Amazonia Beyond the Crisis

Accountability for deforestation: preventing further human rights, environmental, and economic disasters

The world's attention has turned to Amazonia, due to the headline-grabbing crisis of deforestation and fires. Indigenous lands and the reserves of traditional populations are affected. Community leaders are being threatened, intimidated, or even killed. The right to health is jeopardized by the smoke and haze. Unparalleled ecological and economic assets are being lost, and soil is being impoverished.

After declining in the middle of the past decade, the deforestation rate in the Brazilian Amazon had stalled in recent years. However, even before the recent spike in fires, deforestation remained a serious threat to the rainforest's overall health. Science has now shown how the Amazon forest is moving toward a dieback scenario, in which the entire ecosystem could collapse in a vicious cycle of degradation and fragmentation if deforestation continues to expand.

Society at large - in countries that share Amazonia - no longer accepts deforestation. It has been proven to be bad for the local economy, bad for biodiversity, and bad for the climate at both regional and global levels. In addition, it threatens the basic human rights of Indigenous and traditional populations by creating a spiral of threats and conflict. In Brazil, a broad and diverse coalition of mainstream economic and civil society stakeholders just launched a national campaign to hold accountable those who engage in land-grabbing, crime, and violence.

Despite different opinions and priorities, most stakeholders share a common expectation that medium- and long-term investments are imperative, with strong, timebound commitments by the private sector to stop deforestation and promote a diverse, sustainable forest economy based on the unique biological assets of the region. There are plenty of good and successful examples of local economic activities built upon sustainable practices that harness natural capital with respect and care.

Indigenous and community leaders, scientists, and business and NGO representatives from Amazonia will gather in New York City on Saturday, September 21, for a meeting prior to the UN Summit, to tell the world not to forget about Amazonia when this year's burning season ends. They will remind policy makers, companies, and other economic actors that big changes are needed to prevent deforestation and fires in Amazonia in the future, as well as to protect and promote the human rights of local people - including their right to justice and redress.

Prevention is key to avoid the potential for even worse fires next year. As we have seen in 2019, once the fires are lighted it is almost impossible to control them.


Amazonia Beyond the Crisis
September 21, 2019
8:30 AM to 5:00 PM
The Harvard Club of New York
35 West 44th Street (Between 5th and 6th Avenues)
Nearest Subway Stop: Times Square / Grant Central Station 


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