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News > Brazil

South American Presidents Meeting to Halt Amazon Deforestation

  • Aerial view of a deforested area in the Amazon, 2023.

    Aerial view of a deforested area in the Amazon, 2023. | Photo: Twitter/ @volker_turk

Published 7 August 2023

The Amazon forest is being affected by high rates of deforestation, illegal mining, and the growing presence of drug trafficking.

Starting Tuesday, Brazilian President Lula da Silva will lead a summit of Amazonian countries in the city of Belem, in the state of Para, to promote a new development model that will halt the cycle of destruction that ravages the planet's largest tropical forest.


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This will be the fourth meeting of leaders of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (OTCA), a block of countries created in 1995 and made up of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. At the Belem summit, however, the presidents Guillermo Lasso (Ecuador) and Chan Santokhi (Suriname) will not be present.

This high-level meeting occurs at a time when the Amazon forest is going through a serious crisis, affected by high rates of deforestation, illegal mining, the growing presence of drug trafficking, and harassment of Indigenous peoples.

On Monday, the foreign affairs and environment ministers will meet behind closed doors to finalize the details of the Belem Declaration, which will consist of some 130 points and will include a plan to keep the forest standing.

On Tuesday, the presidents will share their points of view on this vast territory of 6.3 million square kilometers, home to the world's largest hydrographic basin and in which close to 50 million people live, mostly in a precarious situation.

The objective is to find a balance point between safeguarding the ecosystem and providing decent living conditions to its inhabitants through the so-called bioeconomy.

"There is an understanding of all the presidents that the Amazon cannot reach the point of no return," Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva said, explaining that reaching that point would mean that this tropical forest has lost its ability to regenerate and is walking irreversible towards its transformation into a savannah.

Some specialists maintain that this "savannization process" is already being observed in some areas of the ecosystem. The great unknown is whether the South American presidents will be able to reach concrete goals to stop the destruction of the jungle.

The scientific community and representatives of NGOs have given them several ideas during the celebration of the Amazon Dialogues, which hosted sectoral debates on the challenges of this biome during the weekend.

Their demands can be summarized in three points: establish a deadline to end deforestation, protect 80 percent of the biome through new protected areas and Indigenous territories, and declare the Amazon in a climate emergency situation.

On Wednesday, a meeting will be held with invited countries that possess large areas of tropical forest such as Indonesia, the Republic of the Congo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This meeting will also include Saint Vincent & the Grenadine, which holds the pro tempore Presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and Germany and Norway, which are contributors to the Amazon Fund that promotes sustainable projects.

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