Indigenous Peoples’ Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and the World Bank Safeguards: Between Norm Emergence and Concept Appropriation

Indigenous Peoples’ Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and the World Bank Safeguards: Between Norm Emergence and Concept Appropriation
Stéphanie de Moerloose
World Comparative Law, 2020; 53(3) pp 223-244
Abstract
The question of the consent of indigenous peoples is at least as old as colonization. Indeed, the consent of indigenous peoples was already an issue at the heart of treaty-making between colonial settlers and indigenous peoples. The issue of indigenous peoples’ consent, understood as their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), has been re-emerging and gaining acceptance internationally in international Human Rights law over the last 30 years. When the new World Bank safeguards were adopted in 2016, one of the most discussed topics during the consultation rounds had been the integration in the safeguards of the concept of the FPIC of indigenous peoples, as it had been notoriously absent from the previous safeguards. Finally, FPIC was made part of the new safeguards. This paper first maps the concept of FPIC under international law from a postcolonial perspective. Then, it attempts to analyze the processes of operationalization of the concept by the World Bank in the new safeguards, drawing on Human Rights and on law and development literature. The paper argues that there is a tension between the re-emergence of FPIC as a customary norm and the fragmentation of the interpretations of the concept of consent by different actors.  The operationalization of the concept of FPIC, understood as a negotiated process rather than a process of self-determination, may in fact limit its remedial objective and diminish its quality as a resistance tool.

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