You are here


7 May 2020

In Nepal, the Tamang Indigenous People gave their free, prior and informed consent to a new 216 megawatt run-of-river project.

The River Trishuli flows down the steep Himalayas and enters Nepal with such force and speed that it was named after the trident of Lord Shiva, the most powerful of Hindu gods. Legend has it he drove his trident into the ground to create the source of the sacred river.


Tamang people consecrating FPIC agreements  - credit Gregory Guldin and NEFIN


The river’s immense hydropower potential has for long been recognised, but to date has remained untapped. This year the Nepal Water and Energy Development Company (NWEDC) however aims to begin construction on a 216 megawatt (MW) run-of-river project, the Upper Trishuli-1 (UT-1). 

Providing electricity for up to nine million people, the hydropower station is central to Nepal meeting its growing energy demands. The project was approved after successfully consulting with affected Indigenous Peoples and gaining their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

FPIC – ‘a give and take tool’

FPIC is a principle recognised in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and is a condition of investment performance standards issued by the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC).


Adibasi Janajati Advisory Council (translates to Indigenous Peoples Advisory Council) - credit Gregory Guldin and NEFIN


The US$453 million UT-1 project in Rasuwa district has implications for the area’s Indigenous Peoples, most of whom belong to the Tamang community. The project will affect almost 80 hectares of land.

One of the project’s lenders, IFC, employed Greg Guldin, an expert from Cross-Cultural Consulting Services to facilitate the process of achieving FPIC with the affected Indigenous People alongside Phurpa Tamang, an Indigenous People’s advocate and a project-affected person who was appointed by NWEDC.

According to Phurpa, the Tamang people have a deep connection to the Trishuli River and cannot be separated from it for religious, spiritual and cultural reasons. “When a project is in operation, our water, forest and land will be disrupted or lost,” he says. “But this can be mitigated through FPIC, a give-and-take tool for Indigenous Peoples by which we can make compromises with project developers and co-plan our future.”

Good faith negotiations

Under the community consultation process that was implemented, the Adibasi Janajati Advisory Council (AJAC) was created to support decision-making, consisting of 85 representatives from 10 villages.


CEO receives consecrated [FPIC] Consent Statement - credit Gregory Guldin and NEFIN

“The FPIC process required by the international financial institutions was initially met with a lot of scepticism by critics, who feared failure and said written and signed consent was nearly impossible,” said Greg. “But it was achieved in six months.”

The FPIC process was accomplished through good faith negotiations between the Indigenous Peoples organisations, the company’s management, and the project’s lenders, Greg says. “The more engaged the Indigenous Peoples felt, the less likely there were to be misunderstandings and conflicts.”
NWEDC went on to receive the signed consent of the AJAC from its chairman, a former critic of the project, on 2 November 2018.

The UT-1 project will deliver a benefits package for local communities including new infrastructure, such as roads, schools and health services. The local Tamang will also be offered share options, allowing them to become equity shareholders in the project. 

“UT-1 was started 12 years ago, but there were no signs of success and few local Tamang supported it.” Phurpa added. “With FPIC, a new door has opened for both the project and the Tamang community to achieve a ‘win-win’.”

Read more about Indigenous Peoples and FPIC.

Sustainability assessment tools have been enhanced to better align with ESG requirements set by international financial institutions such as IFC and the World Bank. 

Use of the Hydropower Sustainability Tools will mean hydropower developers better understand how their project can achieve the performance standards required by major investment banks for all types of infrastructure projects.  


The tools comprise the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol, which is used to assess projects against 26 social, environmental and governance performance areas, and the Hydropower Sustainability ESG Gap Analysis Tool, which identifies gaps against good practice and produces a gap management plan.  

Commissioning an independent assessment using these tools can help prepare project developers to meet lender requirements.

The tools offer a scoring framework specific to hydropower, and in some areas go beyond the requirements of international financial institutions by covering topics such as climate change and hydrological resource. 

“The tools can help high-performing projects demonstrate why they merit investment and ensure the best outcomes for the environment and local communities” said Eddie Rich, CEO of the International Hydropower Association (IHA). “At IHA, we encourage our members to sustainability test new projects and are pleased to offer training to strengthen institutional capacity on delivering good and best practice.” 

The changes include an update to assessment guidance on consultations with Indigenous Peoples, meaning projects will need to seek the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of affected Indigenous Peoples to achieve international good practice. This brings the assessment tools into line with IFC performance standards and the World Bank’s environmental and social standards. 

Other changes to the HESG relate to its structure and section titles. For example HESG section 4 is now titled Community Impacts and Infrastructure Safety, more closely relating the Word Bank’s ESS4 standard on Community Health and Safety. 

The tools are governed by the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council, whose members include representatives of organisations such as the World Bank, The Nature Conservancy, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, WWF, the Inter-American Development Corporation, hydropower companies and governments.   

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) acts as the council’s management secretariat and is responsible for overseeing training and assessor accreditation. 

To enquire about training or to identify an accredited assessor please contact

Download the assessment tools: 
Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol
Hydropower Sustainability ESG Gap Analysis Tool

In May 2020, the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council updated the Hydropower Sustainability Tools, which are used by independent assessors to assess a hydropower project’s performance in accordance with internationally recognised good and best practices.

The changes include the addition of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as a requirement of meeting good practice for hydropower projects that affect Indigenous Peoples.



What is Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC)?

FPIC is a principle enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIP), agreed and adopted by member governments on 13 September 2007. It establishes a ‘universal framework’ of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous Peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of Indigenous Peoples.

What are the new requirements under the Hydropower Sustainability Tools?

To achieve good practice when seeking stakeholder support for a hydropower project, a project will need to show that FPIC has been achieved with respect to the Indigenous Peoples’ rights at risk following the principle of proportionality. To achieve best practice, in addition FPIC will need to be demonstrated for directly affected indigenous groups for the entire project.

A hydropower developer is expected to engage in good-faith consultation with Indigenous Peoples’ institutions of representation and decision-making, as determined by them. The engagement process shall be appropriately timed, culturally appropriate and two-way. In addition, ongoing processes need to be in place for Indigenous Peoples to raise issues and gain feedback, with a mutually-agreed disputes procedure.

The guidance on Indigenous Peoples has also been amended in relation to assessing the project-affected community, management and outcomes. See the guidance for full details.

How is FPIC defined in the Hydropower Sustainability Tools?

Free, Prior and Informed Consent is defined as both a process and an outcome. 

The process involves (i) good-faith consultation; (ii) mutual and cross- cultural understanding with dialogue that is ongoing and open, and gender and inter-generationally inclusive whenever possible (with gender and age disaggregated data and analysis); (iii) inclusive and participatory engagement, including during the assessment of issues and the identification of mitigation measures, with clarity on the level of participation of Indigenous Peoples throughout the consultation process; (iv) provision of adequate resources to ensure that the Indigenous Peoples representatives can participate in the FPIC process equitably, including the services of independent technical or legal consultants (such as Indigenous Peoples Organization); (v) mutual agreement on the process and desired outcome from the outset of the consultation; and (vi) documentation that is evaluated on an ongoing basis, is verifiable by a mutually agreed methodology, and made publicly available. 

The outcome is the agreement and the evidence thereof (including thorough documentation of how the agreement was achieved). Types of evidence include surveys, signatures on plans, records of meetings, video/ audio records, public hearing records, public statements, governmental license, court decisions, etc. Recollections of community elders cannot be accepted as evidence without supplementary forms acknowledged by and easily accessible to the counterparties to the agreements. FPIC does not require unanimity in the indigenous community and does not grant individuals or groups veto rights over a project. At the level of proven best practice, FPIC is to be achieved for the entire project, irrespective of the principle of proportionality.

How are Indigenous Peoples defined?

The term Indigenous Peoples refers to a distinct social and cultural group possessing the following characteristics in varying degrees: self-identification as members of a distinct indigenous cultural group and recognition of this identity by others; collective attachment to geographically distinct habitats or ancestral territories in the project area and to the natural resources in these habitats and territories; customary cultural, economic, social or political institutions that are separate from those of the dominant society or culture; an Indigenous language, often different from the official language of the country or part of the country within which they reside. In some countries, interactions with Indigenous Peoples may be required to be conducted through a specific government agency. 

What are Indigenous Peoples’ rights?

Indigenous Peoples’ rights are documented in places such as in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIP) and the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 169. They include right to self- determination, right to ownership and property, right to practise and revitalise cultural traditions and customs, right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies, right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. Indigenous Peoples’ rights are considered at risk when project activities or impacts prevent Indigenous Peoples from exercising their rights.

What does ‘good-faith consultation’ mean?

Good-faith consultation involves (i) willingness to engage in a process and availability to meet at reasonable times and frequency on the part of all parties; (ii) sharing of information that is accessible and understandable to the Indigenous Peoples, disseminated in a culturally-appropriate manner and in the local language(s)/dialect(s); (ii) commitment that Indigenous Peoples have been fully informed of project impacts affecting their rights; (iv) use of mutually acceptable procedures for negotiation; (v) willingness to change initial positions and modify offers where possible; and (vi) provision of sufficient time for the Indigenous Peoples to consider information using their customary internal processes.

What is the ‘principle of proportionality’?

The new guidance applies a principle of proportionality which stipulates that the extent of consultation and consent required is proportional to the nature and scope of the Indigenous rights that are impacted by the project. Ordinarily, consent will not be required for impacts that are not significant to Indigenous Peoples. However, good-faith consultation is required for this determination. Two situations, in which a project must obtain the consent of an indigenous community, are stated in the UN DRIP as follows: (i) when the project will result in the community’s relocation from its traditional territories, and (ii) in cases involving the storage or disposal of toxic waste within Indigenous lands.

Who issued the new sustainability guidance?

The amended guidance on FPIC was issued by the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council, a multi-stakeholder group of social and environmental NGOs, industry, government and financial institutions whose role is to develop guidelines and assessment tools for the hydropower sector. The decision-making committee of the council currently includes representatives from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Energias de Portugal (EDP), Voith Hydro, the New Development Bank, the World Bank,the Women for Water Partnership, Sarawak Energy Berhad, the Office of Investment Board of the Government of Nepal and Hohai University, China.

Why was the guidance changed?

The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council gave a mandate to its executive committee to establish a working group, named the Hydropower Sustainability Working Group on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC-WG), to review good practice around hydropower activities affecting Indigenous communities. The objective was to find stronger agreement on the language that defines good international industry practice on this topic, and how this practice should be assessed at the project level. 

How was the new language decided?

The  FPIC-WG reviewed the current language on Indigenous Peoples in the Hydropower Sustainability Tools to determine whether any substantive changes were needed. It based its review on previous assessment case studies, analysis of existing standards and international law. In parallel, the working group evaluated the scope, relevance and applicability of current FPIC language in existing standards, including the Hydropower Sustainability Tools, the World Bank Environmental and Social Standard 7 (ESS7) and the IFC Performance Standard 7 (PS7). 

The FPIC-WG sought guidance from a former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to conduct legal research and analysis of applicable international law as to the duty to consult Indigenous Peoples, i.e. when and under what circumstances FPIC is required by international law, and how compliance with such requirements should be measured. The legal report, along with the assessment cases studies and the analysis of existing standards, provided the basis for the working group’s deliberation.

Following the approval of the good practice language, the council’s management entity and secretariat, hosted by the International Hydropower Association’s sustainability division, updated the best practice language and assessment guidance through collaboration with experienced accredited assessors and council members.

While the Covid-19 pandemic is the world’s most pressing threat with its tragic impacts on families everywhere requiring urgent action, we must not lose sight of climate targets and the sustainable development goals.



The International Hydropower Association (IHA) has teamed up with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and more than 100 renewable energy organisations to issue a joint call for action urging policy-makers to prioritise green growth as part of their Covid-19 recovery plans.

The recommendations cover a range of priority actions to ensure a rapid and sustained economic recovery, promoting renewable solutions as well as the need for market and policy frameworks that support storage and flexibility - services which are provided by sustainable hydropower.

The call for action says: “To provide long-term policy certainty in this time of crisis, governments must consider affirming existing and planned support schemes, as well as continuing to implement appropriate market and policy frameworks that support grid development, storage and flexibility, and other infrastructure critical to support a higher penetration of renewable energy.

“Permitting and siting approvals should be fast-tracked so that the renewable energy industry can plan ahead and protect its workforce.”

Last week IRENA published its 2020 Global Renewables Outlook, which called for stimulus and recovery packages that will “accelerate the shift to sustainable, decarbonised economies and resilient inclusive societies”.

Recovery measures should include investment in “interconnected hydropower” among other technologies, said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “With the need for energy decarbonisation unchanged, such investments can safeguard against short-sighted decisions and greater accumulation of stranded assets."

The Global Renewables Outlook says that "hydropower can bring important synergies to the energy system of the future" thanks to its multiple uses and synergies with other renewable energy technologies. Policy-makers and planners around the world need to "start thinking now" about building new hydropower projects, the organisation said.

The International Hydropower Association (IHA) is a leading member of IRENA's Coalition for Action, which was formed to promote the wider and faster uptake of renewable energy technologies. The coalition brings together private sector companies, industry associations, civil society, research institutes and intergovernmental organisations.

IHA Chief Executive Eddie Rich said: "In order to meet the climate change commitments set in the Paris Agreement in 2015, hydropower needs to grow much faster. This requires determined and enabling policy, market restructuring to better incentivise energy storage, and a step change in technical integration capability globally."

In the joint statement, the IRENA Coalition for Action call on governments to:

  • Revisit deadlines for renewable energy projects that face contractual obligations for near-term delivery.
  • Designate the renewable energy industry and related infrastructure as a critical and essential sector. 
  • Affirm and extend policies promoting renewable energy solutions, both centralised and decentralised.
  • Prioritise renewable energy in any stimulus measures and commit to phasing out support for fossil fuels. 
  • Provide public financial support to safeguard the industry and mobilise private investment in renewable energy. 
  • Enhance the role of renewable energy in industrial policies.
  • Revise labour and education policies to foster a just transition and help workers make the shift into renewable energy jobs.
  • Strengthen international co-operation and action to accelerate renewable energy deployment in line with global climate and sustainability objectives.

Read more about the IRENA Coalition for Action and its joint call for action.

27 April 2020

Technical guidance to help the hydropower sector become more resilient to climate change is now available in the Russian language.


IHA’s Hydropower Sector Climate Resilience Guide offers a methodology for identifying, assessing and managing climate risks.

The guidance aims to help owners, developers and investors make informed decisions when planning, building, upgrading and operating hydropower facilities amid variable climatic and hydrological conditions.

The guide was developed with the financial and technical support of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank Group and its Korea Green Growth Trust Fund.

The Russian translation was supported by EBRD.

“EBRD is pleased to have provided resources for the translation of this guide into Russian” said Craig Davies, Head of Climate Resilience Investments at the EBRD. “It will play a crucial role in enhancing hydropower sector climate resilience in several of our countries of operation, in particular in the Caucasus and Central Asia, by enabling a wider range of stakeholders to access the guidance. It will be immediately deployed by the EBRD on the ground in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the latter involving collaboration with the Green Climate Fund and the Climate Investment Funds.”  

“IHA is pleased to make the Hydropower Sector Climate Resilience Guide available in Russian,” said Maria Ubierna, Senior Specialist at IHA. “We hope to reach a wider audience of project operators and developers in Russian-speaking countries through this edition, and hope they can benefit from international good practice guidance in this area.”

IHA has a strong presence in Russian-speaking countries, with gold members EuroSibEnergo and RusHydro, and affiliates in Russia and Kyrgyzstan.

Recent IHA engagement in Central Asia has included an in-depth study of the region’s modernisation needs in partnership with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). IHA also represented the hydropower sector at events such as Energy Week Uzbekistan 2019.

In February 2020, IHA launched a USD 1 million Hydropower Sustainability ESG Assessment Fund with support from the government of Switzerland. The first tranche of funding is available for projects in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan among other countries.

Read the Hydropower Sector Climate Resilience Guide in English and Russian.