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Free Prior and Informed Consent Protocol: what it is and what it is not

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Posted: Tuesday, February 1, 2022. 8:12 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Ministry of Human Development, Families and Indigenous People’s Affairs hosted a press briefing on Monday morning in Belize City concerning the recently submitted Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) protocol to the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Per Article 6 of the 1989 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (ILO Convention 169), governments are obliged to (a) consult the peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, whenever consideration is being given to legislative or administrative measures which may affect them directly; (b) establish means by which these peoples can freely participate, to at least the same extent as other sectors of the population, at all levels of decision-making in elective institutions and administrative and other bodies responsible for policies and programmes which concern them; and (c) establish means for the full development of these peoples’ own institutions and initiatives, and in appropriate cases, provide the resources necessary for this purpose. Further, the consultations carried out in application of this Convention shall be undertaken, in good faith and in a form appropriate to the circumstances, with the objective of achieving agreement or consent to the proposed measures.

In pursuance of the above, the Government, represented by Minister Dolores Balderamos-Garcia and Commissioner of Indigenous People’s Affairs Greg Ch’oc, laid out pages upon pages of documents on the conference table at Charter House at the start of the briefing (and sent multiple copies of the same documents by email later on).

Those documents, said the Minister, represented hours of discussions and back-and-forth between March and November of 2021 and built on a prior version of the document in 2018. But the Government’s hand was forced at the last compliance hearing before the CCJ in November when a January date was set for completion of the protocol: “We submitted a draft of the FPIC Protocol to the CCJ by September. There were further consultations because of certain objections that were made by some of the organizations at the time. There was a hearing of the Caribbean Court of Justice on the twenty-third of November at which time the court gave us the deadline, well we don’t want to call it a deadline but they gave us until the end of January, which is today, to file the Free, Prior, Informed, Consent Protocol which we have done. So please allow me to repeat: any notion of a lack of consultation there could be nothing further from the truth.”

According to Ch’oc, after failing to hear back from the respective organizations, he went ahead to the Attorney’s General’s office for a harmonization of the various responses and versions of the FPIC, the final draft of which went to Cabinet for approval.

 

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