FPIC means that community decisions about prospective development are:
- FREE from coercion and manipulation by third parties such as governments, companies, political parties, and NGOs. Also free from manipulation by “elites” within the community; inclusive, accessible processes are critical.
- Made PRIOR to the commencement of the activities being decided upon. Communities must also be given the time they need to fully understand and consider options, and to reach a decision.
- INFORMED, with communities receiving all the information they need in a manner that is trusted, accessible, and culturally appropriate.
- Premised on the community’s ability to give – or withhold – CONSENT
This guide frequently refers to “the Spirit of FPIC.” By this, we are referring to the following:
- FPIC is not a “tick box” exercise. FPIC comprises and is a safeguard for a number of human rights – including the right to self-determination; free pursuit of economic, social, and cultural development; and meaningful participation. Operating in “the spirit of FPIC” means recognizing and supporting the expression of these rights.
- FPIC means consent. For communities, the essential value and power of FPIC is not just in consultation, but it is in the ability to give or withhold consent. Indigenous communities must have the ability to say ‘no’ (or ‘yes’, or ‘yes with conditions’). This is true at all stages of a project.
- FPIC is not a one-time decision. Formal consent must be secured at several stages throughout the life of a project. In between these milestones, operating in the “spirit of FPIC” means maintaining that consent by engaging proactively and respectfully, in accordance with agreed protocols or processes, so communities are informed, their knowledge and preferences are incorporated into ongoing operations, and so any conflicts or grievances which arise are meaningfully addressed. Projects and communities change over time; agreements may also need to change.
- It is never too late to incorporate FPIC principles. Planning at the front-end of project development creates the best conditions for good relationships and to enable true consent for a project. However, this is not always feasible – such as when sites are acquired mid-development. In these instances, FPIC implementation can be triggered when changes or expansions to the site are proposed. Relationships can be established, improved, and reinforced; new agreements can be made. Although developing good agreements from the outset is strongly preferred, all is not lost in cases where failing agreements have been inherited, or where the company-community relationship has stagnated. An honest and open assessment of the status quo can be an essential first step in re-setting the tone of a relationship, and can create an opportunity to establish new common goals and monitoring mechanisms.