Civil society warns on Canada blocking FPIC in Principles for Responsible Agriculture

Spat erupts just a week before final ratification of Principles.

Civil society organisations including Global Witness have warned that Canada’s blocking of the inclusion of Free, Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) for indigenous people in the United Nations-backed ‘Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems’ could nullify the Principles before they are signed on October 15. In a joint statement, they said over 100 countries, including the US and Australia, both of whom have raised objections to FPIC in multilateral negotiations in the past, are ready to sign the Principles, but that Canada’s position meant that civil society organisations would themselves not back the final document. Their withdrawal, they said, would leave the Principles, which are already voluntary and non-binding, without societal pressure behind them, undoing two years of inter-governmental consultation.
The Principles (RI coverage) aim to promote positive, inclusive and sustainable investment in agriculture and guard against environmental and land/human rights abuses. They are due to be endorsed by the Committee for World Food Security (CFS) next week. The CFS was established in 1974 as an intergovernmental UN forum for policies on food access and security. The Principles were developed over two years based on consultation and feedback from governments, UN agencies, civil society and international and regional financial institutions.Free Prior Informed Consent is protected in globally agreed human rights law and means indigenous peoples can accept or refuse an investment project that will affect them, with all the necessary information in hand and without coercion. Canada is believed to prefer ‘consultation’ over ‘consent’ in its approach to FPIC.
The civil society letter says: “Despite having previously accepted this inclusion in another international agreement, Canada now stands alone, as 100+ other governments have agreed that the Principles must include the right of indigenous peoples to FPIC. Although this country registered an objection to paragraph 20 of the outcome document of the recent World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, it did not attempt to rescind indigenous peoples’ rights to FPIC. Canada’s actions to block FPIC in the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems are unacceptable and a step backwards in the global governance of resource rights. They risk seriously undermining the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide, further weakening the Principles and diminishing the credibility of the CFS as a space to advance the progressive realisation of the right to food.”
Link to the final draft of the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems