Themed “The Amazon and the 2022 Elections”, the first Amazon Concertation network meeting of the year was held on February 14, gathering nearly 180 attendees. The art that inspired the meeting and is now displayed on our website – and will also be present in the initiative’s communication material in this next period – was created by Raiz Campos, a graffiti artist born in Bahia, but “raised in the Amazon”, as he puts it.

To initiate talks, a video message by the photographer Sebastião Salgado, produced while he launched his exhibition “Amazônia” in São Paulo, set the tone for the conversation: “Today we are on the threshold of new elections. We have high hopes that the new candidates will show concern for the Amazon biome, with a sustainable economic development project for the Amazon”. He highlighted the Concertation’s opportunity to bring the voices from the Amazon and about the Amazon to a large number of Brazilians, urging all to vote in favor of the Amazon. 

Moderated by the journalist Fernando Gabeira, the debate began with Arthur Aguillar, director of the Institute for Health Policy Studies (IEPS), who cited data on health in the Amazon and emphasized that the region is losing positions compared to the rest of Brazil in terms of life expectancy, an indicator that is adversely affected by three main factors: the increased number of endemic disease cases, affecting childhood; the rise in the number of homicides and violent deaths among young people; and the increased number of chronic disease cases among the 50+ population. For the IEPS, health in the Amazon is an issue that must be addressed in the electoral debates, since, aside from being a human right guaranteed by our Constitution, it is the local population’s primary concern and tends to bring good results for candidates.

Afterwards, Priscila Cruz, president of All for Education (Todos Pela Educação), stressed the connections and interdependence between all matters relevant to the electoral debate on the Amazon, defending the elaboration of an integrated and articulated agenda to be taken to voters and candidates.

Denis Minev, CEO of Bemol, emphasized that, from an economic point of view, the year 2022 will bring large volumes of financial resources in federal transfers of different types, which could represent a risk of improvement in how voters view the present government. For him, the decline in health, education and other indicators has its origins in poverty and feeds back on crime.

Karina Penha, mobilizer of NOSSAS (Organization for Human, Social and Environmental Rights) and member of the Concertation’s Youth WG, pondered that there are different youths, different Amazons and different “Brazils”; and that, for many of these youths, the most basic rights are yet to be achieved. Her optimism lies within the perception that youths are seen as part of the solution in democratic environments such as the Concertation. The challenge is: how to mobilize them? Her proposal is to pursue a broad agenda that can represent the different expectations of the various youths.

In turn, Laura Waisbich, of Instituto Igarapé, drew attention to the need of understanding security issue from a multidimensional perspective. According to the organization’s studies, rampant deforestation also amplifies public insecurity. Illicit activities fuel an ecosystem of crime, funded by economies that are not always in the Amazon. She expressed concern about the eloquent increase in the number of firearm registrations, police operations and violent crimes, stressing that these circumstances warrant the proposition of agendas and target plans to candidates, at all levels of the federation, addressing environmental and socio-environmental crimes. 

To end this stage of the meeting, graffiti artist Raiz Campos spoke about his ties and experiences in the Amazon, expressing his conviction that culture and art raise awareness and convey the matters discussed at the event to the communities. He reinforced the importance of different sectors of society joining forces to build solutions for the area.

Afterwards, the other attendees engaged in discussions. Among the relevant matters addressed, some messages stood out such as corruption linked to deforestation in the territory; vulnerability and violence rates in the region higher than those in the rest of the country; the importance of the business sector in generating income and new businesses for the local population; and the need for a concrete development plan for the Amazon for the first 100 days of the transitional government. Furthermore: the relevance of having the Amazon at the core of the electoral debate and also of mobilizing voters to cast their votes in favor of the Amazon. 

From a political coordination perspective, it was considered that the network must not only pay attention to the executive branch, but also to the composition of the legislative, since there is a lack of representatives in congress focused on this agenda. The group highlighted that the Amazon is the most important topic for the international community and must be at the core of the new government’s foreign policy.

Added to that, payment for environmental services and the creation of a national carbon market to finance changes were also considered key in the territory’s sustainable development process. 

At last, it was pointed out that 2022 could be a year of high risk for environmental activists and it is crucial to prioritize urgent agendas, such as tackling deforestation and illegal land grabbing. To do so, “educating” leaders and their teams about the Amazon and building alliances with those who operate legally in the region will be a must.