Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Sacred Sites and Traditional Cultural Properties and the Role of Consultation and Free, Prior and Informed Consent

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Sacred sites and traditional cultural properties are crucial to the preservation of indigenous peoples’ culture and society, and are increasingly recognized by international and state law and non-governmental entities. This article explores the various legal and non-legal documents addressing sacred sites and traditional cultural properties, and the duties and responsibilities imposed on businesses involved in the resource extraction industries: conducting consultation with affected indigenous peoples and obtaining, at times, their free, prior and informed consent for the project. While by no means exhaustive, this broad survey encompasses laws and court decisions from international bodies, the United States and examples from other countries, international guidelines, industry standards and laws of indigenous peoples. It concludes that conducting good faith, socially appropriate and respectful consultation with indigenous peoples prior to conducting extraction activities that will or may affect sacred sites and traditional cultural properties is required not only by the law, but by good business practice. Consultation, obtaining free, prior and informed consent, and reaching formalized agreements result in the avoidance of protracted public litigation, and an improved business reputation when commencing future development projects on indigenous lands. Read entire article

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