Outcomes of the Amazon Summit

Outcomes of the Amazon Summit
Amazon Summit, courtesy Diplomacy & Beyond Plus.

Last week’s two-day gathering of Latin American nations at the Amazon Summit held to explore strategies to address extensive Amazon Rainforest safeguarding issues has finished with a joint declaration. The idea was born from a desire to create an alliance capable of combating extensive deforestation, chemical spills, and general illicit extractivist activities specific to each nations conservation goals. 


The outcome of the Summit, however, predominantly lacks delivering quantifiable and actionable strategies. Despite the desire to create a coalition capable of dealing with mass deforestation, the destruction of local communities, and the degradation of the global environment, the outcome has failed create few concrete steps to fully protect the vital ecosystem. Eight nations reached a consensus on a set of environmental policies and initiatives aimed at enhancing regional collaboration, they fell short of aligning on a shared objective that would uniformly halt deforestation — a point of divergence in their deliberations. 


President Gustavo Petro of Colombia, for example, advocated for other nations to mirror his commitment to prohibit new oil exploitation. In contrast, Brazil is contemplating exploration of fresh drill sites on the Amazon River mouth. Further, in Ecuador a number of drill sites are in the process of beginning in A’i Cofán territory, as reported by impACT this week. 


Notwithstanding these disparities, the assembly undeniably amplified the region’s stance in the battle against climate change, positioning itself as a preeminent player in the upcoming 2025 UN Climate Change Conference understood to be held in Belém once again. As many, particularly those indigenous to the Amazon, understand, the Rainforest is close to tipping point. The implementation of measures to prevent drill sites, logging, cattle farming among other damaging processes are more vital than ever. Multinational extractivist companies in oil, minerals and other heavy metals are more committed than ever to opposing regulatory measures in the Amazon. Unfortunately, Latin American nations, some suffering poor economic conditions are majorly influenced by such companies ability to spend, bribe, and utilise judicial structures to strong-arm policy-makers in their favour. 


Whilst many are suggesting that state policy must be at the forefront of climate action, the connection between indigenous communities and the Rainforest itself provide ample examples of the ideal manner in which to protect the space. At their own expense, in nations like Ecuador, indigenous communities are protecting the rainforest. They are patrolling and monitoring land, and guarding against illicit extractivism. The continuation of their way of life is inextricably linked to the survival of the Amazon itself. As stated by a member of the A’i Cofán community in response to 30 newly proposed drill sites in 2023:


“Once indigenous people disappear, it is way easier for miners and people to come and access the river. When we have stronger indigenous communities, we have stronger forests and a stronger river.”


Prior to the Amazon Summit, indigenous leaders came together with leading politicians to discuss the future of the Rainforest after a devastating four years under Brazil’s former President, Bolsonaro. For many, it represented a watershed moment. Their voices were finding international traction, after decades of repression and abuse, through the Belém Declaration. Recognising their invaluable knowledge and understanding of their own territory, it illustrated the vital importance of the role of indigenous communities in the protection of the Amazon and our planet. So often silenced, abused, and murdered, the declaration provided some institutional backing for their role in the process of policymaking. 


However, what has largely been overlooked is the protection of indigenous peoples against extractivist businesses still active in the Amazon. In the days leading up to the summit, there were four recorded shootings of indigenous protestors, a very common occurrence. These events inherently highlight the violence necessary for such businesses to operate. Nations should have been more compelled to address these tensions urgently and seek prompt resolutions. Last Monday, Human Rights Watch’s Andrea Carvalho visited a town in Northeast Pará, a Brazilian state where indigenous activist and leader opposing palm oil extraction, Lúcio Tembé was shot this year as reported by impACT. Just a few days prior to her visit, a 19-year-old local man was left seriously injured after a private security firm who works for Brasil BioFuels shot him. Brasil BioFuels, a large palm oil company, are also considered to be involved in the shooting of Tembé. The same day she arrived, a further three individuals were shot protesting the injury to the 19-year-old. Carvalho’s findings, among a number of others, clearly indicate that this violence is merely the latest iteration of extensive indigenous oppression.  The lucrative nature of the palm oil industry has meant companies like Brasil BioFuels have valued the lives of indigenous people well below that of the profits of extraction. Despite the declaration outlining the need to ‘promote actions to protect and guarantee the human rights of indigenous peoples and their collective rights over their territories and lands located in the Amazon region’, what’s missing are clear, decisive, and immediate actions that can adequately address the tensions. These examples are not the first, and certainly will not be the last, instances of private security firms murdering local people on behalf of extractivist entities unless states take serious preventative and legal action.


In terms of financial commitments, the declaration champions the sustainable utilisation of biodiversity resources within the Amazon. Yet, a veil of uncertainty shrouds the extent to which member states are prepared to fund the realisation of such objectives and what are the foundational imperatives needed to uphold the minimum standards of conservation. While the summit succeeded in amplifying the voices of the region, several pressing focal points demand immediate attention. Foremost is the climate crisis itself. impACT urgently implores nations to embark on a collective journey toward zero deforestation, accompanied by a resolute push for Brazil to transition from environmentally destructive fuels to renewable ones. This transition is a pivotal one for alleviating the mounting environmental strains on the Amazon. 


Equally critical is the imperative of safeguarding indigenous life. Extensive histories of violence against such groups reflects state and private commitment to the destruction of the environment for profit, the same organisations cannot hold the preeminent position in rectifying the issues they themselves created. Their objectives of profit and control are the antithesis of environmental regeneration. Indigenous peoples must be at the forefront of policy making, in fact, impACT suggests that local groups should hold executive powers in policy creation in relation to regional environmental action. Lastly, but no less crucial, is the indispensable need for unambiguous and steadfast measures in funding. The vision for conservation, the regeneration of old growth forest, and the protection of all life within it cannot materialise without concrete financial commitment. Addressing these imperatives collectively is the true litmus test of the summit’s efficacy and its lasting impact on the Amazon and its communities. 


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