At the beginning of a project, we ask ourselves how it will improve the lives of beneficiaries. When these beneficiaries will be Indigenous Peoples, we also ask ourselves how development benefits and opportunities should be promoted in a culturally appropriate manner. This is precisely one of the objectives of the Environmental and Social Performance Standard on Indigenous Peoples (ESPS 7) of the IDB’s new Environmental and Social Policy Framework (ESPF). ESPS 7 establishes respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and seeks to avoid, minimize and/or compensate the project’s adverse impacts and risks. It also recognizes that they can be particularly vulnerable if their lands and natural resources are affected, or if their culture is threatened.
To help you understand what ESPS 7 entails, we thought we would share a fictional example of its implementation. Said project aims to increase the productivity of the agricultural sector in the region, maintaining and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources. The project includes the construction of a research center to develop pilot programs and incentives to adopt new technologies for small and medium farmers. It also includes training for these farmers and for technical personnel from government sector entities.
As part of the project’s environmental and social assessment prepared by the executing agency, with support from the IDB, we identified that the region’s population is 30% Indigenous, most of whom could be potential beneficiaries of planned activities. We also identified that an Indigenous community uses natural resources within the project’s area and adverse impacts, such as loss of access or restrictions on land use, could occur. Therefore, we carried out a sociocultural analysis. Among other aspects, this analysis included:
- The characterization of the Indigenous People
- The identification of risks and potential direct, indirect, and cumulative adverse impacts and their mitigation and/or compensation (culturally appropriate) measures, as well as the positive impacts
- A culturally appropriate, meaningful engagement plan, with free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC), if necessary. In this case, due to the existence of this Indigenous community, we required the FPIC.
Free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC)
The FPIC is one of the main incorporations of the new ESPF, given it is not expressly stated in the current Indigenous Peoples Policy (OP-765). It does, however, consider that, if there are significant adverse impacts affecting the physical, territorial, or cultural integrity of Indigenous Peoples, agreements must be made on the operation and on measures to manage those impacts.
The FPIC builds on and expands the consultation and engagement process and is established through good faith negotiations between the executing agency and the Indigenous communities. Here consent refers to the collective support of Indigenous Peoples to carry out the project activities that affect them, reached through a culturally appropriate process that is respectful of their customary decision-making process and governance structure. It is required if there is any of these circumstances:
- Impacts on lands and natural resources traditionally owned or used by the community,
- Relocation of Indigenous Peoples from lands and natural resources traditionally owned or used, or
- Significant impacts on their cultural heritage
The FPIC applies to project design, implementation and expected outcomes related to impacts affecting the Indigenous communities. In this FPIC process, we considered the following aspects, among others:
- The consultations were carried out in their language
- They were adequately informed before the meetings in a culturally appropriate format and language to ensure that everyone understood the project and its environmental and social assessment before participating in the discussion
- Their customary decision-making process and structure
As part of the FPIC process, we reached certain agreements. For instance:
- Relocation of the research center to an accessible area, in which only a minor part of the project overlaps with the area used by the community, in accordance with their preference
- The research center’s construction hours were adjusted to the community’s use of the area
- Collaboration with a community committee to design trainings and for conducting participatory monitoring during construction and operation phases
This process and agreements were properly documented.
Given we were able to identify the Indigenous community within the project area and others in the region as potential beneficiaries in a timely manner, we were able to implement early on the requirements of the new framework’s ESPS 7.
The results of the sociocultural analysis and the FPIC process contributed to a better design and to the development of a robust and culturally appropriate Indigenous Peoples plan. A stakeholder engagement process was established that covered from the design of project activities to their implementation and closure, while empowering the communities. Regarding the project, community members increased the productivity of their land thanks to improved technology and training. Likewise, they incorporated community practices and traditional knowledge into the research center’s pilot programs.
In addition to what we have explained thus far, ESPS 7 also highlights the special conditions of certain Indigenous Peoples, such as transborder peoples and those in isolation and initial contact. Similarly, it stresses the importance of an early, continuous, and culturally appropriate engagement with Indigenous Peoples.
The ESPF systematizes socio-environmental management in a single framework and aligns the IDB with international best practices. To achieve compliance with its requirements and objectives, we suggest you start familiarizing yourself with it and identifying what aspects are new. The IDB, as part of the implementation of the new ESPF, will be developing trainings and capacity building activities for its personnel and for executing agencies, to whom the requirements of the different ESPSs are addressed.
We encourage you to review the new ESPS on Indigenous Peoples and tell us what aspects you consider most relevant for the preparation and supervision of projects.
This blog post is part of a series about the IDB‘s new Environmental and Social Policy Framework (ESPF). You may also want to read: