By Agbonkhese Oboh
Rita Uwaka, Coordinator of Friends of the Earth Africa, FoEA’s forest and biodiversity programme, has declared that Free, Prior and Informed Consent, FPIC, is a right and not a privilege, as transnationals and governments across Africa seem to view it.
FPIC is an internationally-recognised principle stipulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNDRIP, and other human rights instruments, which is designed to ensure respect for a peoples’ decision concerning a project that can affect them.
Uwaka told newsmen at FoEA’s regional exchange programme on FPIC in Lagos that resource grab by transnationals approved by government have continued to invade communities from urban to rural areas across the continent.
In a statement, she said: “These large scale profit-driven projects are mostly executed without the opportunity for communities who play host to the resource to give or withhold their Free, Prior and Informed Consent, FPIC, before the commencement of extractive industry projects.
“This leads to social and environmental impacts for communities, with differentiated consequences on women and vulnerable groups.
“Large scale resource extraction is posing great danger to the lives and survival of community people in Africa.
“It is primarily the responsibility of government to ensure that development plans and extractive resource or infrastructure development projects or policy decisions have the free, prior and informed consent of community people.”
The exchange programme, a collaboration with member groups from Liberia, Nigeria, Togo, Uganda and other relevant stakeholders across Nigeria, focused on enhancing knowledge, building capacity and common understanding on the principle of FPIC, its applicability and how it can be used as a tool to influence practices and policies at different levels of advocacy work.
The programme, on the theme “Reclaim FPIC, Democratise Development,” also examined relevant international legal instruments and standards relating to FPIC in connection with its success stories, loopholes and prospects relevant to the African context.
Uwaka called on African countries’ governments to prevent and address the adverse human rights impacts of company operations on community peoples before concessions are made to multi-national corporations.
She added: “We demand free prior and informed consent of community people before any development project commences by any company operating in community territories in Africa. Consent must be given without force, intimidation, oppression or coercion and according to the decision making processes of the communities.
“It should identify the rights of community people that are potentially affected by extractive industry and infrastructure projects.
“We challenge large-scale institutional investors around the world to be socially-responsible investors by closely monitoring corporate behaviours in community territories and demand that corporations only operate where they have the free, prior and informed consent of any community people potentially affected by their operations.
“From Nigeria to Togo, to Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia, Mozambique, to Uganda, land-grabbing and resource extraction have continually increased deforestation rate, biodiversity loss, destruction of family farms, local food system and economy.
“We call on governments and transnationals involved in ‘development projects’ across Africa to genuinely adopt and conduct a Free Prior and Informed Consent policy that supports and safeguards community peoples rights to self-determination, territorial control and development.”