Indigenous peoples have historically been subjected to repeated loss of basic human rights and dignity. Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) requires authorization by the indigenous people before implementing measures likely to affect them and is an important tool of respecting their rights and dignity. But its application in the specific context of REDD has the potential of misuse by vested commercial interests involved in forest degradation and deforestation through misleading or tempting the traditional indigenous institutions into withholding their consent. Also the traditional institutions of the indigenous peoples are sometimes not representative, may exclude women from positions of decision making and are not always fair to minority groups sharing their physical and economic space. Cleverness and greed are traits that permeate all human societies and have to be kept in check through appropriate mechanisms.
The FPIC is crucial but its application must be tempered with reason. The author recommends that the (i) FPIC should be applied stringently where dislocation of habitation or core economic activities of the indigenous peoples are likely, (ii) when indigenous traditional institutions are not representative and practice discrimination based on gender, parentage or ethnicity, consent should be taken from a truly democratic institution set up specifically for REDD like the joint forest management committees in India, (iii) in instances where an indigenous traditional institution denies consent for REDD while allowing organized deforestation or degradation activities by commercial interests from outside the indigenous community the Country Government should have the right to overlook the lack of consent in consultation with the international body responsible for REDD to ensure that vested commercial interests do not use unfair practices to deny consent for REDD, and (iv) among indigenous communities who share their living and economic space with a significant number of disadvantaged poor of different ethnicities that do not form part of the traditional institutions of the indigenous people, the Country Government should be duty bound to protect their human rights by implementing REDD through an appropriate democratic mechanism. Further, whenever even a slight departure from FPIC is necessitated the international body governing REDD must be consulted by the Country Government.
An article titled ” Preventing the Possibilities of Misuse of FPIC in REDD” by Dr Promode Kant has been published on the website igrec.in. (link to the pdf-file does not work yet) and can be accessed at igrec.in/Preventing_the_possibilities_of_misuse_of_FPIC_in_REDD.pdf (PDF-File)