Does Free, Prior and Informed Consent ensure self-determination? : A relational approach to mining activities and indigenous communities in northwestern Argentina

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: Over the last decades the struggle for indigenous rights has accomplished great achievements within international law. In relation to development projects and resource extraction on indigenous lands, the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) has gained increased recognition and is today expressed as an important instrument to realize indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. Nevertheless, empirical evidence have identified power asymmetries as one of the major obstacles for effective and meaningful FPIC implementation. This study investigates how power asymmetries emerge and affect the right to self-determination through the four FPIC requirements. Based on field research and by applying a relational approach, the study investigates a case of mining activities in northwestern Argentina where indigenous communities currently experience an increased interest in lithium deposits on their lands from transnational corporations. The study shows how relations characterized by dependency and clientelism create a situation where actors hold unequal power positions which permeate all FPIC requirements severely undermining the principle’s potential to fulfill its purpose. Lastly, based on the findings the study argues substantial underpinnings in terms of necessary preconditions are needed if FPIC are to be able to ensure self-determination.

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