Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

The DRC voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007. However, it has not yet ratified ILO Convention 169.


DRC made several breakthroughs in the promotion and protection of Indigenous Peoples, including major progress on the proposed law for the promotion and protection of indigenous forest people’s rights.

DRC’s indigenous forest peoples, alongside a group of members from the House of Representatives, proposed an “Organic law on the fundamental principles of protection and promotion of Indigenous Pygmy People’s rights”, which was first tabled in the National Assembly in 2014 and has since been forgotten. However, in 2020 the proposal was deemed eligible by the honourable members of the 3 rd Parliament of the 3rd Republic.

In November 2020, the proposal was sent for examination by the Sociocultural Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Commission on Political, Administrative and Legal Affairs of the National Assembly. It was then renamed the “Law on the promotion and protection of Indigenous Pygmy People’s rights”. Based on the Constitution of the DRC established in 2006, the law highlights the protection and promotion of land rights, environmental rights and cultural rights, securing their effective participation in the DRC’s sustainable development plans.

The law was to be discussed – and hopefully finally adopted – at a plenary session of the National Assembly in December 2020, but unfortunately was postponed due to political turmoil.


The law on the protection and promotion of Indigenous Forest People’s Rights is definitively adopted by the National Assembly, after validation by the Sociocultural, Human Rights and Legal and Administrative Policies Joint Commission. It is currently being reviewed by the Senate.

If, and when, adopted by the Senate, the law will be transferred to the President of the Republic for promulgation and publication in the Official Journal of the Republic, coming into force six months later.

Following this, the law’s implementing works will be developed and, alongside the law itself, will represent the very pinnacle of the protection and promotion of indigenous forest people’s rights.


Law No. 22/030 of July 15, 2022 on the protection and promotion of the rights of Indigenous Pygmies was promulgated by the President of the Republic and published in the Official Journal, Special No. 63 of November 14, 2022. It should be noted that the most important step has been taken, there are still large-scale actions, in particular the development of measures for the application of this law and popularization campaigns.

Central African Republic (CAR)

The Central African Republic voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, and ratified ILO convention 169 in 2010. It is the first, and only African state to ratify the convention. In 2011, under the terms of the ILO constitution, the Convention entered into force. However, the dire circumstances caused by the 2013 Central African Republic Civil War threw the entire country into disarray and turmoil.

In 2020, the nation was entirely focussed on CAR’s presidential and legislative elections. Financial, political and legal priorities therefore revolved exclusively around these elections and issues regarding indigenous rights were subsequently ignored. There was no electoral mobilisation of indigenous peoples by the government, and no initiatives to encourage indigenous peoples to register as voters or candidates were made.

However, it seems some progress has been made by and for CAR’s indigenous since 2020. For example, the Wildlife and Protected Areas Management Code was adopted by the National Assembly in the same year, and indigenous communities’ rights were prominently included. Efforts to revise the Environmental and Forestry codes began in 2020 and were expected to continue, though progress is yet to be implemented. Furthermore, a national forestry policy that incorporated the concerns of indigenous peoples should have been discussed at this National Assembly in 2020. However, the parliamentary session during which the draft could have been adopted did not take place and no progress has been made since.


Cameroon, alongside CAR and DRC, voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007. However, it too has not ratified ILO Convention 169. Until recently, very little progress had been made on laws which are of interest to indigenous peoples and CSO’s, such as the Law on Forestry and Wildlife, the Law on Land Tenure, and the Pastoral Code.

However, in 2021, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and the Baka organization, Association Sanguia Baka Buma’a Kpode (ASBABUK). The MOU will allow the Baka communities around Lobéké National Park to access the park and carry out traditional activities for their sustenance and survival.

Furthermore, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have been working with the Cameroon Human Rights Commission (CHRC) to humanize their conservation activities, as they have come under virulent criticism from human rights organizations for expropriating and depriving indigenous peoples and local communities of the basis of their livelihoods in recent years.

Human rights organisations and national and international development organizations have been advocating tirelessly for the inclusion of the indigenous forest peoples in decision- making and the benefit-sharing of revenues derived from the communal forests and community forests. Some progress was made in this respect in 2021 due to the 2020 municipal election results, which saw the Baka peoples of the East Region gain deputy mayors and advisers in the local. These elected persons are now advocating at their respective council decision-making levels for their rights to the revenues deriving from the community forests as well as other rights. In Cameroon, the Law on Forestry and Wildlife recognizes three forms of forests: community forests, communal forests and large forest concessions for industries. Promisingly, the Baka of Missoume village now have a Baka councillor who is a woman!

The ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169) Read the full ILO Convention 169 here:

‘The peoples concerned shall have the right to decide their own priorities for the process of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy or otherwise use, and to exercise control, to the extent possible, over their own economic, social and cultural development.’ ILO Convention No. 169, article 7(1)

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is an agency of the United Nations dedicated to improving working conditions of the citizens of its member states.

ILO Convention No. 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples is an international treaty, adopted by the International Labour Conference of the ILO in 1989, that recognises Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination within a nation-state, while setting standards for national governments regarding Indigenous peoples’ economic, socio-cultural and political rights, including the right to a land base. It is based on respect for the cultures and ways of life of indigenous peoples and recognizes their right to land and natural resources and to define their own priorities for development. The Convention aims at overcoming discriminatory practices affecting these peoples and enabling them to participate in decision- making that affects their lives and livelihoods. Therefore, the fundamental principles of consultation and participation constitute the cornerstone of the Convention. Further, the Convention covers a wide range of issues pertaining to indigenous peoples, including regarding employment and vocational training, education, health and social security, customary law, traditional institutions, languages, religious beliefs and cross-border cooperation.

The Convention consists of 44 articles organized in ten categories that outline the minimum standards of the rights of Indigenous peoples. These 44 articles, among other things, recognize “the aspirations of [Indigenous] peoples to exercise control over their own institutions, ways of life and economic development and to maintain and develop their identities, languages, and religions, within the framework of the States in which they live.” The Convention guarantees Indigenous peoples the right to participate in decision-making on activities that may impact their own societies and territories, such as natural resource extraction, while maintaining the integrity of their societies, territories, and cultures. The Convention further recognizes the right to Indigenous peoples to prioritize their own development needs (Article 7). The Convention calls upon the government to uphold these rights and to recognize Indigenous peoples’ unique historical and socio-economic position within the state and their integral connection to their territories and protects them against displacement. The Convention further guarantees the rights of Indigenous peoples to equal and fair employment opportunities (Articles 20-23), rights to health care (Article 25), and education (Article 27), including education in one’s own language (Article 28).

The convention is law within the nation-states that have ratified it. To date, it has only been ratified by 24 member States of the ILO, fewer than those that ratified its predecessor, ILO Convention 107. The decrease in signatories can be partially attributed to Convention 169’s inclusion of Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. Many nation-states are apprehensive of such provisions, arguing that Indigenous autonomy undermines their own sovereignty and governance.

ILO Convention 169 paved the way for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), adopted in 2007.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Read the full UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples here:

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is an international instrument adopted by the United Nations on September 13, 2007, to enshrine (according to Article 43) the rights that “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.”  The UNDRIP protects collective rights that may not be addressed in other human rights charters that emphasize individual rights, and it also safeguards the individual rights of Indigenous people. It was adopted by 144 countries, with 11 abstentions and 4 countries voting against it. These four countries were Canada, the USA, New Zealand, and Australia.

The first of the UNDRIP’s 46 articles declares that “Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (4) and international human rights law.” The Declaration goes on to guarantee the rights of Indigenous peoples to enjoy and practice their cultures and customs, their religions, and their languages, and to develop and strengthen their economies and their social and political institutions. Indigenous peoples have the right to be free from discrimination, and the right to a nationality.

Significantly, in Article 3 the UNDRIP recognizes Indigenous peoples’ right to self- determination, which includes the right “to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Article 4 affirms Indigenous peoples’ right “to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs,” and Article 5 protects their right “to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions.” Article 26 states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired,” and it directs states to give legal recognition to these territories. The Declaration does not override the rights of Indigenous peoples contained in their treaties and agreements with individual states, and it commands these states to observe and enforce the agreements.

The UNDRIP establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples around the world.

Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Taken from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations’ FREE, PRIOR AND INFORMED CONSENT Manual, 2016

The principle of FPIC within international development is most clearly stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples(UNDRIP). Article 10 states:

"Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return."

All Peoples have the right to self-determination. It is a fundamental principle in international law, embodied in the Charter of the United Nations and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The standard, Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), as well as Indigenous Peoples’ rights to lands, territories and natural resources are embedded within the universal right to self-determination. The normative framework for FPIC consists of a series of international legal instruments including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the International Labour Organization Convention 169 (ILO 169), and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

FPIC is not just a result of a process to obtain consent to a particular project; it is also a process in itself, and one by which Indigenous Peoples are able to conduct their own independent and collective discussions and decision-making. They do so in an environment where they do not feel intimidated, and where they have sufficient time to discuss in their own language, and in a culturally appropriate way, on matters affecting their rights, lands, natural resources, territories, livelihoods, knowledge, social fabric, traditions, governance systems, and culture or heritage (tangible and intangible). Furthermore, FPIC enables them to negotiate the conditions under which the project will be designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated.

The FPIC process does not guarantee consent as a result. The result of an FPIC process can be any of the following outcomes: consent from the Indigenous Peoples’ community on the proposed activity; consent after negotiation and change of the conditions under which the project will be planned, implemented, monitored and evaluated; or the withholding of consent. Consent, once given, can also be withdrawn at any stage.

FPIC is deeply rooted in a human rights-based approach as it prioritizes Indigenous Peoples’ effective participation in determining how best to achieve meaningful and positive outcomes to meet their needs and aspirations, particularly using parameters that emanate from their respective cultures. Under a human rights-based approach, the plans, policies and processes of development are anchored in a system of rights and corresponding obligations established by international law. This helps to promote the sustainability of development work, empowering people themselves— especially the most marginalized—to participate in policy formulation and hold accountable those who have a duty to act.

All elements within FPIC are interlinked, and they should not be treated as separate elements. The first three elements (free, prior and informed) qualify and set the conditions of consent as a decision-making process. In short, consent should be sought before any project, plan or action takes place (prior), it should be independently decided upon (free) and based on accurate, timely and sufficient information provided in a culturally appropriate way (informed) for it to be considered a valid result or outcome of a collective decision- making process.

Detailed definitions of FPIC elements:

  1. Rights-holders determine the process, timeline and decision-making structure;
  2. Information is offered transparently and objectively at the request of the rights-holders;
  3. The process is free from coercion, bias, conditions, bribery or rewards;
  4. Meetings and decisions take place at locations and times and in languages and formats determined by the rights-holders; and
  5. All community members are free to participate regardless of gender, age or standing.
  1. Prior implies that time is provided to understand, access, and analyse information on the proposed activity. The amount of time required will depend on the decision-making processes of the rights-holders;
  2. Information must be provided before activities can be initiated, at the beginning or initiation of an activity, process or phase of implementation, including conceptualization, design, proposal, information, execution, and following evaluation; and
  3. The decision-making timeline established by the rights-holders must be respected, as it reflects the time needed to understand, analyse, and evaluate the activities under consideration in accordance with their own customs.
  1. Accessible, clear, consistent, accurate, and transparent;
  2. Delivered in the local language and in a culturally appropriate format (including radio, traditional/local media, video, graphics, documentaries, photos, oral presentations, or new media);
  3. Objective, covering both the positive and negative potential of the proposed activities and consequences of giving or withholding consent
  4. Complete, including a preliminary assessment of the possible economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts, including potential risks and benefits;
  5. Complete, including the nature, size, pace, duration, reversibility and scope of any proposed project, its purpose and the location of areas that will be affected;
  6. Delivered by culturally appropriate personnel, in culturally appropriate locations, and include capacity building of indigenous or local trainers;
  7. Delivered with sufficient time to be understood and verified;
  8. Accessible to the most remote, rural communities, including youth, women, the elderly and persons with disabilities, who are sometimes neglected; and
  9. Provided in an ongoing and continuous basis throughout the FPIC process, with a view to enhancing local communication and decision making processes.
  1. A freely given decision that may be a “Yes”, a “No”, or a “Yes with conditions”, including the option to reconsider if the proposed activities change or if new information relevant to the proposed activities emerges;
  2. A collective decision (e.g. through consensus or majority) determined by the affected peoples in accordance with their own customs and traditions;
  3. The expression of rights (to self-determination, lands, resources and territories, culture); and
  4. Given or withheld in phases, over specific periods of time for distinct stages or phases of the project activities. It is not a one-off process.