AXIS Capital is the first North American insurer to declare that it will not underwrite projects without ensuring clients have obtained the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of impacted Indigenous communities.
The new policy is designed to set a best practice around the world for insurers’ policies concerning Indigenous rights.
The firm say in its new Human Rights Guidelines: “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.”
FPIC is a specific right that pertains to Indigenous Peoples and is enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It ensures Indigenous Peoples’ participatory rights and their right to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories. Furthermore, FPIC enables them to negotiate the conditions under which the project will be designed, implemented, monitored, and evaluated.
AXIS’s new policy follows years of pressure from Tribal communities, First Nations, Indigenous rights organizations, and environmental advocates pushing the insurance industry to adopt robust due diligence and verification mechanisms to ensure that underwriting clients fully respect and observe all human rights.
AXIS’ new policy follows on previous fossil fuel underwriting restrictions: in 2020, AXIS became the first North American insurer to restrict support for the tar sands oil sector. In 2021, it became the first North American insurer to rule out support for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It has also committed to not insure companies engaged in coal expansion and to phase out coal insurance fully, in line with a 1.5ºC pathway.
Matt Remle (Lakota), co-founder of Mazaska Talks, said: “Insurance companies must stop underwriting fossil fuel projects that not only negatively impact our climate, but are in violation of the rights of Tribal Nations. We applaud AXIS for listening to tribal leaders who have been calling on the insurance industry to adopt due diligence policies around Free, Prior and Informed Consent, in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. For too long our treaty rights have been violated and these institutions have built, financed, and insured projects without proper consent.”