Photo: Ele Nao by R4VI 

Brazil’s Elections: A Call To Action

By now, anyone who cares about the Amazon rainforest has probably read about Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in the October 28, 2018 Brazilian elections – and likely pulled some hair out. Several articles have documented his offensive statements regarding indigenous peoples, women, the LGBTQ community, NGOs and opponents. He’s vowed that Brazil will pull out of the Paris Accord, and that he would disband the Ministry of the Environment, fusing it with the Ministry of Agriculture (though he’s recently stepped back from these statements). Organizations in Brazil fear that this open hostility to minorities, NGOs, activists, and contempt for environmental regulations will result in increased violence and deforestation

The situation in Brazil is bleak, and it calls for renewed and redoubled action. Brazil has shown the world that it can effectively slow deforestation, with political will and the right regulations and incentives in place. Most of all, local indigenous and forest communities have shown that with their land rights secured, and with the right tools in their hands, they are enormously effective, and the real leaders in the global fight against deforestation and climate chaos. Over 20% of the Brazilian Amazon is recognized as indigenous lands; repeated studies demonstrate that those lands are also the best-protected. This is a winning strategy and one that advances both human rights and the environment. People on the front lines need increased support in order to hold onto these gains and push for more. They also need protection: Brazil is already the most deadly place to be an environmental land defender, and in the current political climate things could very well get worse.

Standing together with and working to strengthen indigenous organizations and civil society in Brazil will be increasingly important in the coming months and years. If there’s any hope that survives the recent elections, it lies with these people, their organizations and their communities. A few examples:

Today, we all need to work together to ensure that we protect the remaining rainforest–even as elected officials are showing little regard for the environment and our future. According to the latest UN report on climate change, we have twelve years left to avoid the worst repercussions of climate change. All of this means we have our work cut for us. We now know that protecting the rainforest is one-third of the solution to fighting climate change. We also know that when we give indigenous communities the support they need, they protect the forest better than any other conservation strategy. But as threats increase, the scale of this work must also increase. 

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Didier Devers
Chief of Party – USAID Guatemala

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.