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What do traditional peoples of the Amazon expect?

Learn about the expectations of representatives of social groups from the nine Amazonian nations, gathered in a document elaborated in the capital of Pará. Target is to present it to the elected presidents of Brazil and Colombia, in 2023

Alice Martins


As of January 1st, 2023, the president-elect of Brazil will be able to count on a condensation document containing the expectations of traditional peoples from the different countries where the Amazon territory spreads across. This will be possible by means of the Pan-Amazon Declaration of Belém, a document in which 35 points related to the contemporary challenges faced by those who live in the region are exposed, from the perspective of different social groups.

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Luiz Arnaldo Dias Campos, coordinator of Fospa - Photo: Marcos Barbosa

The document was launched after the Pan-Amazon Social Forum (Fospa), which brought together people from the nine Pan-Amazon countries (Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname), at the end of July, 2022 in Belém, Pará. The declaration places special emphasis on the impairing obstacles faced by traditional communities and perspectives for a better future according to the vision of indigenous peoples, quilombolas, riverine people, black people and defenders of human rights and nature.

According to Luiz Arnaldo Dias Campos, coordinator of Fospa, the document compiles the expectations of traditional peoples, presenting an analysis of the current scenario of the Amazon, so that, in the future, this declaration is able to guide governments and organizations: “It will allow the transit from diagnosis to a set of actions towards an Amazonian project that respects its peoples”, he says. Therefore, one of the steps is to present the document to the president-elect of Brazil, and of Colombia – Gustavo Petro – who was elected in June this year and will take office in January 2023.

Among the points listed in the declaration are the need for greater commitment from the governments of the Pan-Amazonian countries to tackle the climate crisis, including measures against deforestation, degradation and the increase in polluting gas emissions. In addition, the document emphasizes, on several occasions, the importance of valuing the knowledge of traditional peoples and of protecting their rights. It also prioritizes the promotion of gender equality, with actions to combat violence against women, for example.

Another crucial aspect brought by the declaration is the awareness about establishing a more sustainable economic, political and social model, implementing and valuing diversified agricultural and forestry production means combining agroforestry and agroecology practices, projects for local production and consumption, community management of common goods, community ecotourism, alternative energy projects, among other biodiversity preservation initiatives.

Among the authors of the declaration are more than 40 organizations representatives, involving leaderships of indigenous organizations in the Amazon, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), World Assembly for the Amazon (AMA), the Articulation of Brazilian Women and the Center for Defense of the Negro in Pará.

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Indigenous, quilombolas, riverine and representatives of different social groups joined Fospa activities. Photo: Marcelo Lelis

Actions reveal synergy among countries outside the Amazon

In addition to presenting the declaration to the elected presidents, Fospa organization intends to use the document as a guide for other actions. Through the World Assembly for the Amazon, the Forum committee aims to participate in the mobilization in Chile regarding the referendum on September 4th, to vote on the proposed new constitution for that country. Among the new proposals, the document highlights an interdependent relationship between nature and people, viewed as an “inseparable whole”. In the text, the “State recognizes and promotes ‘good living’ viewed as a relationship of harmonious balance between people, nature and the organization of society”.

The initiative of having a new constitution for the country emerged from the demands of popular protests which  spread through the streets of the country in 2019, claiming for better living conditions. “Chile’s new constitution is in line with the expectations compiled in the Fospa declaration and, even though it is not part of the Amazon, if approved, it could set a good precedent for Amazonian countries to, likewise, recognize nature as a subject of law”, explains Luiz Arnaldo.

The importance of the Amazon for the planet

Despite the Pan-Amazonian declaration having highlighted the importance of traditional peoples on enjoying autonomy and independence to manage their territories, an issue raised within Fospa was the responsibility of the entire planet in the preservation of this biome. “The Amazon has been very visible in global discussions. At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), in 2021, for example, the region was very prominent in the discussions. It is very clear that in the current scenario the Amazon is a fundamental environment for the preservation of life on Earth”, believes Luiz Arnaldo.

The coordinator of Gas Laboratory of the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), Luciana Gatti, was one of the speakers on the Pan-Amazon Social Forum  program. She warned about the role of the whole world in preserving the Amazon, to combat the climate crisis. “The preserved Amazon works as a protection against climate change, absorbing carbon, helping to produce rain and reducing the temperature, not only for us, but for the entire planet”, she emphasized. “This is of global interest. It needs to be reflected in commercial agreements, in preservation policies for the Amazon, in investments,” he added.

Parliamentarians - Also considering the need for global cooperation to protect nature, the Global Parliamentary Front for the Rights of Nature was launched during the event. With the signature of parliamentarians from several Amazonian countries who were present, the Front proposes worldwide political articulation on the issue and seeks to involve more deputies, councilors and members of the executive over time.

High attendance surprised Forum planners

The Pan-Amazon Social Forum (Fospa) is a collaborative movement that brings together participants from the nine Amazonian countries to discuss geopolitical, cultural, human rights and environment issues. In addition to the main events, which are held every two years since 2002, the organization also operates permanently, promoting the debate of the regional agendas worldwide, such as participation in the World Social Forum (FSM).

The first edition of Fospa was in Belém, now, 20 years later, the city held, again, its 10th edition, between 28 and 31 July 2022. "We are accomplishing a dream we targeted 20 years ago, in the 1st Fospa, when we proposed the theme of 'Another possible world'. Today, we see that more and more people understand this point of view", says Luiz Arnaldo.

According to the coordinator of Fospa, the event brought together about 15,000 people, three times more than expected, even with the restrictions of the covid-19 pandemic context. "We could feel how Amazon peoples share the same interest and there is an increasing awareness that there is a common goal. We have moved towards fundamental concepts, such as the importance of the forest as a crucial element for the continuity of life on Earth", he declares.

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Forum brought together participants from all Pan-Amazon countries. Photo: Marcelo Lelis

Audience as diverse as the peoples they represent

The discussions, which lasted four days and resulted in the Pan-Amazon Declaration of Belém, involved people from different social groups and ethnicities. The debates brought together, at the Federal University of Pará (UFPA), indigenous and quilombolas, riverine and black peoples, as well as politicians, environmentalists, representatives of human rights organizations, students, liberal professionals, among others.

The federal congresswoman from Pará, Vivi Reis, participated in roundtables and talks during the event. She remarks this was an important space for articulation at  international level. She emphasizes the importance of continuing the debates held in the Forum. “We, as states that integrate the Amazon, need to be well articulated among us. Fospa is one of the forums that must be closely integrated with other action fronts. We cannot leave the actions planned there just for the event agenda, we need to actually bring them into our routine, put the solutions into practice”, she emphasizes.

Antônia Gomes, a retired housekeeper who attended all days of the event, says that this was a moment of cultural exchange and learning. "It was an opportunity to broaden our perspective of what the Amazon is and to better understand the reality experienced in the region. While we debated various subjects, we learned the culture of other peoples and other countries", she ponders.

According to Antônia, Fospa also motivated her on planning to return to a university, aiming to improve her knowledge and to contribute for the development of the Amazon. "We, as women, have to occupy more spaces like this and, as soon as the Forum ended, I started to share what I learned with my colleagues and the community. The more we participate in these discussions, the more we can conquer our rights and improve the region", she states.

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Emmanuel Tourinho, UFPA rector, highlighted the importance of having a university of excellence, who assist the Amazon peoples. Photo: Divulgação Fospa

For a university that makes the difference to the Amazon peoples

The Forum was also the stage for partnerships agreements between organizations, such as the cooperation commitment signed, in the presence of the audience, between the City Hall of Belém and the Federal University of Pará (UFPA). The plan is to join forces to promote more spaces for discussions similarly to Fospa, and to structure and continue actions for the Amazon. “We pursue a university model that makes a difference for the Amazon people. We, in fact, want a university of excellence, but if it does not assist the Amazon peoples, then it would be useless. We want to work in harmony with the aspirations, expectations and struggles of the peoples of the Amazon”, said UFPA rector Emmanuel Tourinho, in a closing speech at the event. The University hosted the Forum in July.

Check out, below, a summary with ten highlighted parts from the Pan-Amazon Declaration of Belém:


- Political, social and economic model that recognizes and respects the territories and the full exercise of the rights of the Amazonian peoples and the rights of Nature;
- Recovery, enhancement and protection of traditional knowledge and ancestral forms of organization of traditional peoples, for the care and management of water and the protection of territories;
- Diversified agricultural and forestry production: agroforestry, agroecology, projects for local production and consumption, community management of common goods, community ecotourism, alternative energy projects, among other biodiversity preservation initiatives;
- Greater commitment by the governments of the Pan-Amazonian countries against the climate crisis, with measures against deforestation, degradation and the increase in gas emissions;
- Guaranteeing the rights of indigenous peoples, quilombolas, rural and coastal peoples to self-manage themselves, according to their own rules.
- Guaranteeing the right to consultation and participation of indigenous and tribal peoples in decision-making, as provided for in Convention No. 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), approved in 1989;
- Inclusion of actions to promote gender equality and prevent violence against women;
- Declaration of the state of climatic emergency in the Pan-Amazonian region and ensuring its compliance in order to allow its active restoration and the protection of its biodiversity;
- Promotion of education, research and communication as pillars of the transformation processes in the territories of the Pan-Amazonian region
- Articulation to carry out permanent, local and global campaigns on the interests of the Amazonians for the region.

The complete text of the Declaration, in English and Portuguese, is available in the event website