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African and Asian rainforest nations join Amazon summit to discuss preservation

Brazil's President Lula Da Silva (C), DRC President Tshisekedi (R) and Congo President Sassou Nguesso in Belem, Brazil on Aug. 9, 2023.   -  
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Eraldo Peres/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.


The Amazon nations were joined Wednesday (Aug. 09) by the presidents of the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a representative of Indonesia as well as France.

The leaders gathered in the Brazilian city of Belem for the last day of the summit, began charting a common course for preservation of the ecologically diverse regions that are crucial in countering the climate crisis.

The 2-day event was the fourth meeting of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) countries in 45-year existence.

The eight nations — Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela — are members of the ACTO, and have expressed hope a united front will give them a major voice in global environment talks ahead of the COP 28 climate conference.

"It has been 14 years since the presidents of our countries met. The Belem Summit comes at a very different time from the previous three meetings, in 1989, 1992 and 2009," Lula said.

"Today, denying the climate crisis is just foolishness. But valuing the forest is not just about keeping the trees standing, it means giving dignity to the nearly 50 million people who live in the South American Amazon."

On the sidelines of the summit DRC leader Félix Tshisekedi met with president Lula da Silva. According to the Democratic Republic of Congo's presidency, the statesmen discussed bilateral cooperation, "subjects of common interest including mobilization for the preservation of tropical forests and questions of international policy."

When the tête-à-tête was concluded, Lula confirmed he'd travel to Kinshasa for the trilateral rainforest summit** gathering representatives of DRC, Brazil and Indonesia.

President Denis Sassou-N'Guesso hoped another summit scheduled for October 26 to October 28 in Brazzaville and gathering representatives of the world largest rainforest basins (Amazon, Congo, Borneo-Mekong), would pave the way for a groundbreaking "deal" for the preservation of the environment.

Money is necessary to preserve forests

The Amazon stretches across an area twice the size of India.

Two-thirds of it lies in Brazil, with seven other countries and the territory of French Guiana sharing the remaining third.

It is the world's largest rain forest followed by the Congo Basin.

Brazil's president said the UN climate conference set to take place in November shouldn't fall short on funds for forests.

"We are going to COP 28 with the aim of telling the rich world that if they want to effectively preserve what is there in the forest, it is necessary to put money not only to take care of the forest canopy, but to take care of the people who live down there, who want to work, who want to study, who want to eat, who want to walk around, and who want to live decently."

"It is by taking care of these people that we will take care of the forest."

The Belem summit reinforced President Lula’s strategy to leverage global concern for the Amazon’s preservation.

Several environmental groups expressed frustration with Tuesday's (Aug. 08) joint declaration, saying it was largely a compilation of good intentions with little in the way of concrete goals and timeframes. However, the region’s largest Indigenous organization praised the inclusion of two of its main demands.

Governments and global economic actors have historically viewed it as an area to be colonized and exploited, with little regard for sustainability or the rights of its Indigenous peoples.

All the Amazon countries have ratified the Paris climate accord, which requires signatories to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But cross-border cooperation has historically been scant, undermined by low trust, ideological differences, and the lack of government presence.

The members of ACTO demonstrated Tuesday (Aug. 08) they aren’t fully aligned on key issues.

Forest protection commitments have been uneven. And their joint declaration didn’t include a shared commitment to zero deforestation by 2030, as some had hoped. Brazil and Colombia have already made that commitment.

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