples to reach consensus and make decisions according to their customary systems of decision-making.

What are some of the obstacles to FPIC?

On the practical level of carrying out FPIC, it can be problematic identifying who should verify that the right to FPIC has been respected and how this should be done. Making free, prior and informed consent work: challenges and prospects for indigenous peoples (FPP, June 2007), identifies some experiences with third-party audits for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in Indonesia and suggests that verifiers have been unduly lenient about what constitutes adequate compliance, thereby weakening any leverage that communities may gain from companies’ obligations to respect their rights and priorities in accordance with FSC voluntary standards.

However, the publication also demonstrates that verification of FPIC procedures by government as in the Philippines has also proven problematic.

Another challenge for indigenous peoples in their efforts to exercise their right to FPIC is to ensure that their systems of decision-making are genuinely representative and made in ways that are inclusive of, and accountable to, members of their communities.

By insisting on their right to FPIC, forest peoples have been able to block plantations and dams planned for their lands and have been able to negotiate fairer deals with palm oil developers, loggers and local government land use planners.

Why is FPIC important for companies and government?

The right of FPIC is necessary to ensure a level playing field between communities and the government or companies and, where it results in negotiated agreements, provides companies with greater security and less risky investments. FPIC also implies careful and participatory impact assessments, project design and benefit-sharing agreements. FPIC has been widely accepted in the ‘corporate social responsibility’ policies of private companies working in sectors such as dam building, extractive industries, forestry, plantations, conservation, bio-prospecting and environmental impact assessment.

Relevant resources

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Companies promoting Genetically Modified Trees open up to scrutiny

15 April, 2014

Following an information sharing meeting of The Forests Dialogue hosted by Forests Peoples Programme and FERN in November 2013, five major pulp and paper companies have released information about their plans to develop Genetically Modified Trees (GMT).

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Kenyan Government’s forced evictions threaten cultural survival of the Sengwer

14 February, 2014

"All their [school] Uniforms, our cooking pans, water containers, cups have been burnt. There was no consultation."

The lead article in the last FPP E-Newsletter focused on the superb progress the Ogiek of Chepkitale, Mount Elgon, Kenya, have made in their efforts to secure their forests and livelihoods by writing down their sustainability bylaws and embarking on the process of enforcing them. This process has resulted in their arresting charcoal burners, and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has now begun to restrict some of the charcoal burners’, as well as encroaching agriculturalist activities that were leading to the destruction of the indigenous forest. 

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Kenyan Government torches hundreds of Sengwer homes in the forest glades in Embobut

20 January, 2014

Kenya Forest Service continue burning Sengwer homes in the glades in Embobut forest


The forcible eviction of the Sengwer communities from their ancestral lands began this last week, despite the interim injunction granted in the High Court at Eldoret against any such evictions, and despite the national and international Appeal against such unlawful action. For the latest update see below, and for the background to this see the section below that.
 
Update:
 

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Urgent appeal against the forced eviction of Sengwer communities in Kenya

23 December, 2013

Armed Kenya Forest Service (KFS) guards arrive in Embobut Forest to forcefully evict communities

We are deeply concerned by the forced evictions of the 6,000-7,000 Sengwer indigenous people and other communities in Embobut Forest in the Cherangany Hills (Elgeyo Marakwet County, Kenya).

For many years the Government has been trying to move the indigenous inhabitants of Embobut off their land by burning their homes. They have done this in the name of a fortress conservation approach which seeks to remove local people from their lands. As IUCN and all pre-eminent conservation organisations now acknowledge, such an approach only ever makes the environmental situation worse, and adds a human rights disaster to the environmental crisis. The new President has taken what at first appeared to be a new approach: he came in November and promised them a small amount of money to move, however now that it is clear people are refusing to move, this is being followed up with this threat of imminent eviction.

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Mongabay: Indonesian palm oil company demolishes homes and evicts villagers in week-long raid

16 December, 2013

Indonesian palm oil company demolishes homes and evicts villagers in week-long raid

Source: Mongabay

Nearly 150 homes were reportedly destroyed in the latest incident in a long-standing conflict between indigenous Batin Sembilan residents and former Wilmar unit PT Asiatic Persada.

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IUCN resolutions and recommendations on indigenous peoples - A comparative table

Forest Peoples Programme

17 September, 2013

IUCN Resolutions and Recommendations on Indigenous Peoples

A record of the 58 resolutions and recommendations by the World Conservation Congress of most relevance to indigenous peoples. Despite having affirmed the need to respect the rights of indigenous peoples in conservation strategies for over 30 years, the World Conservation Union has failed to enforce this commitment on the ground.

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The Huffington Post: Nahua Say No to Gas Consortium in Their Territory

5 August, 2013

Source: Huffington Post

Members of the Nahua people living within a reserve for indigenous peoples in 'initial contact' and 'voluntary isolation' in the Peruvian Amazon say they will refuse to allow a gas consortium led by Pluspetrol to operate in their territory.

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Peru’s Culture Ministry blocks expansion of Camisea gas project in the Amazon, warning that isolated peoples could become extinct

31 July, 2013

PRESS INFORMATION: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 31 July 2013

Peru’s Vice-Ministry of Inter-Culturality (VMI) has issued a critical report temporarily blocking the expansion of Peru’s biggest gas project and claiming that two ‘isolated’ indigenous peoples living in the region could be made extinct if it goes ahead.

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“They want to take our bush”: An independent assessment of processes employed by Herakles/SGSOC to obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of communities to be affected by their palm oil development in South West Cameroon

John Nelson and Tom Lomax (Forest Peoples Programme)

19 July, 2013

This report summarises the findings from an independent assessment by Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) of the processes employed by Herakles/SGSOC to obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of communities to be affected by their palm oil development project in Mundemba and Nguti Subdivisions in South West Cameroon. This assessment is framed in terms of the obligations on the company and government of Cameroon to comply with international law with respect to protecting community rights, and especially the need to secure the FPIC of local and indigenous peoples over the development of their customary lands.  

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‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ Posters

FPP, ADEV, CAMV, CEDEN, Réseau CREF

4 July, 2013

‘Free Prior and Informed Consent’ Posters

As part of its project on ‘REDD financing, Human Rights and Economic Development for Sustainable Poverty Reduction of Forest Communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’ Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and partners in the DRC: Actions pour les Droits, l’Environnement et la Vie (ADEV), le Centre d’Accompagnement des Autochtones Pygmées et Minoritaires Vulnérables (CAMV), le Cercle pour la Défense de l’Environnement (CEDEN) and le Réseau pour la Conservation et la Réhabilitation des Écosystèmes Forestiers (Réseau CREF) have developed a set of posters on the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). By combining pictures and short pieces of text, the posters depict the stages of a process that respects the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to free, prior and informed consent with regard to projects likely to affect their lands, territories and natural resources.

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