Despite the progress during the Amazon Summit, WWF expresses great concern at the lack of a common goal to end deforestation in the region.

Belém do Pará, August 9th, 2023.

The Belem Declaration signed yesterday by the governments of the eight Amazonian countries brings an important political message: we must act now to prevent the biome from reaching the point of no return. Science has already shown that we are dangerously close to reaching that point: if we continue to lose the region's forests and other ecosystems at the current rate, in less than 10 years the forest could enter a process of irreversible degradation. This would have severe climate, economic and social consequences for all of Latin America and the world.

It is significant that the leaders of the countries of the region have listened to the science and understood the call of society: the Amazon is in danger, and we do not have much time to act.

However, WWF regrets that the eight Amazonian countries, as one front, have not reached a common point to end deforestation in the region. Brazil and Colombia have committed to stopping deforestation by 2030, but this goal was not accepted by other countries. The presidents decided to create an "Amazon Alliance to Combat Deforestation". Nevertheless, they did not come to an agreement on a unified goal between the countries, which is imperative to avoid the point of no return.

In the text, the governments of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela agree to "work jointly in the implementation of actions to eradicate the illegal exploitation of minerals and related crimes, including money laundering." This is a necessary and an urgent measure.

Recent studies show that a great part of the Amazonian population, including indigenous peoples and traditional communities, but also those living in urban areas, are exposed to mercury contamination. Therefore, transnational policies and mechanisms for prevention, regulation, control, alerts, response, and remediation of environmental crimes and other illegal activities, including illegal gold mining, must be adopted.

A point to highlight in the declaration is the agreement to strengthen the ACTO (Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization) as a key institution for articulation and cooperation for sustainable development in the region. WWF views this decision with optimism since it will not be possible to carry out the implementation agenda of this summit without a more agile and politically supported body.

The text recognizes indigenous peoples and local communities’ rights to the territory, urging countries to move forward with the demarcation, titling, and protection of their territories, which provide immense ecosystem services to all societies. They are the true guardians of the Amazon, their involvement in the development of a sustainable economy is of fundamental importance for the region, with its cultural richness and ancestral knowledge.

There is still a lack of commitment from the Amazonian governments on how to harmonize national legislation and improve the guarantee of territorial rights in countries where these have not yet been developed.

Also missing are key elements to guarantee the conservation of 80% of the Amazon, such as defining common actions for protected areas expansion and effective management, the strengthening of conservation measures including recognition of indigenous territories, and a comprehensive landscape approach with ecosystem and cultural connectivity.

We recognize the importance of this Declaration as a political moment in favor of the Amazon. Despite not having reached concrete goals for some of the critical issues in the region, the fact that the presidents have met to discuss how to avoid the point of no return is to be commemorated.

In the coming months, the ACTO, already strengthened, must work on an action plan, with defined dates, goals, and resources to put the agreements of this summit into practice. ACTO's efforts should be integrated into the commitments on the international agenda in the various multilateral processes in the future. Society organizations, including WWF, will be ready to help in any way possible, as the challenge of avoiding the point of no return belongs to all of us and it is now. Only together will it be possible.

Mauricio Voivodic, Executive Director of WWF-Brazil, says:

"It is positive that the heads of state have recognized the point of no return in the Amazon and the urgency of avoiding it. However, it is necessary to adopt concrete and solid measures that can eliminate deforestation as quickly as possible. Combating and eliminating illegal gold and mercury contamination, which have become an environmental and public health problem in the region, requires equal attention and urgency. It is also imperative to increase protected areas and indigenous territories. ACTO has emerged strengthened, which helps the rapid implementation of effective actions in the fight against deforestation, mercury, and illegal mining, as well as in the expansion of protected areas and indigenous territories".

Media Contacts:

Monica Echeverria | Director, Media and External Affairs, WWF

[email protected]

Lauren Gleason | Director, Media and External Affairs, WWF

[email protected]