FPIC on development and conservation
The principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) has its roots in the recognition of the right of indigenous and local communities to ownership of their land and natural resources; this points to their right to give or withhold consent to third-party developments or conservation. With the proliferation of agricultural development across the world and the calls of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) for conservation, much focus has been placed on FPIC due to significant land usage.
FPIC has increasingly been adopted by businesses and NGOs who wish to be socially and environmentally sustainable. Some countries, especially those with significant indigenous population, have FPIC factored into their legal framework, though to varying extents. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) incorporated the FPIC concept into its Principles and Criteria. In the Group Sustainability Policy, Musim Mas included again its commitments to “respecting human rights including the right of indigenous and local communities, families and other land tenure holders to give or withhold FPIC for development and conservation of land and natural resources.”
The Group’s standard practice prior to any proposed planting is to identify and map legal, customary and other user rights. This is followed by engaging land owners with the proposed development details, environmental and social impact assessment results and discussing the proposal in detail including the process of compensation and benefit-sharing agreements. Land owners can then make decisions based on their customary systems and either provide or withhold consent to development. If necessary, further negotiations will be undertaken. The entire process is non-coercive, open and inclusive and backed by two-way communication of full information.
On the other hand, the FPIC process on the consent for land conservation can also be challenging as communities will have their views on the development of their land. It is important that any development achieves an optimal balance between community development, conservation of natural values, as well as economic benefit and viability. In certain cases, communities viewed the conservation of areas determined under a High Carbon Stock (HCS) assessment as a forced process and incomprehensible. Therefore FPIC plays an important role in a land-use plan that identifies environmentally and socially responsible development, with community use and forest conservation zones. As a member of the HCS Steering Group, Musim Mas discusses this principle and looks at how best a socially responsible development can be achieved without undermining the environmental values and natural capital.
In the event of a grievance, a rigorous and neutral grievance mechanism will be essential in providing resolutions. All complaints must be received and properly investigated. Decisions made must be presented to all concerned parties.