A new wave of IUCN Green List commitments in the Amazon to help COVID recovery for rural and indigenous communities and their vital ecosystems.
South American protected and conserved areas are at a crossroads. COVID-19 has paralysed the work of staff and guardians to provide essential nature conservation services, while revenues from tourism and other related economic activities have evaporated almost overnight. Personal protective equipment (PPE) for the defenders of nature is hard to come by, if at all. Very few environmental agencies are receiving support from State-level financial interventions and ‘stimulus’ pledges.
The current situation in many remoter parts of the Amazon is desperate. For example, the Communal Reserve of Amarakaeri, an IUCN Green Listed territory, recently called for urgent help as the ravages of COVID-19 draw near. Even as the community has closed itself from the outside world, outsider forays continue to threaten their forest and their health.
However, despite this bleak outlook, and the wave of COVID-19 restrictions and disruptions shaking the Latin American continent, there is reason for some hope.
Firstly, government and civil society groups are pledging short-term assistance to protected and conserved areas. Groups such as the Association for Indigenous Development in the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP), an IUCN indigenous member organisation, are coordinating the delivery of vital supplies to the remote communities.
In this regard, IUCN is working with members and partners to provide some immediate relief for the frontline workers of the conservation community in the Amazon. This is possible due to the support provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation project for ‘fair and effective protected and conserved areas in the Amazon’, and the relationships built under the German Ministry of Environment’s International Climate Initiative project ‘Protected Area Solutions’.
One example of IUCN’s immediate actions is to connect IUCN’s indigenous members, such as AIDESEP, with donations of masks from IUCN’s nature conservation partners in China and elsewhere, to use their networks to get PPE donations to Amarakaeri and other indigenous communities in Peru. IUCN is also supporting the development of clear messaging and information kits in local languages.
Secondly, Government agencies and their partners are advocating for more State commitment to prioritize biodiversity and ecosystem services in the longer-term recovery. IUCN is also helping to plan for the aftermath of COVID-19 by positioning a global standard for success in nature conservation areas – the IUCN Green List - as the benchmark for policy commitments and targeted investment, post-crisis. The aim is to help ensure we can mobilize and prioritize resources to help maintain the vital services that these protected areas provide to the people living in and around them.
New State commitments to the IUCN Green List standard from Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru have been received this year. In the latter, four new areas have been prioritized by SERNANP, the State protected areas agency, including the Megantoni National Sanctuary, the Machiguenga Communal Reserve, the Matsés National Reserve and the Rio Abiseo World Heritage Area.
IUCN’s civil society members are actively supporting these protected and conserved areas too, including the Wildlife Conservation Society, the WWF network (Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador), Conservation International, the Amazon Conservation Fund, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, and others, alongside hundreds of local actors and experts
What is needed is a concerted and constant stream of support for the Amazon, its people and its wildlife, now, and in the near future. As Aileen Lee, the Chief Program Officer for Conservation at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation states “If COVID-19 is the latest echo of nature’s increasingly urgent wake-up call, we have an important decision to make about how we will respond”.