Amazonian Nations Attend Summit to Coordinate Response Against Deforestation

August 23, 2023

Earlier this month, representatives from eight South American countries came together for the first time in 14 years for the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) summit. These renewed meetings hosted by the previously dormant organization show the rebirth of a movement to stop deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest on a multinational scale. Brazilian President Lula Da Silva highlighted that deforestation in Brazil has already decreased by an astounding 66% in one year, and hopes to continue efforts in protecting the continent’s vast, diverse forests that not only house incredibly diverse species, but local and indigenous communities that depend on its natural resources.

Regional leaders of Amazonian countries convened in Belém, Brazil for this special session, and although the meeting of powers did not result in any hard deadlines or funding strategies, the summit allowed for the drafting of the Belém Declaration, containing 113 points of consensus on how to strengthen ACTO in the future while outlining key objectives of the organization. To the delight of many, one major focus of the Declaration was the protection of indigenous rights and the need to amplify indigenous voices in regional governance.  The agreement calls for an Amazon-wide institution to facilitate communication between indigenous communities and national governments as well as investment in education programs in the Amazon centered around indigenous knowledge and empowerment. In line with other international agreements such as the Escazú Agreement and the Leticia Pact, this declaration reaffirms the importance of protecting the rights of indigenous communities. 

Many environmental groups hope the Belém talks are laying the groundwork for future cooperation and regional solidarity in international forums. Another summit occurring simultaneously, United for Our Forests, saw the 8 Amazonian nations join with other rainforest countries in Southeast Asia and Central Africa, to advocate for developing nations to provide $100 billion in climate financing immediately, and $200 billion by 2030. Additionally, A united front of Amazonian nations at COP 28 may be more likely to succeed in securing international funding to halt deforestation. Between the United for Our Forests request, and lack of deadlines in the Belém Declaration, Amazonian nations seem to be signaling that they are willing to implement change, but need more financial resources to begin substantial, multilateral projects. 

Despite progress being made, some observers are calling for more concrete measures to be taken. The Brazilian Indigenous People Articulation (APIB) called the result of the summit ‘frustrating,’ and demanded that politicians back up rhetoric with demarcation of indigenous lands. Still, Belém represents a vital first step in expanding international conservation efforts across the Amazon. With the groundwork laid for greater cooperation, we can hope for greater regional alignment and progress in future international negotiations.