Zurich-based NGO Incomindios hosted a lunch-time event on 14 July entitled “Free, Prior and Informed Consent: Difficulties and Successes with Transnational Corporations”. Held in conjunction with the 4th Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), the event explored the concept and practice of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) in the context of transnational corporations operating on Indigenous peoples’ territories.
Lene Wendland (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) discussed the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were unanimously endorsed by the Human Rights Council on 16 June. The result of a 6-year consultative process, the guidelines focus on three pillars: the duty of states to protect against human rights violations; corporate responsibility to respect all human rights; and access to effective remedy. Alberto Saldamando (International Indian Treaty Council) highlighted the difficulties of upholding human rights through state mechanisms alone and called for direct examination of the behaviour of corporations themselves and upholding of high ethical standards, regardless of whether or not the state within which it operates requires such standards. He also recalled the definition of sustainable development as providing for the current generation without comprising the needs of future generations.
Vidulfo Rosales (Tlanchinollan) shared his experiences with community displacement in Mexico due to a power plant constructed by the government, and with mobilizing communities around the right to FPIC to stop the planned extraction of a Canadian mining company on their territories. He noted that even when the rights to consultation and consent are in law and policy, they are not upheld in practice if there is no political will; acknowledging that political will instead backs resource extraction, he emphasized the need for communities to know their rights and mobilize themselves ahead of any activities taking place.
Melik Ozden (CETIM Human Rights Program) highlighted the common elements of ILO 169, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: people have the right to choose their own development, to participate in decision-making, and to make decisions about their own resources and lands. He noted that conflicts between Indigenous peoples and corporations and/or states usually emerge because of lack of recognition of these fundamental human rights. Lamented the voluntary nature of international guidelines, he urged that even with “the best laws in the world, we still need to mobilize to ensure proper implementation”. Following the presentations, discussion primarily centred around struggles to implement existing laws, policies, and frameworks, and encouraging strategies such as being locally organized, garnering the widest possible support through national, regional, and international fora, and engaging in public awareness campaigns.