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(Reuters) — Reinsurer Axis Capital said it would refuse to underwrite energy, mining and other projects that did not have the backing of local indigenous communities, in a move welcomed by campaigners as setting a new industry standard.
The decision follows years of protests from communities, particularly in the developing world, that argue their voice is often ignored when banks, insurers and investors pursue projects that can negatively impact their lives.
The need to secure the free, prior and informed consent of impacted communities was recognized by the United Nations in 2007, yet high-profile arguments between indigenous peoples and large multinationals and financial service companies continue.
Non-governmental organization Rainforest Action Network told Reuters that Axis was the first North American insurer to adopt such a policy, and believed it set a fresh standard for best practice.
Two insurers in Europe — Swiss Re and Allianz – mention FPIC in their human rights frameworks, but AXIS now references in detail the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, RAN said.
“We expect insureds to respect and observe the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and it is our policy to not provide insurance coverage on projects undertaken on indigenous territories without FPIC,” Axis said in its updated human rights policy, which was shared with Reuters.
FPIC ensures indigenous peoples' right to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories.
Without such explicit support for FPIC, insurers and the projects they back continue to face protests. In Canada, they have faced pressure for years to drop cover for the government's Trans Mountain oil pipeline, which is opposed by environmental campaigners and some indigenous groups.
In the United States, the Dakota Access oil pipeline has been the subject of a lengthy court battle between tribes seeking its closure and Dallas-based company Energy Transfer ET.N, while in Peru, local communities continue to protest against the planned expansion of the Las Bambas copper mine by MMG Ltd.