The responsibility for taking care of the Amazon region is a shared one: Shared by the governments of the countries that make it up, by people who live there, by an organization like ours, that is committed to specifically established duties. Today we have the opportunity of informing you, the Chancellors, about the work developed by this Organization along this last year complying with its mandate.
With the establishment of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty in 1978, the Country Members undertook the commitment of protecting the Amazon region, its environment, fighting against poverty and towards improving the quality of life of its peoples.
Under this light, the signing of the Treaty could be considered a sort of appeal to the sustainable development, even before such concept had been generalized. In this sense, it was a visionary initiative for that time. Although the 27 years that have elapsed since the signing have brought about positive achievements to celebrate, on the other hand it is also necessary to recognize that, unfortunately, our efforts have not been enough to holdback the process of degradation of the Amazon nature and its populations’ living conditions.
The establishment of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization and the settlement of its Permanent Secretariat take place in times of great concerns about the future of the region, due to its social and environmental vulnerability. However, above all, these are times for recognizing the huge interdependence among the regions that make up the Great Amazon region.
The recent and dramatic images of dry rivers, dead fishes and isolated populations, obstinately show us that the Amazon plain and the great water cycles in the region highly depend on the Andes which, in turn, is increasingly suffering human interventions and the impact entailed by the global warming, with the inauspicious perspective of having the glacial Andes disappearing in the forthcoming fifty years.
Among the most relevant achievements of our one year of work, is outstanding the political visibility at global level of a multilateral organization exclusively dedicated to the Amazon regional affairs. This visibility is translated into an intensive and profitable technical-political dialogue with extensive networks of multilateral and bilateral organizations, countries that friends to the continent and other regions of the world, NGOs, civil society and other players that, somehow, are involved in the protection and sustainable development of the Amazon region.
There is a sound dialogue between the Permanent Secretariat and these partners, due to the high expectations generated. In face, the strategic partnerships established now allows for effectively developing projects that are of utmost relevance to the region.
Within the internal scope of the ACT, at sub-regional level, the aforementioned visibility of the PS/ACTO has contributed towards strengthening the dialogue among countries, since the multi-theme structure of ACTO naturally leads to approximation, debate and, many times, to the consensus and solution to problems shared by all the Amazon countries. In this sense, one could suggest that ACTO value for the Country Members lies on the support it provides for actions individually developed by each country, as a single biome, with an evident interdependence, mainly when comes to the water system that is mostly nourished with the waters from the Andean heights, and serves to water the extensive Amazon plains.
Therefore, the view of a regional organization such as ACTO is crucial for the work, protection, sustainable use of the Amazon basin, taking into consideration that human being is the major target of our efforts.
Our duty and our commitment have been to translate the political mandate that the Chancellors have assigned to us into concrete actions for the sustainable development and the defense of our common interests regarding the priceless patrimony of the Amazon region.
During the meeting of Manaus, in September 2004, the Country Members have restated the commitment and political support of their Governments to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, acknowledging its unchallengeable and crucial importance as a tool of harmonization and execution of sustainable and integral policies to the Amazon region. And as a concrete manifestation of this commitment and support, the Chancellors have approved the Organization’s Strategic Plan for 2004 – 2012. In a period a littler longer than one year we have started implementing the Plan and concretizing the mandates assigned to us in September 2004, and we have managed to convert the resolutions into concrete activities.
I would now like to mention the main action that we have developed since our last meeting in Manaus: Effective participation of the Amazon countries in the United Nations Forest Forum. ACTO has been accredited to the United Nations Forum on Forests and its participation was crucial in building a sound, consolidated and consensual positioning of the Country Members before such an important global forum, by means of the meetings held in Quito, New York and, more recently, in Berlin.
I do believe this is an important step towards complying with the provisions set forth in the Declaration of Manaus, concerning the articulation of joint standings in topics of shared interest, pursuant to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty objectives, aiming at enhancing the political harmonization in international forums, advocating for the Sustainable and Integral Development of the Amazon River.
Fluvial Navigation. Taking into consideration the importance of the Amazon Rivers in the process of economic and social development of the region, besides the need for enhancing the regional physical integration, the Permanent Secretariat retook the dialogue on the study about the Standards Project aimed at ruling and facilitating the commercial navigation along the fluvial system of the Amazon River Basin. The Country Members shall elect the best opportunity to call the technical meetings to advance the negotiations.
Transportation alternatives. Aiming at promoting logistical transportation solutions that allow for interchanging goods and services with the inland Amazon regions – and across them – in terms of transportation security, environmental preservation and savings of resources, ACTO expects the IADB support to prepare a project to improve the navigability in tributary rivers to the Amazonas River.
Resources for Sustainable Development. Concerning the intake of resources to finance the sustainable and integral development in the Amazon region, we have signed an agreement with the Andean Corporation for Development for a technical-financial cooperation project. This project purpose is to carry out a feasibility study concerning the establishment of a solidarity financing fund to sustainable development to channel the countries’ resources, resources from international cooperation and those obtained by means of the remuneration of environmental services generated by the region, capable of meeting its social requirements.
Tourism and ecotourism. We have started outlining a regional and articulated proposal, supported by the private initiative, to develop the Sustainable Tourism and Ecotourism. These are key sectors for job and income generation in the Amazon region. Furthermore, we have participated in several forums on this topic, aiming at having ACTO involved in the national and international debates on public policies for the industry.
Youth, Culture and Gender. I would like to call your attention to the fact that, although the ACTO Strategic Member does not make any specific reference to the issues of gender, youth and cultural affairs, we have been working on them by means, for instance, of seminars on the topics, such as the Seminar on Gender and the Amazon region, held in the Peruvian Amazon region. Furthermore, there are cultural and scientific projects: The Expedition “Getting to Know the Amazon Region” ACTO and the Youth, the Orellana Ways, which is arranging a trip to improve the knowledge about the Amazon region, with annual routes, for outstanding youths in the Country Members; and, the ACTO Awards, intended to stress and encourage outstanding actions developed in the region.
The Expedition shall travel over 4,000 km., from Quito to Belém, developing educational and research activities. 45 young students, of 15 to 18 years old, and some journalists will participate in this endeavor. The major purpose of the project is to contribute to increasing the Pan-Amazonian consciousness among new leaders and foster a regional identity among them.
Security and integral defense of the Amazon region. In order to expand to the remaining countries the benefits for the security and defense of their territories, the Permanent Secretariat is negotiating a cooperation agreement with the Amazon Surveillance System (SIVAM) and the Amazon Protection System (SIPAM). We are now reviewing the legal aspects of this tool. We are also analyzing a legal tool to serve as a framework between the countries and the National Institute of Space Researches (INPE).
Theme ministerial meetings. In order to develop the political dialogue on specific issues relevant to ACTO State Members, and as explicitly instructed in Manaus, the Permanent Secretariat – acting as facilitator of dialogue to build synergies in strategic themes for the Amazon sustainable development – has organized, in coordination with the countries, the following meetings:
1st Regional Meeting of the Country Member Representatives in industrial and intellectual property affairs, held from 30 June to 01 July 2005, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. During the meeting, high authorities have discussed topics such as biopiracy, intellectual property, traditional knowledge and genetic resources of ACTO Country Members, and patent rights as well.
1st Meeting of Ministers and High Authorities in Science and Technology of ACTO Country Members, held in Lima, on 26 August 2005. The meeting stood for a crucial step towards strengthening the process of integration and cooperation among the Amazon countries in the field of science and technology.
Political and economic integration in South America. Strongly believing that the cooperation and integration among the Amazon countries shall definitely contribute towards gradually constructing a South American Community of Nations, the Permanent Secretariat has actively participated in the technical and political meetings in this field. The main contribution provided by ACTO to the South American integration relies on its role of fomenting the cooperation and solidarity for the shared biome sustainability. These dimensions are typically left aside, although their essential role towards guaranteeing benefits to those countries involved in the process of political-economic integration. In this sense, ACTO has signed agreements with the Andean Community and the Inter-Government Coordination Commission of the Plata Basin Countries.
Knowledge management and scientific and technological development. In face of the need for fostering the scientific research, knowledge generation, technological development and human resources qualification oriented to searching for solutions to economic, social, ecological, technological, educational and cultural issues in the Amazon region, the Permanent Secretariat shall develop joint actions with UNAMAZ – the network of Amazon universities. UNAMAZ is of utmost relevance in the building of scientific, technological and innovation thinking in the region and shall reach its expected maturity and achievements. In this sense, ACTO started working on the concepts of science and technology with CYTED and similar spheres in each Country Member, and other common initiatives, as the so-called Amazon Initiative, to which ACTO is member since its earliest stages.
ACTO has also cooperated with some multi-institutional networks working at regional level, such as the MAP (Madre de Dios, Acre, Pando) project, in the civil social sphere, among others.
Protection to biodiversity in the Amazon region. Through cooperation with the Inter-American Development Bank – IADB, which shall grant US$ 1.9 million, we are implementing the technical cooperation project called “Strengthening the Joint Regional Management to the Sustainable Use of the Amazon Biodiversity”. The project shall allow strengthening ACTO towards meeting its duties as facilitator and supporter to the transboundary efforts on conservation and sustainability to biodiversity. It shall also allow reinforcing the organization capacities to support the coordination of basic and applied research, the coordination and accomplishment of joint regional actions on conservation and to set up a Regional Action Plan on biodiversity, integrating orientations and guidelines by the existing sub-regional (such as the Andean Strategy on Biodiversity) and national initiatives. The project will be implemented along 3 years and is expected to start on January 2006.
In this regard, it is worth mentioning that UNEP/ORLAC and ACTO are analyzing the terms of reference and operational agreements to develop the Geo Amazonia. The GEO reports, prepared by UNEP in response to the requirements set forth in Agenda 21, have allowed developing participatory consultation processes with several actors in order to build new and comprehensive approaches to the global, regional, sub-regional, national or sectoral environment status. Geo Amazonia shall serve as an important tool to public policies of the Country Members Governments.
Promotion of Indigenous communities’ rights. Firmly aimed at conducing proper policies on the promotion of the Indigenous communities’ rights, whose ethical, social and cultural values stand for a crucial element in building the national identity of the Amazon countries, ACTO participated in the Seminar “The International Decennium and the Cooperation with Indigenous Peoples”, held in Quito, October 2004. During the Seminar, ACTO and COICA signed a Memorandum of Understanding to the development of Indigenous peoples. We hope that COICA manages to harmonize its internal thematic so that we can implement the agreement signed.
Cooperation in the management of natural protected areas. Supported by the European Union, ACTO is preparing a draft Regional Program on Amazon Protected Areas that allow for employing the lessons learned by means of the project “Planning and management of protected areas in the Amazon region”, executed from 1993 to 1997, within the scope of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty. Based on this regional experience, ACTO has held preliminary consultations in order to start the discussion on a program technical proposal that allows the Amazon countries to rely on systems on protected areas in the region, increase their long-term effectiveness, build synergies among the national systems and fill in the existing gaps. For this purpose, the PS/ACTO rests on the technical support of the French cooperation through CIRAD and WWF. This cooperation shall allow convening, during the first quarter of 2006, the first regional technical meeting to advance the proposal outlining.
Cooperation concerning Amazon Water Resources in the region. The water issue is one of the transversal elements to the Strategic Plan and a core issue for the Amazon countries. Considering that the scarce fresh water means a significant decrease in life quality, the Amazon region must safeguard this vital resource, in a responsible way. Bearing this concern in mind, ACTO started executing the Project “Integrated and Sustainable Management of Transboundary Water Resources in the Amazonas River Basin”, financed by UNEP/GEF (PDF B), aiming at strengthening the institutional framework to plan and execute, in a coordinated way, activities on protection and sustainable management of such a resource that is simultaneously strategic and shared.
The total cost of preparation of this Project amounts to US$ 1,4 million, of which US$ 700 thousand will be granted by UNEP/GEF, and managed by the Organization of American States.
Support to the creation of an Amazon Program on Biodiversity Sustainable Use. Supported by the BIOTRADE Program of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, ACTO is preparing a draft Regional Program on the Biodiversity Sustainable Use. This program aims at promoting the trading of biodiversity-based products and services, which are increasingly demanded by both national and international markets. The United Nations Foundation has granted US$ 200 thousand for the initial stage, and this amount is expected to be complemented by resources from the Netherlands Cooperation and the support by the Germany Technical Cooperation.
Civil society participation. Taking into consideration the need for the effective participation of Amazon countries’ civil society in the PS/ACTO programs, we have started a process of consultation with civil society. Two consultations have already been made: One in Quito, and the last one in October in La Paz. The remaining countries are expected to hold their consultations along the forthcoming months.
Participation of Observers. The Permanent Secretariat has prepared a regulation on observers, which was discussed in the CCOOR. These discussions resulted in the decision of creating a sub-commission to review and topic. We expect that this review process can be completed during this meeting.
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I have held the highest political offices in my country, an Amazon country, and now, fully engaged to the Amazon issues, I can clearly see how our national societies, the central governments and our generation hold a huge debt to our compatriots who live in the Amazon region, to the generations to come and to the whole of the humanity, because we have failed in avoiding the destruction of a large share of a unique environmental asset, which is priceless to the future life in the planet.
Despite the efforts endeavored by the Countries, the challenges posed by such an extensive and vulnerable region, make the existing tools insufficient. And I say it, dear Chancellors, as a mere and honest observation of facts.
ACTO, as evidenced in its management report distributed to you, is an agile and de-bureaucratized tool; nevertheless, it is a drop of water in the ocean of needs. The solution for the several and serious problems in the Amazon region require for deeper measures against the threads to the Amazon region and, above all, the close cooperation among all the countries sharing the basin.
Here is where ACTO can provide its major contribution. The threads I refer once again concerns, for example, the dramatic scenery publicized by the national and international media in the last few weeks, concerning the drought in the Amazonas. This leads us to deeply think also about what is happening in the Andes and the natural interrelation existing in the Andean-Amazonian region. I ask myself – as well as some researchers, scientists and academics in climatic change affairs worldwide – if the situation is not about to reach a point with no return, with unforeseeable consequences to the planet.
For example, it was forecasted that in about 50 years we would start feeling the harmful effects of environmental degradation over water resources; the strong and surprising drought of this year seems to be a signal that the disasters forecasted to some years ahead are much closer to us than we could expect.
All of a sudden, the rich Amazon rivers were dried, becoming non-navigable for a time and leaving the already vulnerable populations that live on their margins totally isolated, with no food, medical assistance and, ironically, with no drinkable water amidst the largest water basin worldwide. The situation worsened to the point of leaving dozens cities and hundreds communities (915, according to the Brazilian Army) with no physical communication to the rest of the world.
Some scientists say that this is a cyclic phenomenon that has occurred once, over 40 years ago. Others say that this something new, caused by the warming of the Atlantic Ocean waters. The truth is that our knowledge is very limited. If droughts are becoming more frequent and severe, like this one now, what shall happen to the Amazon region in the next years? The million tons of fishes dead along the dry beds of the rivers and lakes, and the million trees fired can no longer produce new fishes and new trees.
Dear Chancellors, forgive my passionate words. It is because when I talk about the organization I head, I cannot avoid passion: I feel that the Amazon region should become – and here I repeat the my words in 5 May 2004, when I took office as Secretary-General – with the political will of the eight Republics, the best space, in the most genuine sense, to the integration of our countries, to the integration of America, based on the ideals and dreams of those who envisaged the South American unity, but also committed to pursuing more equitable conditions of life. That is why we have made our best efforts towards being integral part in the constructing of the South American Community of Nations: Because it cannot be built leaving aside 40% of its territory, which comprises the space comprised by ACTO mandate. Maybe because they have not been considered in such initiatives, the sub-regional, regional or continental integration processes have not reached the desired success.
It is now time for joint negotiations, to cease facing the challenges in an isolated way, without giving room to the team work with a block of Amazon countries, to affirm our strengthens and reach our common purposes, as we are somehow doing concerning joint positions on forests and contamination by mercury.
Furthermore, we have started working on aspects so important as water, biodiversity and intellectual and industrial property. That is the reason for our interest in reactivating and institutionalizing the Amazonian Parliament, a tool that may allow ACTO country members to harmonize their legislations in several areas concerning the major challenges posed to the sustainable development in the region. Without this necessary harmonization of laws, policies, actions among Countries, there is no way for protecting this strategic source of life in Earth, named Amazon region.
Since the Meeting held in Manaus, the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization has established several strategic partnerships that allows it to achieve the proposed objectives and goals, additionally to taking a position in the Latin American and global arena as a mechanism of integration that assists reaching the so longed sustainable development in the region, thus becoming a paradigmatic body thanks to its philosophy and achievements.
In brief, ACTO starts to be faced as an important mechanism to channel cooperation in the continental Amazon. In fact, we have raised interest and started receiving countless requests for partnerships by organizations all over the world. Taking the necessary care, we have elected the proposals that met the mandate assigned by the Countries and ACTO objectives. This results in an intensive work agenda that does not affect the Organization economies; rather, it increases it, as can be learned from the report delivered to you.
ACTO stands for the Amazon Countries as an outstanding interaction tool for the sustainable work. Therefore, I would like to ask your support, dear Chancellors, in the sense of assigning personnel in the Chancelleries and Ministries exclusively engaged to ACTO, so that we may rely on permanent interlocutors, easily identifiable, who can deal with the Amazon issues. This articulation with other governmental sectors, at national and local (municipalities, departments, states) level is crucial for achieving ACTO mandates, which are also aimed at consolidating the National Commissions and, therefore, enhance its dynamics and interrelation. Here, we should highlight the important work developed by CCOOR. Without its support we could not have reached the achievements submitted to your consideration.
In order to fulfill the extensive mandate assigned to it, ACTO should increase its technical capacity and have political room to work, strictly in compliance to our mandate, but granting the means for an integral horizontal interlocution.
The Country Members’ trust in me, assigning the duty of leading ACTO towards fully meeting its mandate, was translated in permanent and definite support to our everyday activities.
I have a lot to thank you, since this support allowed the consolidation of the Permanent Secretariat. We can now take a step forward and reach a new and sounder stage of action. And this is my only request: A commitment to the action for the Amazon region, in benefit of the national societies and the whole of humanity.