Eight sovereign countries are grouped around the Amazon basin, the Amazon, the heart of South America. These eight states, all neighbors of the immense common forest, are crossed by rivers that flow from all sides to the great river. mother – and which constitutes the avenue from the interior of South America to the Atlantic Ocean – they are the administrators of what for many are the lungs of the world.
Next to them, in a corner of the Amazon, there is also an “overseas territory” under French sovereignty. The richness of the Amazon’s natural diversity has not been fully quantified, and its potential for the development of neighboring states has not been assessed. It is a territory so vast – more than seven and a half million square kilometers – and so difficult to access in many places that we can still speak of “white dots” on the map of the Amazon and the populations that occupy it and who have probably not yet had any contact with “Western civilization”. Populations located in regions which, for the most part, have not been able to integrate into the socio-economic processes of the respective countries of the area and whose tourism potential remains to be discovered.
Forty years ago, long before the debate on positions around the Amazon, sustainable development, climate change and the future of the planet and humanity became so public and global, and long before the terrible fires of hundreds of thousands of hectares in Brazil In 2018, the eight sovereign countries of the Amazon signed (July 3, 1978, Brasilia) the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (ATT).
The development potential of the Amazon
The riparian countries realized that the real potential for the rational development of the Amazon and the conservation of the ecology of the area were two factors which were on the same side of the equation, and that it was not. possible to reach them without a joint and coordinated effort. in the exercise of territorial sovereignty and without an aligned management of the policies of all the States concerned. There was, at the time, a sense of shared responsibility inherent in the sovereignty of each of the Amazon states. Cooperation among Amazonian states should serve to facilitate the fulfillment of this responsibility, as stated in the ACT itself.
The economic and social development of the Amazon has, however, been disorderly, sometimes chaotic, criminal and predatory in this area of tropical forest, which is also the generator of millions of liters of fresh water every day. There is not only the Brazilian case already mentioned, but also the Dantesque case of Arco Mineiro in the Venezuelan part, or the big oil spills in the zone corresponding to Ecuador, without forgetting the quantity of polluting discharges in the tributary rivers of the Amazon. and the latter. Here, the most directly affected are the local populations, more than 420 indigenous peoples and communities, with the respective damage to the ethnological wealth of the Amazon zone. The damage is irreparable and the only thing to do is to avoid it.
The ATT signatory countries have realized that the best wishes for cooperation, essential for the protection and balanced development of the region, are only illusions if the commitments between them are not strengthened. This is why, twenty years after the signing of the ATT, an amendment to the treaty was signed. The 1998 Caracas Protocol created the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), with its own legal personality, in order to strengthen the cooperation commitments made. It was an important step towards the supranationality of the Amazon, as contemporary researchers have pointed out, and since 2003 the General Secretariat of ACTO has been operating in Brasilia.
The “Amazonian law”
Despite this progress, however, what the most renowned authors called a true “Amazonian law” was lacking. This is a regulation that establishes with greater clarity and precision the rights of local populations and each of the countries of the region vis-à-vis the Amazon, including the protection and conservation of the environment, as well as the respective duties of States Parties. at ATT.
In other words, an Amazonian regulation is necessary. But at the same time, and with the same urgency, it is necessary that the States Parties to the ATT create, within the ACTO, the monitoring bodies of the ATT and Amazonian law. That is, investigative and inspection bodies, a coordinated Amazon police force, and one or more Amazon justice bodies to hear complaints of violations of Amazon law – including violations of the Amazon. environment and local populations – and for which states are not solely responsible. their non-compliance, but also individuals for their environmental crimes.
Individual national sovereignty should not be an obstacle, as it has not been in the past, to achieving this result. It is the necessary environmental justice in the Amazon that is needed and which would also set an example for the world. It is a duty of sovereign solidarity of the Amazonian countries with their peoples and with the inhabitants of planet Earth. It would at least be a significant step in the development of the difficult process of universal cooperation in the conservation of the most delicate and useful spaces for the present and, above all, for the future of all humanity.
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Translation from Spanish by Dâmaris Burity.
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