Environment ministers from the eight countries whose territory includes part of the Amazon River basin — Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela — signed an agreement in Lima on March 21 to protect Amazon forest, its biodiversity and the land rights of indigenous peoples living there.
The government representatives of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, or ACTO, ratified the Strategic Agenda of Amazon Cooperation approved by the organization in November 2010, including plans to protect forests and biodiversity, guarantee territorial rights of indigenous and tribal communities and their traditional knowledge, and equitable access to water, among others.
With reference to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, scheduled for June 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro, the ministers reaffirmed that this meeting will be an opportunity “to assess and identify actions and measures to achieve sustainable development and stressing the importance that should be given to the Amazon for its contributions and significance for biodiversity and global climate stability, focusing on the eradication of poverty and social inclusion.”
The Lima Declaration included an appendix on illegal mining in the Amazon basin. The ministers agreed to join efforts to control illegal mining in this region, developing a strategic agenda for this specific purpose, to form a specialized working group to define a common strategy about illegal mining in the Amazon, and to present at Rio+20 meeting the approaches and experiences that ACTO member countries have in controlling illegal mining.
The Amazon covers 6 percent of the world’s surface, but it is home to more than half of its tropical forests and 20 percent of fresh water reserves. With an area of 7.4 million square kilometers (2.8 million square miles), it comprises 40 percent of South America’s land area.
Indiscriminate logging and the expansion of the ranching, agriculture, mining and hydrocarbon operations are some of its largest threats.