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Moving toward Free, Prior and Informed Consent: a dialogue
The phrase “free, prior, and informed consent” (FPIC) refers to the rights of long-standing communities, particularly indigenous peoples to give or withhold their FPIC regarding measures that will affect them. The right to FPIC is affirmed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in the jurisprudence of international human rights treaties. While the right itself is clearly recognized, the issue of how to ensure adherence by non-state parties is less clear. Commercial forestry operations frequently extend over many years and may involve land not owned by the operating companies, requiring engagement with those with prior right to, and ongoing dependence on, forest lands and resources. Given that recognition of the right to FPIC is most vital when statutory law and forest governance are weak, more guidance is required regarding how to respect this right in practice.
The Forests Dialogue (TFD) held a two-day learning event in October 2013 in which World Bank staff, forest sector company representatives, and TFD Steering Committee members discussed best practices from the private sector on operationalizing principles, safeguards and guidelines for FPIC and community consultation. External consultants who facilitated the learning event also prepared a series of four case studies, which analyzed the best tools and mechanisms used by private companies that undertook FPIC processes in Uruguay, Lao PDR, Colombia and Indonesia. The companies showcased voluntarily agreed to serve as examples in order to provide a snapshot of their experiences and thoughts on best practices. The material highlighted both challenges and effective approaches to engaging with traditional communities and indigenous peoples in ways that protect their rights.
The case studies, which were revised in 2014 to produce a final research paper, drew on the following experiences of companies using FPIC principles:
- In Lao PDR, Stora Enso established eucalyptus plantations by leasing land from the government and obtaining FPIC from villagers, in a legal context that did not provide private or community titles. Other activities included a community development fund and a participatory agroforestry model.
- In South Africa, Mondi negotiated with communities to continue operating on ancestral land undergoing repatriation, working with a third party to build capacity and facilitate discussions around community needs and governance.
- In Indonesia, APRIL negotiated benefit-sharing arrangements with communities claiming access to a government-granted concession. Ultimately, the company’s concession excluded areas where villages remained opposed.
In Uruguay, UPM negotiated with communities to directly purchase or lease land, or to set up easements for grazing and beekeeping on plantations. The company also set up a foundation to support community development projects.
FPIC is one of many ways for companies in the forest sector to address working environments with complex tenure regimes. The four case studies highlighted some key lessons, including:
- Benefit-sharing arrangements are increasingly important.
- Identifying potential rights-holders and engaging with stakeholders before decisions are made - even when current legislation does not recognize customary claims – can help to avoid conflicts.
- Governments may have crucial roles to play in facilitating agreements.
Author : The Forests Dialogue 
Last Updated : 02-24-2017