From April 30th to May 3rd, governors and civil servants from around the world joined with their partners from civil society, indigenous and local communities, national governments, and international donors for the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Task Force, held in Florencia, the capital of Caquetá Department, in the Colombian Amazon.
This year’s meeting focused on implementation: moving from commitments to action in the effort to curb deforestation, fight climate change, and enhance livelihoods. Throughout the week, GCF Task Force members and their partners shared experiences on many of the concrete actions they are taking to improve governance and forge ahead with new initiatives and partnerships.
President of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez, highlighted the importance of the GCF Task Force network in the global fight against deforestation.
Nine governors from the Amazon basin in Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia reaffirmed their commitment to the San Francisco Declaration, pledging to continued collaboration on transboundary efforts to protect the Amazon region.
All 35 tropical forest members of the GCF Task Force endorsed a ‘Call for Collaboration’ from the private sector to form stronger partnerships to address agricultural driven deforestation and support sustainable rural economies.
GCF Task Force members announced regional actions for 2019, including a commitment to advance Social Forestry in Indonesia and align rural development subsidies with forest restoration in Mexico.
Over 50 leaders from government, indigenous peoples’ organizations, and civil society came together and committed to strengthening global efforts for forests and climate by bottom-up, regional strategies to unite governments with diverse, forest-based communities.
The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative committed to working with GCF Task Force members around the world to align faith-based and governmental initiatives for forest conservation and sustainable development.
Indonesian GCF Task Force members received recognition for their global leadership in reducing deforestation over the past two years.
Dr. Alice Ekwu, a humble, gracious, and committed leader in Cross River State, Nigeria, was awarded with the GCF Task Force’s Everyday Hero Award.
Amazonas, Brazil was elected as the 2020 GCF Task Force chair.
Highlighting Action on the Ground
William Boyd, GCF Task Force Project Lead, emphasized the urgency of moving from commitments to action on forest and climate issues, and pointed to the important examples and opportunities for doing so across the GCF Task Force. “Innovation is sexy, but implementation is sexier,” noted Boyd. Some of the most important examples of creative approaches to forest governance and implementation include new approaches to shared governance with indigenous peoples, new strategies for forest-based industries, enhanced collaboration between local and national levels of government, and programs oriented around fighting poverty through sustainable forest-based economic development.
Indigenous Peoples and New Approaches to Forest Governance
Ana María Almario, Director of Interinstitutional Management of the Unit for Comprehensive Care and Reparation for Victims, shared that in 2016, her department decentralized the governance of forests by working closely with indigenous populations to achieve 86% governance of the Amazon territory. This was achieved by granting indigenous populations governing power and finding flexibility within existing policies in order to meet the unique needs of each region. Almario emphasized that governments need to view indigenous peoples as equals and partners in forest protection efforts.
Francisca Arara, of the Indigenous Teachers Association in Acre, Brazil, emphasized the need for equal partnerships with governments and indigenous peoples. She stated, “Government can’t act alone, and we can’t act alone,” before encouraging the hundreds present to join hands and dance in solidarity.
Tuntiaak Katan Jua, Vice President of the Coalition of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin, echoed Arara’s sentiments, saying, “Indigenous people are already following the mandate of managing our ecosystems- it is our tradition. We have concrete ways to do this. What we need is support from all players, including NGOs, local and national governments, and academia.”
Many governors spoke about the benefits of cacao production for preserving forest cover while developing a sustainable economic activity. Pedro Bogarin Vargas, Governor of San Martin, Peru, spoke about learning from local experts to increase crop yields; with extension services one farmer in San Martin was able to produce a yield 15 times greater than the regional average. Governor Bogarin affirmed his commitment to expanding outreach to farmers in San Martin so they can increase their yields while reducing pressure on the forest frontier, and also stressed the tremendous community-level knowledge base that governments should build upon.
Collaboration Across Levels of Government
Caquetá, the 2019 GCF Task Force chair and meeting host, united five other Colombian departments in a collaborative agreement with Colombia’s Ministry of Environment to develop integrated strategies to address deforestation and adapt to climate change realities across the Colombian Amazon. With financial support from Colombia’s Ministry of Environment, these strategies will unite regional actors, private entities, academia and NGOs in building a joint vision with the government that incorporates climate change mitigation measures, reduces vulnerability and promotes socioeconomic and environmental benefits for the Amazon.
Serving Local Communities
Throughout the week there were countless calls to better serve the needs of the local populations living in and protecting forests. Oscar Ramiro Altamarino Quispe, Governor of Amazonas, Peru, spoke about the creation of a regional management unit for indigenous communities to plan and execute activities related to health and education. Francisca Arara, of the Indigenous Teachers Association in Acre, Brazil, and Antonio Kubes, Governor of Pastaza, Ecuador, emphasized that indigenous peoples are part of the solution to climate change, and in return, their basic needs must be met. “To be rich is to have education, water, good air quality… it’s not having money,” declared Arara. “We need to reexamine the way we define wealth.”