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Amazonian leaders met in Belém, Brazil to discuss the future of the world’s largest rainforest.
IMAGE CREDIT: Ricardo Stuckert/PR

Amazon Summit Falls Short: Leaders Must Dig Deeper and Assume Deforestation Commitments

The final declaration of the Amazon Summit—known as the Belém Declaration—has fallen short of expectations for the joint adoption of decisive measures for the defense of the Amazon rainforest, its peoples, and the global climate. The Summit was held on August 8 and 9 in Belém, Brazil, with officials and presidents from eight Amazonian countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.

The official declaration fails to present a common goal among the countries for zero deforestation by 2030, and leaves out any reference to eliminating oil exploration in the region, ignoring demands from civil society formulated during the Amazon Dialogues, a meeting that preceded the Summit.

No Commitment to End Deforestation and Oil Exploration

Regarding deforestation, the declaration recognizes the need for common goals but fails to establish any concrete commitment, proposing only the creation of a coalition, the Amazonian Alliance to Combat Deforestation, among the Member States.

The lack of commitments regarding fossil fuels is equally problematic, with only a vague reference to the UN’s 2030 Agenda objectives on oil. The rejection of a proposal for a fossil fuel moratorium and the absence of targets for an efficient energy transition reflects the determination by many Latin American countries to continue investing in fossil fuels, signaling a serious failure in regional leadership on environmental issues.

Hope for More Progress

On the plus side, the 113-paragraph document does mandate the creation of an Amazonian scientific panel, inspired by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as for a Regional Observatory that will share real-time information between countries, and the creation of an International Police Center, headquartered in Manaus, to integrate intelligence efforts to combat crimes in the region.

There’s also a specific commitment to eradicate illegal mining, focusing on the exchange of information on trade and smuggling of mercury and other heavy metals and on harmonizing public policies for its regulation and control.

The document emphasizes the rights of Indigenous peoples, in line with ILO Convention 169, including the recognition of territorial rights and the right to consultation on projects affecting their territories. Furthermore, the agreement seeks to strengthen cooperation to address social issues such as gender violence, misogyny, and racism in the Amazon region.

Solidarity among Rainforest Nations

In a highly publicized announcement, the Belém summit leaders have united around a demand that wealthy nations finance forest conservation, recognizing their historical role in causing the climate crisis. Other rainforest nations, such as Indonesia, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and others have echoed this plea.

For Rainforest Foundation US (RFUS), the Belém Declaration is an important symbolic step to show a united front among rainforest nations, but it is still insufficient in the context of an urgent ecological and climate crisis.

Critical Need for Action

The lack of concrete targets and specific deadlines for the protection of the Amazon and the absence of clear commitments to eliminate deforestation and oil exploration in the region reveal a timid and ineffective approach. We are facing a critical moment in time, and rhetoric must be replaced by immediate and decisive action.

It is imperative that Amazonian leaders—in cooperation with civil society, the private sector, academia, and wealthy countries—formulate a robust plan, including public policies, timelines, and necessary investments to ensure that the Amazon does not reach a point of no return.

Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo contain 52% of the world’s remaining primary tropical forests, serve as immense carbon sinks, and are instrumental in global efforts to mitigate climate change. RFUS agrees with the Belém Declaration that rich nations must invest now in forest protection, in recognition of the vital climate service rendered by tropical forests, which are indispensable for fulfilling the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

We commend the Belém Declaration for its emphasis on Indigenous peoples’ rights and regional cooperation. However, these positive steps have been overshadowed by critical omissions. These omissions endanger the Amazon and our entire planet and, therefore, our common future.

The leaders of Amazonian countries must now transform the Belém Declaration into an effective and transparent strategy, honoring the commitment to the Amazon, its peoples, and our future. Civil society organizations and RFUS will remain attentive and vigilant to ensure these commitments are fulfilled.

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April 2024 Newsletter

As Earth Day draws near, we’re excited to share with you our ambitious plans for the future. This year began with a breakthrough: the Peruvian government’s commitment to grant permanent land titles to 19 Ticuna and Yagua communities. With official rights to their ancestral lands, these communities can better. Additionally, our territorial monitoring program now safeguards over 17 million acres of vital rainforest. Dive into our April newsletter to explore these milestones and join us in making a difference.

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Rainforests absorb and store more carbon dioxide than all other types of forests, making rainforest protection one of the most effective solutions to climate change. Support indigenous peoples on the frontlines of rainforest protection.

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This Earth Day, join us and our Indigenous partners in protecting rainforests—and our planet.

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Didier Devers
Chief of Party – USAID Guatemala
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Didier has been coordinating the USAID-funded B’atz project since joining Rainforest Foundation US in April 2022. He holds a Master’s in Applied Anthropology and a Bachelor’s in Geography. Before joining the organization, Didier worked for 12 years in Central and South America on issues of transparency, legality, governance, and managing stakeholders’ processes in the environmental sector. Prior to that he worked on similar issues in Central Africa. He speaks French, Spanish, and English, and is based in Guatemala.