The Amazon Rainforest has been recognized as a key ecosystem for the regulation of the planet as a system, and we have come to identify its vulnerability, and resilience. In times when humanity is in search for convincing strategies to tackle climate change and to maintain the conditions of the planet that enable our diverse ways of living, this region becomes key for the threats the planet is facing as a whole. The Amazon, because of its exuberance, its diversity, its vulnerability and its life-renewing cycles, is a perfect scenario for the understanding of our planet’s thresholds, tipping points, resilience, generosity and thriving for life, and the role of the human species in its maintenance. In that sense, the connectivity of the Amazon with its neighbouring ecosystems and regions is what will guarantee the continuance of the functioning and offering of the ecosystem services they provide. The consolidation of this ecological-cultural mosaic is then an opportunity to do so.
In a few words, if we lose the Amazon, we lose the fight against global Climate Change.
The Path of the Anacondas Initiative aims to maintain ecosystem connectivity, to guarantee the ecosystem services of the Amazon basin and to seek innovative solutions to Climate Change, creating the world’s largest eco-cultural mosaic: Andes-Amazon-Atlantic. This connectivity is fundamental for climate stability, the water cycle, biodiversity, planetary resilience, and human wellbeing. Due to the given ecosystem connectivity existent in nature, the initiative promotes connectivity at a human level as well, motivating the articulation between indigenous people, local populations, productive sectors, organizations and governments, enabling a re-thinking of our participation in the natural system that sustains us. The initiative aims to energize an integral vision, articulating all political, social, economic and cultural dimensions, in a participatory and inclusive way.
The region comprises a central area, result of the work of three decades, in which Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela have established protects areas and recognized indigenous territories, which today constitute a main axis for the conservation of cultural and biological diversity, which connects the Andes ecosystems with the Amazon and the Atlantic Ocean, and covers approximately 106 million hectares. Across this compound we find 42.9% of the land recognized as indigenous territories and 28.2% declared under the protected area category (13.2% declared as national protected areas and 14.9% as state protected areas, a figure existent only in Brazil). In this region, 8.3% of the areas are overlapped by the two protective figures, both Protected Areas and Indigenous Territories. There are areas that have been recognized as indigenous territories and declared as protected areas as well, where the two figures overlap (8.8%).
Two areas are not under any protective category, found in the foothills of the Andes-Amazon transition in Colombia, and in the state of Roraima, in Brazil. When including these two areas, the main axis covers a total of 134 million hectares, of which 79% is found under an already declared protective category. The remaining 21%, found in the Colombian Amazon foothills and in Roraima could be included as special management areas for sustainable development, integrated to the mosaic in diverse innovative ways.
Beyond the existing mosaic of Protected Areas and Indigenous Territories, the three countries have suggested policies for conservation and sustainable management for the region of the North of the Amazon River. For instance, Colombia is seeking to protect buffer zones around its Protected Areas using a flexible figure of special management corridors. In Brazil the north of the Amazon River is seen as an area of conservation and sustainable development. In Venezuela, 75% of the state of Amazonas has been declared as protected areas, and 85% of the population is indigenous.
Nevertheless, if it is considered more attractive as a laboratory for new and innovative environmental, social, and economical proposals, many adjacent territories could be included. A broader proposal for this initiative would cover the region north of the Amazon River, which would be equal to an approximate total of 188 million hectares. The areas in this region not found under any protective category would articulate as new alternatives of special management as well. By considering this mosaic as a laboratory for new innovative proposals in environmental, social and economic topics, implies expanding its coverage to adjacent territories, articulating them in alternative and innovative manners. It could also include other countries such as Guyana, Surinam, French Guyana and Peru, which have informally expressed their interest in participating. In this case, the mosaic would be covering around 200 million hectares.
Four or five main blocks would constitute the mosaic, as it has been mentioned. Each country would concentrate in applying the mosaic initiative in its own block, regarding the SDG in the framework of its own laws and policies. The work of each country in its own territory guarantees the care that sovereignty of each country requires. This way, the compound would articulate through cooperation agreements, guided by the objectives of this initiative. Exchanges, encounters and meetings between the different blocks and stakeholders promote the articulation between these, and motivate dialogue between organizations, governments and civil society. A regional work group with the participation of representatives from different stakeholders groups should be created, with historical knowledge about already learnt experiences, the achievements and the difficulties of projects in the region, should be created, in order to study the opportunity´s viability and give projection to actions to be done in the framework of the mosaic.
The countries within the region share national and international legal frameworks and commitments for conservation, sustainable development and human rights. Such are the shared ratification of international conventions relating to the environment and indigenous communities, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the ILO Convention 169, and the Río Agreements, among others. These countries have also signed a series of multinational and bi-national cooperation agreements for the environmental, social and economic management of the Amazon basin, many of them within the framework of the OTCA (Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization). Multiple social and environmental initiatives exist in the region, promoted by governments, civil society and international cooperation. Faced by the need to take action on climate change, the Colombian government has committed to implement the initiative in its territory, and is calling on other countries in the region to do the same. Further, there is a growing critical mass of civil society in favor.
Given that it is viable, consolidating this mosaic is not an option. It is a must!
The Path of the Anacondas symbolizes the flow of vital energy of the tropical forest, from the sea to the Andean foothills. Local communities shall be the main actors of initiatives like this one, for it is through them, their ways of living, daily encounters and ways of participating and engaging that this project will become a reality. Leaders of the COICA (Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin) recently met to discuss the initiative, what it means for them and their participation, and officially published a declaration where they state their full agreement with it. Ethnic groups have come to represent an ecological way of living, under a concept we have made applicable to a wide range of actions under “sustainability”. But their approach to their participation in the living systems overruns our concept of sustainability. It is not just an ecological factor what attributes them this harmonic essence. It is a profound way of engaging the universe that brings together ecological, subsistence, philosophical, spiritual, economical and social factors that we have brought apart.
The Path of the Anacondas Initiative is then an invitation to approach the region in an integral way and persuade all the stakeholders to build a joint vision of its future, regarding the importance it has for the climate stability of the planet. It is a necessary contribution to climate change mitigation at a planetary scale and an opportunity for governments in the region to provide significant solutions in the fight against climate change. It will provide a privileged space for seeking social, economic and environmental solutions for climate change adaptation and an opportunity to articulate and strengthen alliances, to access technological and financial support, and potentiate existing initiatives. Urban centers can project as into the future as green cities, shifting the paradigm towards a circular economy framework. It is an opportunity to fulfill commitments and achieve international and national goals (Sustainable Development Goals, UNFCCC, CBD, UNDRIP, ILO169, etc.). It facilitates the connection and exchange between different worldviews and enhances conditions for good governance as well, fading away fractioning partial approaches and uniting all under one same goal.
The first phase of this initiative has been made possible thanks to the generous and unconditional support of Rainforest Concern.
We invite you to follow and support The Path of the Anacondas Initiative, and to join this regional vision for global action against Climate Change! Make part of this mythical thought brought to life by the power of unity!