SEHN

Visionary Science, Ethics, Law and Action in the Public Interest

17 Premises of Free, Prior and Informed Consent as a Right of Communities

Carolyn Raffensperger

By Carolyn Raffensperger

1. Individual humans have rights.

2. Individual humans are not the only ones that have rights.

3. Communities hold rights. These are rights that provide the bonds of responsibility to each other and to the place.

4. A right is not subject to economic forces or sacrificed for the greatest good for the greatest number.

5. Communities are comprised of Nature, Humans and Future Generations.

6. One right of community is Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

7. The right of consent recognizes the dignity and inherent worth of communities by guaranteeing self-determination and autonomy.

8. The community right of consent is designed to protect the commonwealth and common health of the community. The commons are the things shared. Air, water, parks, wildlife, pollinators, culture, public health.

9. Free, prior and informed consent is actually a responsibility of a community to safeguard nature and the future generations of all beings.

10. Proposals such as mining, logging, fracking, or plans for abandoned toxic sites affect the future of a community. These proposals are essentially experiments on a community and as such are fraught with uncertainty.

11. Proposals that threaten the future, the commons and the rights of self-determination and survival must be subject to a process leading to either the grant of consent or the denial of consent.

12. Consultation with communities as specified in documents such as the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be structured to lead to consent or the denial of consent. Consultation alone is insufficient.

13. New institutions must be created to fulfill the community right of free, prior and informed consent. One such analogue is the Institutional Review Board that reviews experiments on human subjects to determine first whether an experiment is ethical and second how to obtain consent and whether consent has been obtained.

14. A project cannot go forward if it is determined as a threshold question that it is unethical because it threatens the survival of an ecosystem, a community or future generations.

15. The precautionary principle is a key tool for assessing whether something is ethical and for seeking alternatives to proposals that bring harm to the community and future generations.

16. If there is no process in place for both consultation and free, prior and informed consent, the project cannot go forward. The burden of obtaining consent is on the entity proposing the project, not on the community.

17. Consent denied must be respected and honored. The project cannot go forward without consent that has been given freely, before the project begins and in light of all information.