LETICIA, Colombia – Colombia’s President Ivan Duque urged the representatives of several other countries attending a summit on Amazon fires on Friday to take policy action to combat the effects of climate change and make a concerted effort to preserve the world’s largest rainforest.
“We’re all aware of the challenges associated with climate change. That’s why we must call on the community to produce while conserving and to understand, promote and protect the Amazon’s biodiversity,” Duque said in inaugurating the meeting in this Colombian Amazon city.
Duque and his head of state counterparts from Peru, Martin Vizcarra; Ecuador, Lenin Moreno; and Bolivia, Evo Morales, as well as the vice president of Suriname, Michael Ashwin Adhin, and Guyana’s national resources minister, Raphael Trotman, attended the gathering at a satellite campus of the National University of Colombia in Leticia, capital of Amazonas province.
The Colombian leader also sent well-wishes to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who was unable to travel to Leticia for medical reasons but participated in the summit via videoconference from Brasilia.
The other Amazon country is Venezuela, whose leftist leader Nicolas Maduro is considered an illegitimate leader by Brazil, Colombia and other conservative-led regional governments and was not invited to the meeting.
French Guiana, an overseas region of France, also was not represented.
“We must respond. And so I urge us to adopt concrete measures at this summit, to take concerted action against deforestation and set goals that are in accordance with international commitments,” Duque said.
He also proposed that the countries that share the Amazon exchange information about that biome and jointly tackle the wildfires that are currently ravaging thousands of hectares of rainforest in Brazil and Bolivia.
Duque furthermore said multilateral financial instruments must be created to support the actions of the Amazon countries.
At the start of the gathering on Friday, a score of Colombian indigenous people received the regional representatives and presented them with a necklace as a symbol of leadership.
The participants subsequently took part in a ritual in an ancestral long house, known as a maloca.
Inside, the heads of state and representatives of the Amazon countries sat down on small benches in a circle and pledged to work together to preserve the Amazon while a group of indigenous people stood and listened.
An offering of regional flowers and fruits was placed in the middle of the maloca.
“We are here to reaffirm our commitment because gathered here today are the countries that have a substantial portion of this heritage we call the Amazon,” Duque said in the ceremony.
The Colombia president recalled that the Amazon accounts for more than 50 percent of the world’s tropical rainforests, 20 percent of its fresh water supply and a quarter of its land-bound species.
A total of 34 million people live in the Amazon, including members of more than 400 indigenous communities.
The Amazon drainage basin covers more than 35 percent of South America’s land area.