Academic Commons


Free, prior and informed consent: Addressing political realities to improve impact

Mebratu-Tsegaye, Tehtena; Kazemi, Leila

Indigenous and tribal peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent has transformative potential: potential to safeguard a variety of rights specific to indigenous and tribal peoples and potential to transform the power relations between peoples, governments, and extractives companies. Yet, this potential is far from being realized in the countries studied for this report. This gap between intention and reality is no coincidence.

The most powerful entities within governments, when it comes to the fate of these issues, are those with the mandates to attract and develop the extractives sectors. It is these entities that are calling the shots on whether and how the state recognizes FPIC. They, in turn, appear to be driven in part by what they perceive to be the interests and preferences of extractives investors (which in the extreme version can resemble a capture dynamic). Within extractives companies, the most influential actors seem to be those whose interests are not well-aligned with the spirit of FPIC, further stacking the odds against recognition and operationalization of FPIC. Fears of projects being delayed, costs increasing or deals collapsing generate disincentives, which are not adequately counterbalanced by incentives for compliance from legal requirements or perceived benefits. As a result, prior consultation processes are being implemented in place of recognizing FPIC and operationalizing FPIC processes. Even these prior consultation processes are carried out in ways that diminish the potential for meaningful indigenous participation in decision-making, clearly skewed toward advancing the interests of powerful actors in government and the private sector. To the extent to which there are some occasional benefits being realized by those being consulted, these consultations tend to typically reflect male perspectives and lead to gendered outcomes.260 Thus, multiple layers of political realities converge to significantly limit the breadth and depth of efforts to advance FPIC and prior consultation processes.

There is growing recognition in the broader development fields focusing on governance that politics matters. This report, and the project in which it is situated, was conceived to shed light on the ways that political realities impact the governance of extractive industries in order to offer practical insights, strategies, and tangible guidance for practitioners focused on addressing implementation gaps, which can be explained in no small part by political realities. This project highlights the importance of politics in the context of FPIC specifically, but some lessons drawn from the research are equally applicable to the field of extractives governance more broadly.


  • thumnail for Eng-Report-Free-prior-and-informed-consent-Addressing-political-realities-to-improve-impact.pdf Eng-Report-Free-prior-and-informed-consent-Addressing-political-realities-to-improve-impact.pdf application/pdf 8.53 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Published Here
October 14, 2020