Free, Prior and Informed Consent and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ (FPIC) has emerged as a key principle in international law and jurisprudence related to indigenous peoples and has been widely accepted in private sector policies of ‘corporate social responsibility’ in sectors like dam building, extractive industries, forestry, plantations, conservation, bio- prospecting and environmental impact assessment. It has also been endorsed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as a key principle in its Principles and Criteria (P&C). Likewise, ‘free and informed consent’ is a requirement of the Forest Stewardship Council.
FPIC implies informed, non-coercive negotiations between investors and companies or the government and indigenous peoples / customary law communities prior to oil palm estates, timber plantations or other enterprises being established and developed on their customary lands. It is accepted as 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.
In line with international human rights law, in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s Principles and Criteria, the principle of ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ (FPIC) has a central place. It establishes the basis on which equitable agreements between local communities and companies (and government) can be developed in ways that ensure that the legal and customary rights of indigenous peoples and other local rights-holders are respected and ensures that they can negotiate on a fair basis to ensure they gain real benefits from proposed palm oil developments on their lands.