International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy

4.2 Right to free, prior, and informed consent

Indigenous peoples have the right to be consulted and to free, prior, and informed consent regarding matters affecting them. This includes the right to be consulted on drug control measures and national and international agreements that may affect their lands, resources, cultures, and identities, as well as the right to give or withhold their consent.

In accordance with this right, States should:

i. Consult and cooperate in good faith with relevant indigenous peoples, through their representative institutions, in order to obtain their free, prior, and informed consent before adopting or implementing any drug control measure that may affect them or their territories. Ensure that consultations continue as needed throughout the period of implementation.

ii. Adopt legislative, administrative, and other measures necessary to recognise and ensure the right of indigenous peoples to be effectively consulted, in accordance with their traditions and customs, and the right to give or withhold their free, prior, and informed consent with regard to drug control measures that may affect them or their territories.


States’ obligation to consult in good faith with indigenous peoples with the objective of securing their free, prior, and informed consent on matters that affect their rights and interests has repeatedly been affirmed in international and regional instruments,819 by UN treaty bodies,820 and by other UN human rights mechanisms.821 Regional human rights courts and commissions have also interpreted the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man to recognise States’ duties and obligations to secure free, prior, and informed consent.822 Where the rights implicated are essential to the survival of indigenous groups as distinct peoples and the foreseen impacts on the exercise of the rights are significant, indigenous consent to the impacts is an actual requirement – and not simply an objective – of consultations.823

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples has recommended that ‘indigenous peoples that might be affected should be consulted on anti-drug policies and operations that involve the presence of national or foreign police or armed forces’ and has noted that ‘guarantees should be given that the lives, cultures, lands and natural resources of the indigenous peoples are not violated as a result of such operations. Abuses committed by drugs squad officials must be investigated and punished’.824