Indigenous leaders call for protection for 80 pct. of Amazon by 2025

Quito, Mar 14 (EFE).- Indigenous leaders and representatives from the nine countries that share the Amazon basin on Monday met in Quito to call on regional governments and others around the world to guarantee protection for 80 percent of the rain forest by 2025.

Gathering in person for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the members of the directive council of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (Coica) opened their two-day meeting at the Casa de Cultura Ecuatoriana by commemorating the organization’s founding 38 years ago.

“We want a better life for ourselves, for our territories, for the forest, but we also want to live with the society of our countries and are asking the world to help us save the Amazon,” Coica coordinator general Gregorio Mirabal, of Venezuela, said at an inaugural press conference.

With more than 500 indigenous peoples and nationalities spread among the nine countries making up the jungle region – Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana – the organization will discuss the main challenges facing the Amazon region and will urge authorities around the world to protect 80 percent of those lands to guarantee the continuity of the current generations who call it home, as well as those to come.

Mirabal warned that the world’s largest tropical rainforest, which also is the region with the world’s greatest biodiversity, is approaching the “point of no return” due to actions or omissions by assorted nations, most of which recognize plurinationality and defend environmental policies, but he said that in practice these acknowledgements aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

“Amazonia has nine hearts, nine battlefronts. We’re expressing a concern to the world that still, in the 21st century, the Amazon forest is being destroyed with unsustainable projects against the water, the mountains, the forest, wisdom and the laws that are criminalizing our peoples,” Mirabal said.

After two days of work, the indigenous leaders of the Amazon nations are scheduled to issue a declaration setting forth their demands for the states and international entities, asking them to halt extractive activities in their ancestral lands.

The representative of French Guiana, Claudette Labonte, said that there exists an “historic debt” that her nation has with the original peoples of the area.

“This struggle is of concern for the whole world and I think it’s time for states to offer more than nice words and start to show that they are also part of – and are joining – the indigenous cause,” she said.

As the representative of the conference’s host nation, the president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuadorian Amazonia (Confeniae), Marlon Vargas, took advantage of the occasion to highlight the threat posed by extractive activities in the region.

“We’re putting emphasis on what’s happening in the Ecuadorian Amazon: the ongoing threat of extractive activities by the oil, mining (and) hydroelectric companies,” he said.

Also speaking at the inaugural ceremony was Marc Palahi, the director of the European Forest Institute and leader of the Bioeconomic Circular Alliance founded by Britain’s Prince of Wales under the Sustainable Markets Initiative.

Palahi emphasized that the aim of the initiative is to accelerate the ecological transition by indigenous communities.

“Coica and the indigenous communities must play a central role in this Alliance and in this ecological transition. We believe the circular bioeconomy where life, and not consumption, is becoming the raison d’etre and the main engine of change,” he said.

EFE db/fgg/jrh/bp

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