The current version of the ProTerra Standard (V4.1) includes a concept of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) which was an outcome of the last public consultation process.
FPIC is a principle that emerged from the context of international indigenous rights and derives from the ILO Convention No. 169, which aims to overcome discriminatory practices affecting indigenous people and enables them to be active in the decision-making process. FPIC is backed up by the international human rights standards stating that “all peoples have the right to self-determination” adding that “all peoples have the right to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.
The key elements of FPIC are:
- Free: refers to a consent given voluntarily and absent of coercion, intimidation or manipulation. It refers to a process that is self-directed by the community from whom consent is being sought where Stakeholders determine process, timeline and decision-making structure.
- Prior: means consent is sought sufficiently in advance of any authorization or commencement of activities. It relates to early stages of a development or investment plan. Among other aspects, prior implies that time is provided to understand, access, and analyse information on the proposed activity.
- Informed: refers mainly to the nature of the engagement and type of information that should be provided prior to seeking consent. Information should be accessible, clear, consistent, accurate, constant, and transparent and delivered in appropriate language and culturally appropriate format.
- Consent: refers to the collective decision made by the rights-holders and reached through the customary decision-making processes of the affected peoples or communities.
At the core of FPIC is the right of the peoples concerned to engage, negotiate and decide to grant or withhold consent regarding developments on ancestral land or when profiting from resources within the indigenous population’s territory.
Furthermore, as FPIC gives indigenous peoples the right to be involved in decision-making processes over projects that concern their livelihood, it must be accepted that certain developments and investments will not proceed and/or that such projects must be ceased if the affected peoples decide not to start or continue with negotiations or if they withhold their consent to a project.
FPIC is considered within ProTerra under Principle 3 “Responsible relations with workers and community”. Criterion 3.2 defines that “Land use shall not impair the rights of traditional other users”, more specifically indicator 3.2.2 states that “Land rights disputes shall be resolved before certified status can be awarded. The UN Principle of free, prior and informed consent shall apply …”.
Using FPIC is also relevant for industrial or agricultural projects that are aiming at the expansion of new areas and where Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) are required (ProTerra indicator 4.3.1).
Free, Prior and informed Consent (FPIC) has been described as a “fundamental right” by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples, among others.
The ProTerra Foundation considers it to be a fundamental aspect of sustainable agricultural production, despite recognizing the challenges that it represents to organizations in general.