Mechanisms for Consultation and Free, Prior and Informed Consent in the Negotiation of Investment Contracts

Szoke-Burke, Sam,Cordes, Kaitlin | January 1, 2020

Investor-state contracts are regularly used in low- and middle-income countries to grant concessions for land-based and natural resource investments, such as agricultural, extractive industry, forestry, or renewable energy projects. These contracts are rarely negotiated in the presence of, or with meaningful input from, the people who risk being adversely affected by the project. This practice will usually risk violating requirements for meaningful consultation, and, where applicable, free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), and is particularly concerning when the investor-state contract gives the investor company rights to lands or resources over which local communities have legitimate claims. This article explores how consultation and FPIC processes can be practically integrated into investor-state contract negotiations to better safeguard the land rights and human rights of members of project-affected communities. Based on a review of relevant international law standards and guidance documents, a close analysis of typical investor-state negotiations and of consultation and consent processes in other contexts, and a workshop with Indigenous and civil society representatives, the article provides three options for integrating consultation and consent processes into contract negotiations, the appropriateness of which will vary depending on local contexts and communities’ resources and decision-making structures.