BIC and partners brief Congress on the IDB’s Amazon Initiative

BIC, Amazon Watch, and COICA held a congressional briefing on the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Amazon Initiative. Civil society and representatives of Indigenous Peoples shared concerns regarding the initiative. We urge the US Government to use its leverage and push the IDB to prioritize Indigenous land titling and meaningfully engage with forest peoples.

On July 28, 2021, BIC and Amazon Watch along with Indigenous Representatives from COICA held a congressional briefing on the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Amazon Initiative for sustainable development in the Amazon. Bicameral congressional staff members from key Democratic member offices and the House Foreign Affairs Committee were in attendance. 

The IDB’s Amazon Initiative aims to support Amazonian countries with the implementation of commitments made in the Leticia Pact, an agreement between seven Amazonian countries to jointly protect the rainforest. There are four thematic pillars of the initiative: bioeconomy; sustainable agriculture, livestock, and forest management; human capital; and sustainable infrastructure and cities. To support this initiative, the IDB plans to create three different lending instruments. The Amazon Seed/Transitory Ordinary Capital Strategic Development Program, approved in March 2021, intends to provide technical assistance to clients to create a strong pipeline of projects that support the four thematic areas of the initiative. The Amazon Bioeconomy Fund, which is still subject to approval, is a proposed $300 million fund financed by the Green Climate Fund to unlock private capital through the valuation of bioeconomy and nature positive products and services with climate mitigation results in the Amazon Basin. The IDB is also considering the creation of a Multi-donor Bioeconomy and Amazon Forest Fund that intends to drive achievement in sustainable forest management, sustainable land use, and the development of bioeconomy in the Amazon region. 

After providing congressional staff members an overview of the IDB’s initiative, Carolina Juaneda, BIC’s Latin America Regional Coordinator, raised concerns about the IDB’s lack of dialogue with Indigenous Peoples, Afrodescendants, and traditional communities in the Amazon Basin and its lack of emphasis on Indigenous land titling. Juaneda recommended that Indigenous land titling become a fifth pillar of the Amazon Initiative to prevent greater deforestation and uphold Indigenous land rights. Roberto Espinoza, Amazon and Indigenous Peoples consultant, echoed Juaneda’s concerns on land regularization stating that the IDB already has a credibility problem concerning collective titling, and without a strong focus on land titling, the initiative will be ineffective and only serve to degrade the Amazon. 

Espinoza further stated the IDB has not shown a willingness to discuss the conceptual and technical ideas of the initiative, particularly around the Indigenous vision of bioeconomy, with Indigenous Peoples. He emphasized the need for the IDB to work with Indigenous Peoples and Afrodescendants to both support and benefit from the Indigenous perspective of bioeconomy and identify ways in which the initiative can be harmonized with the type of bioeconomy prioritized by the private markets. Espinoza requested that members of Congress work to create a space for dialogue between Indigenous Groups and the IDB and to push the IDB to prioritize land titling and Indigenous rights. As the traditional stewards of the Amazon, Indigenous Peoples are integral to its continued protection and have the holistic vision necessary for sustainable forest management. 

Staff members from the House Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations expressed support for greater coordination between the Committees and Treasury to apply pressure on the IDB to prioritize the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the Initiative. 

BIC urges Congress to work with Treasury and require the US Executive Director at the IDB to push for Indigenous land titling and meaningful engagement around the technical design of the Amazon Initiative with Indigenous Peoples, Afrodescendants, and other traditional communities. Through earnest collaboration with forest peoples, the IDB has an opportunity to address the gaps in the initiative’s design and implement a development model that enhances prosperity and protects the Amazon biome. We thank representatives of the US Government for their willingness to meet with us and our partners and look forward to continued engagement around the IDB’s Amazon Initiative.