The Amazon we want – and key ideas on how to get there

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Vista aérea de un río que cruza la Amazonía colombiana Vista aérea de un río que cruza la Amazonía colombiana

When I started working for the World Bank led Amazon Sustainable Landscapes (ASL) Program four years ago, I knew there was so much to learn, to understand, visit, and hear. The Amazon is an immense biome with such a diversity of countries, contexts, perspectives, and realities.

But there is one point that is clear for all: the need to protect it for the sake of the 47 million people living in it, and with no exaggeration—for the sake of the planet.

The Amazon plays a critical role in influencing the global carbon cycle, it is the world’s largest freshwater system, hosting 40% of the world’s remaining rainforest  and 10% of the world’s known biodiversity. Protecting the Amazon is a survival issue and a moral imperative that can be accomplished by promoting an integrated conservation and development model that is inclusive and socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable.

A new key publication has important information and recommendations to guide the protection of the Amazon : the Amazon Assessment Report 2021 prepared by the Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA). This report is equally impressive both because of the process that made it possible, as well as its content.

The SPA gathered 200+ scientists including local traditional experts from the eight amazon countries, French Guiana, and international partners. They came together, divided in thematic groups, offered their time, and shared their knowledge to discuss and assemble this comprehensive piece of work. This product is an example of how collaboration, clear objectives, and champions make things happen. It’s also a lesson of inclusion by bringing in indigenous and local knowledge.

The result is a rigorous scientific assessment of the state of the Amazon’s ecosystems and the impact in the long term , as well as opportunities and policy-relevant options for conservation and sustainable development.

How can we support the Amazon

The report is organized in three parts: the current state, threats, and solutions that lie in the nexus between conservation, sustainable development, and human well-being.

Besides working with several of the institutions where some of the researchers are based, at the World Bank—through the ASL program—we have started a partnership with the SPA. They have participated in events organized by the ASL and we hope to have our actions be informed by their knowledge.

The report has several key messages in terms of solutions and recommendations grouped in three key pillars, aligning well with the pillars of the ASL.

  1. The need to promote and scale up measures to conserve, protect and restore, terrestrial and aquatic systems towards landscape connectivity, prioritizing conserving healthy ecosystems particularly those in protected areas and Indigenous territories, before the need to restore them in the future. For this, it is essential to:
  • Support effective protected areas management and financing, enhancing its role as generator of local and global benefits.
  • Protect the Indigenous territories, providing recognition of territories and collective rights and strengthening of local governance.
  • Restore and rehabilitate ecosystems, providing direct and indirect socioenvironmental benefits for amazon people, via jobs, income generation, food security among others, prioritizing places that maximize ecosystem services and connectivity, minimizing pressure on natural forests.
  1. Developing innovative policies and institutional frameworks for bioeconomy that translates in human and environmental well-being, standing forests and flowing rivers. A post-pandemic green and equitable recovery should include developing a sustainable and dynamic nature-based economy in the Amazon that requires strengthening local community organizations, halting environmental crime, strengthening value chains of biodiversity products, bringing at the forefront traditional knowledge, investing in research, marketing, and production of Amazonian socio-biodiversity products. Sustainability, transparency, and accountability are to be ensured along the supply chains to transition to a dynamic new bioeconomy.
  1. Strengthening Amazonian citizenship and governance, which includes the implementation of governance systems to:
  • Promote better management of natural resources.
  • Strengthen human and territorial rights.
  • Conduct near-real-time monitoring of environmental threats to be combined with effective on-the-ground enforcement actions at a regional scale.
  • Deliver policies at subnational, national and transnational levels, that make sustainable use of resources work for both people and nature.

Gender considerations and  bringing science and local knowledge at the center of decision making lie as essential cross cutting elements. The transformation towards a sustainable Amazon requires international agreements, regional cooperation mechanisms, financing, and regional partnerships at multiple scales.

The World Bank has demonstrated a long-term commitment towards the Amazon, contributing knowledge, assistance, and financial support towards an integrated conservation and development approach in this region . The ASL has been lucky to partner with the SPA and aims to support implementation of key actions that align to the above pillars. Other World Bank interventions will benefit from the guidance too.

At a time when global conservation and climate change goals are being reviewed and the Amazon needs a development path towards resilient, sustainable, inclusive growth, the SPA provides excellent guidance to build such a path .

The executive summary of the SPA’s report is available here and the full report will be launched at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) on November 12th. I invite you all to read the report, learn about the Amazon, and follow the path that’s been laid out towards its conservation.

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