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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Indigenous leaders in the Amazon face death threats as community files lawsuit against Peruvian government for violation of their land rights

26 May, 2016

26th May, Pucallpa, Peru. Leaders of the Shipibo indigenous village of Santa Clara de Uchunya, accompanied by their representative organisation FECONAU, filed a constitutional law suit challenging Peru’s regional government authorities for failing to secure legal protection of their traditional lands and enabling its acquisition and clearance by an international agribusiness company.1 

Plantaciones de Pucallpa SAC, an agribusiness company affiliated to the Melka commercial group appears to have begun acquiring the lands since 2012. Since that point, satellite images show that more than 5,000 ha of forest have been cleared to pave the way for an oil palm plantation.2  

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AIDESEP insists that IDB land titling programme which threatens to undermine indigenous land rights must be suspended while formal complaint is ongoing

25 May, 2016

Lima, 17th May. AIDESEP, Peru’s national indigenous Amazonian peoples’ organisation, has written a letter to the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) executive directors urging them to suspend the PTRT3 project, an $80 million land titling programme, while a formal complaint about the project is ongoing.

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Human rights experts set the record straight for the World Bank

23 May, 2016

Indigenous rights experts have written to the World Bank President and Executive Board to underscore the importance of the World Bank adopting a standard of free, prior and informed consent for indigenous peoples potentially affected by development initiatives funded by the Bank. In the letter, the experts point out that the existing standard of Broad Community Support used by the Bank has failed to improve outcomes for development initiatives, and is a standard that is implemented ineffectively and inconsistently across the Bank’s portfolio. 

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Press Release: Amerindian Peoples Association calls for Government of Guyana to secure full extent of traditional lands

19 May, 2016

GEORGETOWN, May 13, 2016: The Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) held its 9th General Assembly on 10-12 May 2016 in the village of Pakuri, Region 4. The main issues discussed during the assembly included land rights, climate change, and the various social and environmental issues affecting indigenous communities throughout the country. The assembly also highlighted the proactive measures communities are engaged in to build a stronger, greener, and more just Guyana.

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Shipibo video testimonies document destruction of their forests for palm oil by RSPO member

13 May, 2016

In the territory of the Shipibo people of the Peruvian Amazon, the indigenous community of Santa Clara de Uchunya are facing the devastation of their ancestral forests and rivers. This is due to the expansion of a palm oil plantation operated by Plantaciones de Pucallpa S.A.C, a member of the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil. 

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Securing Forest Peoples’ Rights and Tackling Deforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Forest Peoples Programme

11 May, 2016

Securing Forest Peoples’ Rights and Tackling Deforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Deforestation and forest degradation have increased in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), despite the government’s commitment to safeguard its forests.

Illegal logging, unsustainable mining, commercial agriculture, and urban demand for fuelwood represent only some of the major long-term threats to the forests. By contrast, the traditional livelihood strategies of indigenous and local communities show a capacity to coexist with forests sustainably.

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Yerisiam Gua people of Papua face down land grabs and intimidation by palm oil company

28 April, 2016

INDONESIA: The Yerisiam Gua, an indigenous people in Nabire district in Indonesian Papua have filed a complaint with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil against the palm oil developer, PT Nabire Baru.

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Secure territorial rights of indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge must be central to post-conflict initiatives to save the Colombian Amazon and achieve sustainable development

25 April, 2016

Bogotá, April 25: A new report “Deforestation and indigenous peoples rights in the Colombian Amazon” co-published by social justice and environmental NGO DEDISE and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) underlines the critical role of secure land and territorial rights and traditional knowledge in sustaining one of the most culturally and biologically diverse forests on the planet.

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Deforestation and Indigenous Peoples Rights in the Colombian Amazon

25 April, 2016

Deforestation and Indigenous Peoples Rights in the Colombian Amazon

New report on indigenous peoples’ rights and deforestation in the Colombian Amazon highlights that effective measures to save the Amazonian forest need to uphold FPIC, secure land and territorial rights, and harness traditional knowledge.

Press release in English and Spanish here. Report available here (in Spanish only)

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Tongod villagers secure settlement of land claim with palm oil developer Genting Plantations

8 April, 2016

Sabah (Malaysia) - The High Court of Sabah just settled a landmark agreement between the indigenous Dusun and Sungai peoples of Tongod District and Genting Plantations. The case, which has dragged on since 1997 and been in the courts since 2002, concerns a large-scale palm oil development on community lands in central Sabah (North Borneo).

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