Global Issues versus Local Policies: Lessons from Deforesting the Brazilian Amazon

À problème global, actions locales en Amazonie brésilienne
Article Index
World Deforestation
Legal Amazon
Deforestation in legal Amazon
Annual deforestation in legal Amazon by state
Amazon region protected areas

Local governance in forest management is the core issue in the debate on sustainability in the Brazilian Amazon. The last fifteen years, culminating with the enactment of the Law on the Management of Public Forests for Sustainable Production that is now being tested on the ground, illustrate well the historical dynamics of a region marked by the demands of a global economy, the concerns about increasing deforestation and the struggle for survival and the welfare of local and indigenous communities.

The Global Monitoring Report of the World Bank released in April this year shows that between 2000 and 2005 Brazil had the dubious distinction of being the number one deforester in the world, followed by Indonesia and Sudan (see Graph 1). The most affected region by far was the Amazon forest with an annual decrease of 0.6% of its total area. The National Institute of Spatial Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisa Espacial - INPE), the official organ of the Brazilian government monitoring the Amazon region, estimates that the biggest surviving tropical forest in the world shrank 17%. A cursory comparison with the situation in Europe where only 0.1% of original forests remains or with the rates of annual deforestation for the same period (2000-2005) in other global regions, such as the Comoro Islands which recorded a 7.5% peak, are no consolation. Out of the 700,000 km[2] of actual clearance so far, the staggering figure of 300,000 (approximately 10 times the area of Belgium) occurred during the last twenty years alone.


World Deforestation

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While Brazilians and the country's successive administrations since the 1970s have exercised legitimate exploitation of Brazil's many resources-wood, minerals, water, soil, flora and fauna-to enhance economic development, warnings by a plethora of players about the lethal impact of deforestation to global biodiversity and climate have taken center stage over the last fifteen years. Brazilian amazon is today a complex negotiation of conflicting interests that brings officials face to face at all levels of government; national and multinational agribusiness and logging corporations; transnational NGO networks devoted to conservation causes; local and indigenous communities; and other civil society organizations.

Global versus local: the theoretical debate

There are two main forces driving the socio-political dynamics in the brazilian amazon (see box 1 and graph 1): (i) intensification of economic and social globalization and (ii) enhancement of local governance. This article seeks to look at current processes and situations on the ground to illustrate how the qualitative changes of the former in recent times have had a more positive impact on the latter than previously thought. If it is true that the Amazon region has been intimately linked to global economic networks since the beginnings of colonization in the 16th century-particularly during the so-called "rubber cycle" of the 19th century-it is equally true that the contemporary interests associated with agribusiness corporations share center stage with the new imperatives of sustainability being voiced in regional and international fora and organizations, such as the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) bypassing states and national ideologies.

A new paradigm of world governance-where the power of the nation-state is partially eroded and the world's political centers are exponentially expanded-ensures direct and pragmatic interaction between local and global forces. Accordingly, the emerging system of world governance is "no longer a system of states but a plural, decentralized structure made of regional blocs, regulatory regimes, international and transnational agencies and political initiatives sanctioned in agreements and treaties. In sum, it is a system of multiple layers and forms of regulation where the micro and the macro, as well as different modalities of associations, organizations and networks of citizenship, emerge as new political entities ready to contribute to reshape global politics on a more democratic way".[1]

The recent history of the Amazon region bears testimony to that phenomenon: the proliferation of the 'tertiary sector' represented by NGOs devoted not only to environmental causes, but also human rights, migration, education, health, gender issues, etc. This gives a unique mediating role between local and global interests with clear benefits for the communities directly involved. The global communication network-in its virtual and real senses- shrinks time and space and enhances the capacity of communities to reshape their destinies through recurrent world-wide exchange of experiences marked by similar predicaments and aspirations.

Global challenges to national sovereignty and divisive experiments of nation-building in postcolonial Brazil have proven to be a major boost for local self-rule, but not without conflict. The role of global commodity markets ('the primary sector') is well-known. In the Amazon, agribusiness is directly responsible for plunging local communities into cycles of savage capitalist production and is one of the major causes of deforestation. But even the role of 'the tertiary sector' may at times be an obstructing factor. The global consensus on 'sustainable development' has generated, in several cases, a 'performance-oriented environmentalism' that co-exists with original promises of social and political transformation.[2] However, the homogenizing effects of 'building consensus', 'technical expertise', 'common solutions', 'efficiency', etc. could prove harmful to traditional forest communities of mestizo origin (the caboclos: people of mixed Amerindian and European descent) and, particularly, for the surviving indigenous population-some 250,000 Amerindians in the Amazon scattered among 80 different ethnic groups.

Brazil's democratic transition

"Clientelism" replaced by economic determinism.The growing strenght of local governance in Brazil resulted from the exhaustion of the centralist-interventionist model of economic development that prevailed since the 1950s. This featured populist an corporatist, as well as repressive and clientelist policies that propelled industrialization alongside rampant patrimonialism, corruption and external dependency. In the second half of the 1980s. Brazil rejoined the democratic path amid clear signs of imminent social and economic crises: recession, hyperinflation, external debt and, above all, continued poverty. The consequences for the Amazon region were devastating. Megalomaniac projects in the areas of infrastructure, cattle ranching, agribusiness, logging and mineral extraction led to an unprecedented social, environmental and cultural degradation. The alleged economic gains in food supply to major urban centers and export-oriented policies were used to reward a new oligarchy of 'migrant' entrepreneurs largely dissociated from local communities and aspirations. The nationalist motto "occupy it, or risk losing it" (integrar para não entregar) opened the gates to an illusion of inexhaustible resources and demographic emptiness that would relaunch the precarious cycle of wealth accumulation. The construction of the new capital, Brasília, and the trans-Amazon Belém-Brasília highway signaled the integration of the Amazon region to the mainstream national economy as well as the growing globalized market.

The autocratic process of modernization and expansion of Brazil's economic frontier into the Amazon region left behind a legacy of predatory behavior and dependency on exogenous interests (national and international) that persist to this day. Bertha Becker, a leading specialist on the subject, maintains that "an exogenous model based on a vision alien to the region which promotes strong ties with major metropolitan centers around the globe and implement through a geometry of networks" has prevailed over an alternative "endogenous model based on an internal vision meant to privilege local development to be carried out through a geometry of areas".[3]

Setting democracy in motion. Meanwhile, the dawn of the 1990s brought a fresh breeze of counter-balancing forces. The process of re-democratization epitomized by a new Constitution in 1988-one of the most progressive and visionary magna carta in the history of Brazil and Latin America-and by the 1992 UN World Summit on Environment in Rio de Janeiro, which gathered representatives of an emerging global civil society (NGOs), and fostered a more plural, assertive, and organized civil society.

The 1988 Constitution gave legal and juridical recognition to several new actors and processes of organized civil society that emerged during the years of resistance to the military regime (1964-1985). The World Summit, on the other hand, supplied those groups with a unique opportunity to frame their issues within the broader context of global environmental preservation and consolidate a dialogue with social movements and NGOs from across the world. The Summit signaled a turning point in a process of changing perceptions about globalization. Instead of a globalization that conspires with state agents to deforest the Amazon through logging and agribusiness, the new face of globalization called for a growing awareness about the need to preserve the forest and, by doing so, prevent climate warming, extinction of biodiversity and destruction of local and indigenous communities.

Thus, (i) the internal struggle for decentralization, transparency and civil society participation and (ii) the political pressures from multilateral networks of NGOs to include sustainable principles in developmental policies were two sides of the same coin. They were a synergy of local and global interests where the latter applied positive leverage to the former. A process of state and municipal empowerment was gradually put in place where all actors were asked to participate in policy-making, implementation and monitoring.

Paramount to the legalist foundation of the struggle are the constitutional provisions ranging from (i) the devolution of powers to state and municipal jurisdiction in several matters, including the environment and the recognition of local governance as the third autonomous tier of the federative structure (§ 18, 23 and 24); (ii) an unprecedented chapter on environmental preservation which defines protected areas and major ecological units including the Amazon (§ 225); (iii) a binding commitment to environmental sustainability (§ 170); and (iv) the recognition of the multicultural makeup of the nation, including an equally unprecedented chapter on the indigenous peoples (mostly in the Amazon region), their eternal rights to traditional lands and juridical adulthood (§ 231 and 232). (See Box 1)

The causes of deforestation

World economic growth. According to official estimates by incumbent Minister of Environment Carlos Minc, the total area of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon during 2008 is likely to reach 14,000 sq. km. If confirmed, this would be a huge increase of 25% in deforestation after three years of decline.[4] The figures for 2004-2007 tell the story. From a peak of 27,379 sq. km. in 2004 (the second highest registered in the history of the region), the area of deforestation dropped to 18,759 sq. km. in 2005, followed by a further drop to 14,039 sq. km. in 2006 and 11,224 sq. km. in 2007. (See Table 1). These years of reversal roughly correspond to the last three years of incumbent President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's first term in office, when Marina Silva, an environmentalist of national and international repute often referred to as 'the representative of the peoples of the forest', was at the helm of the Ministry of Environment. Governmental circles claimed that pullbacks in deforestation were not so much a political coincidence as of the outcome of smarter environmental policies, adoption of more rigorous criteria in land allotments and logging license grants, of improvement of monitoring systems, and of better performance of law enforcing agencies.

While this perception may still find supporters on the ground, the projected figures of deforestation for 2008 seem to indicate something else. It is now clear that, more than anything else, what actually sustained the continuous drop in deforestation during the years 2005-2007 was the reduction in global market prices of some agricultural products, notably soy and meat.[5] Similarly, the increase in land clearance during 2008 is being attributed to rising global commodities prices.

Pro-deforestation economic development. Much of the deforestation was in an area comprising 174 municipalities in the states of Pará, Mato Grosso and Rondônia known as 'the arch of deforestation'.[6] The area was responsible for over 87% of Amazon deforestation during 2007. Pará is the leading state with 5,569 sq. km. of cleared forest, followed by Mato Grosso with 2.476 sq. km. and Rondônia with 1.465 sq. km. (see Table 2). The main economic activities involved the 'classical' logging, cattle ranching and infrastructural work, all organically linked to one another. The huge infrastructure projects launched during the 1970s and 1980s by the military regime, such as networks of forest-cutting roads, dams and mining programs, set the tone for what was to come.

A spurious process of land acquisition. Part of the lands made available for logging and cattle ranching were small parcels meant to attract migrants from socially troubled regions such as the northeast, but the bulk of them were concentrated, ending up in the hands of highly-capitalized owners. Many either acquired these properties by taking advantage of the central administration's fiscal incentives, which drove land prices ridiculously low, or by illegally occupying (grilagem) them and subsequently legitimizing ownership via corrupt or political influence. This spurious process of land acquisition became the norm in the Amazon region.

The twin problems of land concentration and environmental destruction were compounded in the last decade by the highly profitable soybean agribusiness involving wealthy entrepreneurs. New frontiers have been opened since, notably in the states of Goiás, Tocantins, west of Pará, and southeast of Amazonas. The 'new gold' has benefited greatly from an intimate association with logging and cattle ranching, enabling soybean farmers to lower their costs, strengthen their lobbies, and remain relatively immune to the rising land prices.

The present land distribution profile is quite revealing: 36% of the Amazon region is in private hands, of which only approximately one-tenth have ownership deeds finalized and one-fourth is estimated to be illegal; 42.1% are protected areas, equally divided between indigenous lands and so-called reserved conservation units (Unidades de Conservação - UCs) with a smattering of military lands; and 21.9% are public lands still waiting for proper mapping and registration.

The surging soybean economy of the 1990s and its organic links with cattle ranching consolidated, in unmistakable ways, the historical connections of the region with global market interests. It is a replay, as it were, of the 'rubber cycle' of the 19th century as a significant weight in the total GDP for the region, a record growth rate among all sectors, and primarily oriented towards exports. With a US$9 billion output in 2004, which accounted for 19% of the total economy of Legal Amazon, agriculture (mainly grains, especially soy) and cattle ranching combined represented 25% of total exports by the region (US$15 billion), with 19% and 6% shares, respectively. Adding timber products (8%), the figure rises to 33% of total regional exports, superseded only by the traditional mining sector (metals and minerals) with 40%, which nonetheless accounts for just 3% of total GDP of the Amazon. Thus, out of the US$9 billion of combined production, approximately US$4 billion are exported, of which US$3 billion are grains and US$1 billion are cattle ranching products.

Local governance and global impact

The Amazon's fate is a global issue. If the causes and their global links are well identified, the debate on the means to limit deforestation or to stop it altogether goes unabated. The 'traditional' geopolitical confrontation between the developing and the developed worlds seems to be losing ground. To be sure, local suspicions remain about the motivations behind calls for international intervention, as seen recently by Brazilian Minister Minc's strong rejection of a recent editorial by The Independent suggesting the need for the international community to have a greater say on the destiny of the Amazon.[7] And yet the emphasis is gradually and steadily shifting from a national horizon to a local perspective that sees centralized governance as an obstacle and transnational NGOs as potential partners in the fight for sustainability at all stages of planning, daring even to consider collaboration outside the conceptual scope of 'development'.

A local perspective in the management of the Amazon forest. The last ten years witnessed the gradual consolidation of a local perspective in the management of the Amazon forest. The role of the federal government in this process has been positive, if only for its readiness to listen and incorporate local ideas and narratives in policy making. Its willingness and initiative are a prerequisite considering the historical tradition of autocracy and power concentration, and the current notion of decentralization as a social ideal and administrative practice.

The constitutional article on environment is unequivocal when it states that "both the Government and the community shall have the duty to defend and preserve it [the environment]". (See Box 1). In other words, as a fundamental tool towards local governance, administrative decentralization aims to enable participation by organized civil society. Therefore, intervention by federal agencies in states and municipalities to prevent deviation from that basic goal are legitimate measures of a 'decentralizing spirit'.

A new institutional framework. The steps taken to ensure local management of the Amazon forest have been directly inspired by the constitutional provisions. Among them was the much delayed institutionalization in 1990 of the National System of Environment (Sistema Nacional do Meio-Ambiente - SISNAMA), a forum consolidating all federal, state and municipal organs and foundations responsible for the protection of the environment and improvement of standards. Its normative and advisory body, the National Council for the Environment (Conselho Nacional do Meio Ambiente - CONAMA), is responsible for defining environmental principles and norms for reconciling economic development, environmental preservation and quality of life. It includes members from federal, state and municipal organs, as well as business and civil society representatives. The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Resources (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente - IBAMA) remains as the main executive branch of the SISNAMA.

CONAMA deliberations over the years have urged the states and municipalities to form their own Councils for Environment (Conselho Estadual do Meio Ambiente - CONSEMA and Conselho Municipal do Meio Ambiente - CONSEMME) with their own executive bodies (local versions of IBAMA) known as State Organ for the Environment (Orgão Estadual do Meio Ambiente - OEMA). These local councils are encouraged to improve interstate and intermunicipal coordination in forums such as the Brazilian Association of State Organs for Environment (Associação Brasileira de Entidades Estaduais de Meio Ambiente - ABEMA) and the National Association of Municipal Organs for Environment (Associação Nacional de Orgões Municipais de Meio Ambiente - ANAMMA). These two national associations have been at the forefront of demands for effective implementation of decisions by SISNAMA.

Earlier in 1993, the Ministry of Environment replaced the Secretary of Environment and assumed the main coordinating role in SISNAMA. Alongside, a specific Secretary for Amazon Coordination (Secretaria de Coordenação da Amazônia - SCA) was established, entrusted with turning around environmental deterioration in the region, sponsoring alternative sustainable processes of economic production and new technologies to improve local living conditions and reduce negative impacts on the environment.

Positive agendas for local governance

An effective decentralization. The most important task of SCA has been to implement a series of initiatives and projects under the purview of so-called Positive Agendas (Agendas Positivas). The agendas are the most substantive and tangible expression of an effective decentralization program that allows involvement of civil society in decision-making. They also reflect the constructive influence of global ideas and institutional players, including NGOs devoted to environmental issues and research centers working on sustainable uses of the forest.

Engaging civil society. The Pilot Program for the Protection of Tropical Forests in Brazil known as PPG-7 was perhaps the most significant precursor of the Positive Agendas in the Amazon. Formed in 1992, the PPG-7 is a partnership involving the Brazilian government, Brazilian civil society, the international community (G-7) and the World Bank; its goal is fighting deforestation and CO2 emissions while achieving economic sustainability. A major PPG-7 strategy is strengthening civilian organizations operating in the region by promoting creative ways of cooperation and participation in public governance. One success was the consolidation of the Working Group for the Amazon (Grupo de Trabalho Amazônico - GTA), a network of more than 600 environmental NGOs and other social movements founded in 1992. The GTA is today a major policy maker on sustainable development in the region. Besides local, national and transnational NGOs, the GTA includes social movements. For example, the rubber tappers, coconut crackers, nut extractivist groups-all under the banner of the National Council of Rubber Tappers (Conselho Nacional de Seringueiros), which was founded in 1885 by well-known environmental activist Chico Mendes. Other examples are the Forum of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira), and various groups representing small farmers and fishing communities.[8]

The Positive Agenda was formally adopted in 1999 in all nine states of Legal Amazon. The Parliament, the three levels of administration, organized social movements, representatives of traditional communities, private institutions, NGOs, technical experts and scientists were asked to draw up statewide agendas that were the basis for the Positive Agenda for the Amazon (Agenda Positiva da Amazônia) approved in 2000. It covers a wide range of issues including: 1) ecological-economic mapping; infrastructure (transport and energy); 2) sustainable job creation and income in agro-extractivism, forest products, fishing, agriculture and cattle ranching, ecotourism and biotechnology; 3) environmental licensing in rural properties; 4) land policies, protected areas and indigenous lands; 5) science and technology; 6) monitoring and control of environment; 7) environmental services and education; and 8) institutional and legal make-up.

Decentralizing licensing. The System of Environmental Licensing in Rural Properties (Sistema de Licenciamento Ambiental em Propriedade Rural na Amazônia) is one of the agenda's biggest achievements. The system substantially decentralizes decision-making in matters relating to granting concessions for economic activity and infrastructure projects in rural areas. The revenue generated by the system has been an additional motivation to states and municipalities to have their own Councils for Environment since their existence is a sine qua non for the licensing process to be carried out.[9] Similarly, the process of certification by the Forest Stewardship Council-Brazil (Conselho Brasileiro do Manejo Florestal) for sustainable production of timber and non-timber items (fruits, seeds, oils), has achieved very positive results. Initiated in 2001, the certification process also involves substantial NGO participation.[10]

Protecting indigenous lands. Another important task of the Positive Agendas has been to ensure the demarcation of so-called 'protected areas', comprising indigenous lands and conservation units (UCs). Their proportion has increased considerably in recent years, growing from 8.5% in 1990 to 42.1% (2.1 million sq. km.) in 2006. (See Figure 2). The demarcation of indigenous lands, which was greatly boosted by constitutional provisions ensuring eternal rights to traditional lands and self-rule, has moved slowly but steadily with 100,000 sq. km. of regularized lands being added since 2003. So far, almost 90% of identified lands have been regularized. The total area at stake is 20.5% of Legal Amazon and 12.41% of total Brazilian territory.[11]

The demarcation of UCs, on the other hand, has witnessed the growing involvement of states, municipalities and civil society. Defined as areas of special legal protection because of their importance for biodiversity and natural resources conservation, UCs represent a vital step towards preserving the main forest and have been at the core of NGOs' efforts towards sustainability around the world. UCs account so far for 21.1% of the total area of Legal Amazon, about half of which is under federal jurisdiction and half under state/municipal jurisdiction. There are two basic categories: the Units of Total Protection, which include National Parks, Biological Reserves and Ecological Stations (7%); and Units of Sustainable Use, which include extractivist reserves and national forests (13%).[12] Over the last five years alone (2003-2007), a total of 145,873 sq. km. have been conserved.

A bold devolution of public forest management. Perhaps one of the boldest measures taken by the present administration of President Lula was the enactment in 2006 of the Law on the Management of Public Forests for Sustainable Production (Lei de Gestão das Florestas Públicas para a Produção Sustentável). The law transfers, to a great extent, the management of forests to the states and civil society. Article No. 4 states unequivocally that "The management of public forests for Sustainable Production includes: (i) the creation of federal, state and municipal forests and their direct management; (ii) entrusting of public forests to local communities [...]; (iii) forest concessions [...]."13 It opens the way for direct management of forests through concessions to local communities preferentially, and other agents such as NGOs, communitarian organizations and private-sector companies. The concessions do not imply any form of ownership or holdership by the winning bidders. They allow only forest exploration and exploitation under rules set forth in a formal contract, including a price regime for products and services. The concessions are monitored by the newly created Brazilian Forest Service (Serviço Florestal Brasileiro - SFB).

It is important to note that both the process of allotting concessions and monitoring actual management takes place in a decentralized and participatory scheme designed by SISNAMA. Thus, the general supervising role of the central government is meant to ensure the effective realization of a 'decentralizing spirit' understood as local governance and empowerment.

The Law on the Management of Public Forests for Sustainable Production has been hailed by national and transnational environmental NGOs, and other civil society organizations as a major step in halting illegal occupation, logging and deforestation in the Amazon. Forests under concession are likely to be better protected from invasion and clearance for agriculture-the main cause of deforestation in the region. The first experiment under the new law will take place in the state of Rondônia in a forestry area of 900 sq. km.

The goal of a sustainable Amazon

A participatory implementation. It is widely acknowledged that the administration of President Lula-a former union leader and founder of the leftist ruling Workers' Party-has taken important steps to decentralize governance and adopt participatory methods in the management of the Amazon. Strengthening SISNAMA through CONAMA, implementing the Positive Agendas and enacting the Law on the Management of Public Forests were among the key achievements regarding sustainable forest management. As a consequence, the global voices and practices represented by transnational NGOs and research centers have helped develop concrete programs for environmental awareness, forest certification and management of economic projects.

Former Minister Marina Silva summed up the innovations introduced in public policies during her tenure with two expressions: "structuring action" and "transversally". The first refers to initiatives for changing the fundamentals of the economy and the system of land occupation and exploitation in the Amazon to bring about sustainable development and gradually lower the rates of deforestation. And "transversally" refers to an unprecedented policy for all ministries under the co-ordination of the Ministry of Environment to ensure that each and every portfolio incorporates the principle of sustainability when developing policies and programs.

New challenges: increased deforestation in 1988. Still, the sharp increase in the rates of deforestation estimated for 2008 clearly suggests that there is much more to be done. It blatantly exposes the enormous difficulties of implementing sustainable policies in an area abounding with key counteracting interests of national and global markets, short- and mid-term governmental objectives for economic growth, export promotion and poverty alleviation, and clientelist politics and corruption at all levels.

The growing violence associated with the rampant illegal occupation of lands says much about the ineffectiveness of controlling agencies, despite their enhanced capabilities in terms of technical, legal, and strategic resources. The number of conflicts over land rose from 156 in 1997 to 328 in 2006, when the region claimed 43% of total conflicts registered in Brazil.14 In many cases, decentralizing measures fail to actually empower civil society as they become tools in the hands of state and municipal authorities seeking to satisfy private interests. The state lobbies pressing for the approval of dubious infrastructure projects in Rondônia and the pursuance of equally dubious agricultural projects in the state of Mato Grosso, ruled by one of the largest soybean producers in the world, are emblematic of the problem.

Political setbacks. A major setback in the process was the resignation of Minister Marina Silva early this year following pressures from such lobbies. Her letter of resignation pointing to forces within the government resisting the implementation of her environmental agenda bears testimony to the formidable battle she was forced to fight. Her skepticism and reservation were well-known and shared by many environmentalists in the government and NGOs for the government's Program of Sustainable Amazon (PAS), which was announced in 2007 under the stewardship of the Minister for Strategic Matters Mangabeira Unger. Their opposition focused on PAS' strong emphasis on infrastructure development and industrial activities rather than conservation, which was much in line with Minister Unger's goal of promoting what he describes as "the industrialization of the Amazon."

A new proposal towards zero deforestation.The magnitude of the issues at stake is enormous. The survival of the world's largest forest hangs in the balance. The ball is now in the court of the new Minister of Environment, Carlos Minc, an equally reputable environmentalist from Rio de Janeiro. An alternative or, perhaps, counterbalancing proposal is ready for his consideration. It is a comprehensive plan submitted to the government setting the ambitious target of reducing deforestation to zero by 2015 by adopting a system of annual goals and financial compensations for all those ready to check forest clearance. The proposal was submitted in 2007 by major local and international NGOs and other credible sources.

Time will tell whether the expanding role of civil society in the management and destiny of the Amazon has in fact reached a point where zero deforestation can be achieved.

Box 1 | The 1988 Constitution

* Article 18. The political and administrative organization of the Federative Republic of Brazil comprises the Union, the States, the Federal District and the Municipalities, all of them autonomous, as this Constitution provides.
* Article 23. The Union, the States, the Federal District and the municipalities, in common, have the power: [...] VI - to protect the environment and to fight pollution in any of its forms; VII - to preserve the forests, fauna and flora.
 * Article 24. The Union, the States and the Federal District have the power to legislate concurrently on: [...] VI - forests, hunting, fishing, fauna, preservation of nature, defense of the soil and natural resources, protection of the environment and control of pollution;
* Article 170.
The economic order, founded on the appreciation of the value of human work and on free enterprise, is intended to ensure everyone a life with dignity, in accordance with the dictates of social justice, with due regard for the following principles: [...] VI - environment protection, including by means of different treatments in accordance to the environmental impact of products and services and their respective production and rendering.

* Article 225.
All have the right to an ecologically balanced environment. which is an asset of common use and essential to a healthy quality of life, and both the Government and the community shall have the duty to defend and preserve it for present and future generations. I - preserve and restore the essential ecological processes and provide for the ecological treatment of species and ecosystems; [...] III - define, in all units of the Federation, territorial spaces and their components which are to receive special protection. any alterations and suppressions being allowed only by means of law, and any use which may harm the integrity of the attributes which justify their protection being forbidden; [...] VI - promote environment education in all school levels and public awareness of the need to preserve the environment; VII - protect the fauna and the flora, with prohibition, in the manner prescribed by law, of all practices which represent a risk to their ecological function, cause the extinction of species or subject animals to cruelty. [...]; Paragraph 4 - The Brazilian Amazonian Forest, the Atlantic Forest, the Serra do Mar, the Pantanal Mato-Grossense and the coastal zone are part of the national patrimony, and they shall be used, as provided by law, under conditions which ensure the preservation of the environment, therein included the use of mineral resources.

* Article 231.
Indians shall have their social organization, customs, languages. creeds and traditions recognized, as well as their original rights to the lands they traditionally occupy, it being incumbent upon the Union to demarcate them, protect and ensure respect for all of their property. [...]Paragraph 2 - The lands traditionally occupied by Indians are intended for their permanent possession and they shall have the exclusive usufruct of the riches of the soil, the rivers and the lakes existing therein. [...]

* Article 232.
The Indians, their communities and organizations have standing under the law to sue to defend their rights and interests, the Public Prosecution intervening in all the procedural acts.
Source: Constituição da República Federativa do Brasil, São Paulo, Editora Sarvaiva, 1998.


Legal Amazon

For administrative reasons and of elaboration of the policies, the region of the Amazonia is known under the name of legal Amazonia by virtue of the federal law of 1955. It includes all the States of Brazil sharing the region of the big pond: Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia and Roraima, and a part of Maranhão and Tocantins.

  • Total Area: 5,023,000 sq. kms (59% of Barzil’s total area)
  • Share of world resources: 32% of biodiversity and 9% of river resources
  • Population (2004): 22.5 million inhabitants (12% of Brazil’s population)
  • GDP (2004): US$51.18 billion (about 8% of Brazil’s GDP)
  • Average 2000-04 GDP growth: 6%
  • Yearly per capita income (2004): US$2,320 (about 64% of Brazil’s average)
  • Human Development Indicator (2000): 0.705 (slightly below the national reference level)


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Deforestation in legal Amazon

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Annual deforestation in legal Amazon by state

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Amazon region protected areas

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1 SILVA (A.). "Relações Internacionais e Governança na Pan-Amazônia: atores e dinâmica de redes regionais e globais". []

2 ZHOURI (A.), "O Ativismo Transnacional pela Amazônia: Entre a Ecologia Pólítica e o Ambientalismo de Resultados", Horizontes Antropológicos, january-june 2006, year 12, n. 25, p. 139-169.

3. BECKER (B), Workshop 'Modelos e Cenários para a Amazônia Brasileira: o Papel da Ciência'. Resumo das Discussões e Conclusões []. Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia

4 In "Governo Segura Divulgação de Aumento de Devastação", Folha de São Paulo, 8th july 2008.

5 GIORGI (D.), "Um Dia Chegaremos ao Desmatamento Zero", Correio da Cidadania, 4th june 2008.

6 CASTRO (E.), "Dinâmica Socioeconômica e Desmatamento da Amazônia", Novos Cadernos NAEA, v. 8, n. 2, december 2005, p. 6-10.

7 "Save the Lungs of Our Planet" (editorial), The Independent, 15th may 2008.

8 ROS-TONEN (M.), "Novas Perspectivas para a Gestão Sustentável da Floresta Amazônica: Explorando Novos Caminhos", Ambiente e Sociedade, v.X, n.1, january-june 2007, p. 18-19.

9 CARVALHO (P.), OLIVEIRA (S.), BARCELLOS (F.) ''& ASSIS (J.), "Gestão Local e Meio Ambiente", Ambiente ''& Sociedade, v. VIII, n. 1, january-june 2005, p. 2-5.

10 CARNEIRO (M.), "ONGs, Expertise e o Mercado do Desenvolvimento Sustentável: a Certificação Florestal na Amazônia", Novos Cadernos NAEA, v. 9, n. 1, june 2006, p. 152-154.



[] ''& []

13 "Lei No. 11.284, de 2 de Março de 2006", Presidência da República, Brasília, 2nd March, 2006.

14 CELENTANO (D.) ''& VERÍSSIMO (A.). The State of the Amazon: Indicators. "The Amazon Frontier Advance: From Boom to Bust" ''& "The Brazilian Amazon and the Millennium Development Goals", Belém. Imazon (Amazon Institute of People and Environment), 2007.[] '& []

15 "Sete Anos para Zerar Desmatamento na Amazônia: ONGs Brasileiras Mostram como", 3rd october 2007. []