When companies and indigenous peoples collide
So said Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, the Chair of the United Nations indigenous body UNPFII, as the UN General Assembly marked the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in September 2017. Indeed, indigenous peoples are facing even greater struggles and rights violations than they did 10 years ago. And the implications of such human rights abuses will be far-reaching not just for companies, but investors too.
In the last decade, the time taken to bring oil projects online has doubled, with 73% of delays due to non-technical problems – including resistance from indigenous stakeholders. According to the UN, there has been an increase in the number of indigenous people denouncing the lack of compliance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), particularly with companies not obtaining their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) before enacting projects on their land. Such tumult has prompted investors to engage with companies about FPIC.
FPIC is a specific right that pertains to indigenous peoples in UNDRIP. It is supported by the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework for human rights (as discussed later under Indigenous rights, human rights and international law). In brief, consent should be sought by companies – and authorities – before any project, plan or action takes place (prior), it should be given voluntarily without coercion, intimidation or manipulation (free) and based on accurate, objective, and timely information, provided in a culturally appropriate way (informed) for it to be considered a reasonable outcome of a collective decision-making process.