The Amazon region is a key issue in contemporary international debates such as those on natural resources, sustainable development, climate change and biodiversity.
With a population of approximately 38 million people, the Amazon takes up 40% of the South American territory and is home to the largest, most diverse forest as well as to 20% of all species of fauna and flora in the world. The Amazon Basin owns about 20% of the planet’s fresh water. The Amazon Hydrological Cycle feeds a complex system of aquifers and groundwater, covering an area of nearly 4 million km2. Given its strategic importance, the Amazon offers the countries sharing this ecosystem great challenges and even greater opportunities. The convenience of combining efforts to promote the harmonious development of the Amazon with balance between economic development and environmental protection is a founding principle of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), a social and environmental bloc that comprises the States sharing the Amazonian territory: Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
The origins of the Organization dates back to 1978, when, on the initiative of Brazil, the eight Amazon countries signed in Brasília the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (ACT), with the aim to promote the harmonious development of the region and the well-being of its people, and to strengthen the sovereignty of countries over their respective Amazon territories. Increasing regional cooperation is the primary means to achieve these goals.
Twenty years later, in Caracas, the countries signed the Protocol of Amendment to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty, which created the ACTO, an international organization with a permanent secretariat and dedicated budget. In December 2002, at the Planalto presidential palace, Brazil and ACTO signed the Headquarters Agreement, which established the headquarters of ACTO Permanent Secretariat in Brasília. To date, ACTO is the only multilateral international organization based in Brazil.
The Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs is the supreme deliberative body of the Organization, with responsibility for establishing the basic guidelines on common policy, evaluating initiatives developed and taking decisions needed to achieve the proposed goals. The Amazon Cooperation Council, comprised of high-level diplomatic representatives from member countries, ensures compliance with the Treaty objectives and the decisions adopted by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The Council is assisted by the Coordination Committee of the Amazon Cooperation Council, an advisory body.
At the domestic level, the Permanent National Commission on the Amazon Cooperation Treaty, which is comprised of representatives from several Ministries and chaired by the Brazilian foreign ministry, coordinates the activities concerning the implementation of theTreaty provisions in Brazil.
In the past years, ACTO has gone through a process of renewal and strengthening. In this new phase, the organization activities have been based on the guidelines of the New Amazonian Strategic Cooperation Agenda, which was approved in 2010 by the foreign ministers of the member countries and reflect the priorities of the Amazonian countries, in line with the region’s new social and political situation.
As part of the strategy to strenghten the organization, the countries have also agreed to increase the amount of their annual contributions, thus increasing the organization’s ability to fund its activities. In April 2013, Brazil announced the donation of a piece of ground for the construction of the new ACTO headquarters, thus helping to ensure the organization's financial independence.
At present many projects and programs have been implemented in areas such as environment, indigenous peoples, science and technology, health, tourism and social inclusion. One of the highlights among these initiatives is the ‘Forest Cover Monitoring in the Amazon Region’, which began in the middle of 2011 in partnership with the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The project aims to develop regional systems for monitoring deforestation in the Amazon forest through the installation of observation rooms in the member countries. It also promotes training programs and the sharing of knowledge in monitoring systems. The project has helped the pioneering preparation of regional maps of the Amazon deforestation through the collection of data sent by the countries.
Another highlight is the ‘Regional Action in the Area of Water Resources’ (Amazon Project), an initiative coordinated by the National Water Agency of Brazil (ANA) since 2012, which organizes regional technical meetings and training programs in the management of water resources in the Amazon Basin. The pilot project of the network of hydrometeorological monitoring of the Amazon Basin has been established at specific locations in three countries (Bolívia, Colombia and Peru) in order to provide precise information on the situation of Amazonian rivers in real time. The first phase of the Project was completed in June 2017.
The fortieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty was celebrated in 2018. On the occasion, the Amazonian Strategic Cooperation Agenda was reviewed, and the goals of the organization for the next decade were established.