The Amazon Summit, set to take place in Belém, Brazil, on August 8th, will bring together heads of state from the member states of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation. The meeting aims to strengthen regional efforts against deforestation, gaining momentum after a recent meeting between Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Colombian President Gustavo Petro in the city of Leticia.
During this pre-summit meeting, attended by environment ministers, a call was made to save the rainforest, as deforestation in the Amazon has already resulted in the loss of more than 74.8 million hectares since 1978, leaving the current deforestation level at 17%. Experts warn that reaching the 20% threshold could lead to irreversible damage to the rainforest, which currently stores a massive 123 billion tonnes of carbon. Our expert on Amazonian issues for more than 15 years, also explained how “social organisations report that degradation and deforestation has already reached an approximate 26% impact in the Amazon.” The over-arching theme of the summit is that of “the ecological integrity of the Amazon and how it is not only vital for the entire ecosystemic stability of the region, but also for the ecosystemic stability of the planet.” Our Amazonian expert stated that to avoid global catastrophe “80% of the Amazon needs to be protected by 2025.”
To combat deforestation, the ministers of the environment established a plan based on four pillars. These include reforestation projects, combating organised crime that often plays a role in illegal deforestation, supporting the development of local communities and investing in new technologies to aid conservation efforts. “As to whether the agenda of the Summit touches on issues of interest to other countries in the region, I would say yes,” noted a director of social organisations with more than 25 years of experience, “precisely one of the most important issues is the prevention of transnational crimes. Illegal mining is one of the most serious problems, in addition to deforestation, which needs to be dealt with transnationally.”
“…one of the most important issues is the prevention of transnational crimes. Illegal mining is one of the most serious problems, in addition to deforestation, which needs to be dealt with transnationally.”
A director of social organisations, LatAm
In addition to the environmental concerns, the meeting in Leticia also explored opportunities for regional cooperation in other sectors. Maurício Lizcano, Colombia’s Minister of Telecommunications, met with his Brazilian counterpart to discuss the potential expansion of Brazil’s “Norte Conectado” telecommunications infrastructure plan. This project involves the installation of 12,000 kilometers of fibre optic cable, with a total investment of USD 282 million from the Brazilian government. The initiative seeks to overcome geographical and security challenges in the region, facilitating better communication and connectivity.
While expanding the telecommunications network is crucial for the region’s development, local communities are also demanding support in the form of tools, training and funding to initiate sustainable businesses and social enterprises that contribute to reforestation efforts. Initiatives like ‘Our Futures Forests – Amazonia Verde’ aim to give a voice to 27 local communities across seven countries in the Amazon by supporting their participation in decision-making bodies. As an experienced director of social organisations explained, “All these efforts to think of the Amazon as a region are extremely valuable because they help to think of the issues, needs and opportunities in much broader terms. These types of processes thought of as summit agendas are important because of what I was saying about representativeness.” By 2025, this programme plans to cover 73 million hectares, approximately 12% of the Amazon, while benefiting 68,000 people.
The Amazon Summit in Belém is expected to build on the commitments made in Leticia and further strengthen cooperation among the member states to address the pressing issue of deforestation in the Amazon. “The other issue,” explains our expert on Amazonian issues is “the fact that there is a perspective of sustainable development that is often built from the periphery or under development models that do not read the territory. For example, the community-territory-indigenous relationship, where not everything goes through a commercial lens, is not taken into account.”
“We will need to build visions of development in the Amazon, which will have to transcend the economic vision to take into account the services that the Amazon provides for the planet.”
An expert on Amazonian issues, LatAm
The Amazon rainforest plays a crucial role in the global ecosystem and climate regulation, so “perhaps we cannot think of just one development model,” considered the director of social organisations, “we will need to build visions of development in the Amazon, which will have to transcend the economic vision to take into account the services that the Amazon provides for the planet.” These collaborative efforts are essential to safeguarding this vital natural resource for future generations. “It will probably be necessary to explore other types of economic frameworks and proposals that place the care of nature and the well-being or good living of the peoples that inhabit the Amazon at the centre.”