Even when sufficient information is provided about a particular project or plan, people, and particularly marginalized groups like indigenous people, people of colour and women, are not always allowed access to decision-making channels.

The right to decide is crucial to people’s self-determination, a fundamental principle in human rights law that holds that people can “ freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development” (UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).

The principle of free, prior and informed consent requires securing the consensus of all members of a group to a project within their area. In Papua New Guinea , for example, it requires that communities confer amongst themselves according to their customary decision making systems and through their own representative institutions. Adequate time, a full and transparent provision of information in appropriate forms and languages, and the absence of duress, intimidation, threat and negative incentives are all required. This right has been instrumental in stopping illegal logging by a Malaysian corporation in Papua New Guinea .

We believe in…

Further reading

This page and the above link are extracts from the Friends of the Earth International publication Our environment, our rights.

The Cartagena declaration on human and environmental rights.

Image: John Muyiisa, Uganda, previously the owner of a small-scale coffee and fruit plantation. Credit: Jason Taylor / Friends of the Earth International