Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC)

Recently, the United Nations (UN) chastised the governments of Denmark and Greenland for undertaking mining without having first consulted with the Inuit who make up the majority of Greenland’s inhabitants. The UN highlighted colonialism as a root cause for these countries’ errors in not seeking the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples. Consultation, however, should not be conflated with or considered a replacement for FPIC.

Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is embedded within fundamental human rights to self-determination. The framework by which FPIC is legally implemented internationally, includes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), as well as the International Labour Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Convention (ILO 169), and the Convention of Biological Diversity. The FPIC process is not just a means to consult Indigenous Peoples and seek consent about a project; rather, “it is also a process in itself, one by which Indigenous peoples are able to conduct their own independent and collective discussions and decision-making” at their own pace and using culturally appropriate approaches on any matters that concern them.

Engaging in an FPIC process may involve participatory processes and does not guarantee consent by Indigenous communities. Outcomes of an FPIC process include obtaining consent of an Indigenous community about undertaking a project, making changes to the conditions under which a project is intended to happen, or withholding consent to a project or activity and doing so at any time.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Photo Credit: Johannes Plenio, Unsplash)