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The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires States to consult and cooperate in good faith with the Indigenous Peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

Consultation and participation are crucial components of a consent process. States must have consent as the objective of consultation before any of the following actions are taken:

  • The adoption of legislation or administrative policies that affect Indigenous Peoples (article 19);
  • The undertaking of projects that affect Indigenous Peoples’ rights to land, territory and resources, including mining and other utilization or exploitation of resources (article 32);
  • The relocation of Indigenous Peoples from their lands or territories (article 10);
  • The storage or disposal of hazardous materials on Indigenous Peoples’ lands or territories (article 29);
  • Furthermore, Indigenous Peoples who have unwillingly lost possession of their lands, when those lands have been “confiscated, taken, occupied or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent” are entitled to restitution or other appropriate redress (article 28).

What is the exact meaning of free, prior and informed consent?

Free implies that there is no coercion, intimidation or manipulation.

Prior implies that consent is to be sought sufficiently in advance of any authorization or commencement of activities and respect is shown to time requirements of indigenous consultation/consensus processes.

Informed implies that information is provided that covers a range of aspects, including the nature, size, pace, reversibility and scope of any proposed project or activity; the purpose of the project as well as its duration; locality and areas affected; a preliminary assessment of the likely economic, social, cultural and environmental impact, including potential risks; personnel likely to be involved in the execution of the project; and procedures the project may entail.

Our work

The Office gives expert guidance on the practical application of the requirement of free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples to various key stakeholders ranging from parliamentarians to national human rights institutions. Our field offices work closely with Indigenous Peoples and the relevant authorities to ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples to participation and to be consulted in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent regarding decisions that affect them is respected.