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What is Free Prior and Informed Consent?

Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) allows First Nations to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories.

Once or if First Nations have given their consent, they can withdraw it at any stage.

Furthermore, FPIC enables First Nations to negotiate the conditions under which the project will be designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated.

 

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) requires States to consult and cooperate in good faith with First Nations peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them (article 19). 

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 First Nations peoples (article 19)
  • The undertaking of projects that affect First Nations peoples’ rights to land, territory and resources, including mining and other utilisation or exploitation of resources (article 32).

The principle of free, prior and informed consent is linked to treaty norms, including the right to self-determination affirmed in common Article 1 of the International Human Rights Covenants.

  • Free implies that there is no coercion, intimidation or manipulation.
  • Prior implies that consent is to be sought sufficiently in advance of any authorisation or commencement of activities and respect is shown to time requirements of First Nations 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. This process may include the option of withholding consent. 
  • Consent of First Nations people should be determined in accordance with their customary laws and practices. The consent process will be undertaken through procedures and institutions determined by First Nations peoples themselves. First Nations people should specify which representative institutions are entitled to express consent on behalf of the affected peoples or communities. Consultation and participation are crucial components of a consent process. 

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