Forest Peoples Programme Supporting forest peoples’ rights

African Commission: FPIC is essential for protected status on indigenous lands

6 December, 2011

At its 50th Session, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) adopted a resolution condemning the recent decision of the World Heritage Committee to inscribe Lake Bogoria in Kenya on the World Heritage List.  The issue at stake was the almost complete lack of involvement of the Endorois (the indigenous owners of the territory) in the decision-making process. This is particularly problematic in light of the African Commission’s earlier decision on the case of Centre for Minority Rights Development (Kenya) and Minority Rights Group International on behalf of Endorois Welfare Council v Kenya adopted at the 46th Ordinary Session held from 11–25 November 2009 in Banjul, The Gambia, and endorsed by the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in February 2010. This earlier decision and the recent resolution both emphasize that the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) must be adhered to in the lands and territories of indigenous peoples.  Failing to involve indigenous peoples in decision-making processes and failing to obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent constitutes a violation of their right to development under Article 22 of the African Charter, and other international laws.

The decision also specifically requests: “World Heritage Committee and UNESCO to review and revise current procedures and Operational Guidelines, in consultation and cooperation with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and [with] indigenous peoples, in order to ensure that the implementation of the World Heritage Convention is consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that indigenous peoples’ rights, and human rights generally, are respected, protected and fulfilled in World Heritage areas”.

Forest Peoples Programme looks forward to seeing how and when such a revision can be undertaken, and recommends that the occasion of the 40th Anniversary Year of the World Heritage Convention, under the theme of ‘World Heritage and Sustainable Development: the Role of Local Communities’, should provide the perfect opportunity for revisiting the relationship between indigenous peoples as land holders and keepers of heritage, and the World Heritage Committee.