Included or excluded: an analysis of the application of the free, prior and informed consent principle in land grabbing cases in Cameroon
Ashukem, Jean-Claude N
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Even though the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) is soft law, the need to respect, protect and fulfil the rights to be informed and to be involved in development projects is strongly backed in international legal instruments including inter alia the ILO Convention 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal People in Independent Countries (1998) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal People (2007). These instruments do not only appear to be the most comprehensive and advanced international legal instruments that deal with indigenous peoples' rights in terms of the FPIC, but also signal an addition to the growing body of international human rights law that serves to ensure the realisation and protection of the substantive environmental and other human rights of indigenous people, particularly in the context of land grabbing activities that have the potential to negatively impact on their rights. Such rights include, for example, the rights to be informed and to participate in decision-making processes with respect to development projects, including land grabbing activities. This implies an obligation on states party to such international agreements to ensure that indigenous people are informed about and are actively involved in both the negotiation and the implementation of land grabbing deals. However, because the latter often takes place against the background of non-transparent transactions which are inimical to the rights and interests of indigenous people, one may wonder why the principle of FPIC is not applicable during land grabbing transactions. Focusing on Cameroon, this article examines instances of land grabbing in the country in order to support this hypothesis. This is done by focusing specifically on the application of the principle of FPIC. The arguments in the article are inspired by international law in which the application of the principle in the context of land grabbing serves not only to protect the rights and interests of indigenous people but is also conducive to fostering and reinforcing the land governance regime of host countries involved in such deals. To this end, the article concludes that because the principle embodies aspects of procedural rights such as the rights to information and participation, which are often conspicuously lacking during land grabbing contracts, its application in and during land grabbing might be useful to set the basis for the recognition, promotion, and enforcement of local communities' rights in Cameroon.