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Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Amazon Watch: Free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples

New Report Highlights Why Companies Need to Operate with Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples
By Amazon Watch
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 3, 2011 -- Industrial resource extraction is posing grave threats to the survival of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin and there are serious moral, legal and financial reasons for corporations to stem the tide of abuse and respect indigenous peoples' rights, Amazon Watch said in a briefing paper released today.

The paper, entitled The Right to Decide: The Importance of Respecting Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), makes the case that respecting indigenous peoples' rights is not just a moral imperative, but also a business necessity for corporations to avoid financial risk, reputational damage, divestment campaigns, operational delays due to social unrest, multi-billion dollar legal liabilities, and loss of license to operate.

In the wake of recent U.S. endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and as the historic multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Chevron for massive environmental contamination in Ecuador is set for a ruling, Amazon Watch is urging large-scale institutional investors and socially responsible investors to closely monitor corporate behavior in indigenous territory and demand that corporations only operate where they have the free, prior and informed consent of any indigenous peoples potentially affected by operations.

"As resource extraction increasingly moves into socially and environmentally fragile areas of the world, like the Amazon rainforest, companies must take affirmative steps to avoid violating indigenous peoples' rights," stated Gregor MacLennan, Peru Program Coordinator of Amazon Watch. "This report demonstrates that from both a human rights and a business perspective, companies should only operate with the free, prior and informed consent of any affected indigenous peoples."

While states traditionally bear responsibility to protect human rights, companies have an independent responsibility to respect them. To avoid complicity in human rights abuses and related legal, financial and reputational harms, companies need policies and due diligence to ensure operations do not violate indigenous rights.

FPIC is an internationally recognized norm, designed to ensure respect for indigenous peoples' right to self-determination, the right to decide their own future. The paper defines FPIC as "consent that is given freely, by people fully informed of the consequences, prior to any decision being made, and according to their own decision-making processes."

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