Brazil has elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as its new President and the importance this has for the fate of the Amazon and the Peoples’ that live there, cannot be overstated.
To discuss what the election results mean for forests, rights and future EU-Brazil Partnerships, Fern organised a webinar on Tuesday 22 November where we heared from leading Brazilian civil society actors:
Adriana Ramos from the Instituto Socioambiental on challenges and opportunities for forests and rights
Patricia Pinho from the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM) (Amazon Environmental Research Institute) on the sustainable development of the Amazon and the future of the EU – Mercosur Agreement
Dinaman Tuxa from the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples (APIB) in Brazil on what this presidency means for Indigenous Peoples
Facilitation: Perrine Fournier, Trade and Forest Campaigner at Fern
Highlights from the webinar:
On the Brazilian elections
Lula will take office on 1 January 2023. To get to this point, he has been forced to make alliances with groups that work against Indigenous Peoples and the environment.
Adriana Ramos, coordinator of the Law and Policy Programme at the Institute Socio Ambiental (ISA) opened discussions by emphasising that the outcome of the elections was a great relief given the tight vote in favour of Lula. This was due to “a pro-democracy alliance to defeat fascism”. The environmental agenda played a key role Lula’s campaign. This increased Brazil’s ambition to address climate change and fostered the international recognition of Brazil as a key player at COP27.
Environmental and social movements expect Brazil to get more environmental again. “We have experienced a lot of setbacks during Bolsonaro’s term. Several Bills will need to be reissued to restore the legal and institutional framework that protects the environment in Brazil” said Adriana. Together with other Brazilian civil society organisations, ISA has developed a set of environmental policy proposals, Brazil 2045, for the transition government to take on board.
Six out of 10 Amazon states were aligned with Bolsonaro and those governors have been re-elected. “The governors, even though they are still aligned with Bolsonaro, recognise the importance of cooperation on environmental issues with the Federal government as highlighted in their letter delivered to Lula at COP27” underlined Adriana.
“We are rebuilding Brazil” added Dinaman Tux, coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB). “Four years will not be enough to solve the problems or mitigate the negative impacts of Bolsonaro but during his first 100 days, Lula needs to strengthen the environmental and Indigenous Peoples’ agenda. Indigenous Peoples expect to see all measures that harm them and weaken the institutions revoked, and the promise of creating a ministry for Indigenous Peoples fulfilled. “We hope he will start the process of demarcation in the first 100 days”.
“A key priority will be stopping illegal activities in the Amazon and other biomes. There are criminal associations involved in environmental crimes which pose a big challenge,” said Adriana. “The action of the Federal government will help to bring governors closer to the environmental agenda. The international community could play a big role in bringing these governors to take a new stand on these issues,” she added.
Views on the future of the EU - Mercosur trade agreement
Lula’s strategy on the EU-Mercosur agreement still contains a lot of uncertainties according to the speakers at the webinar. Lula publicly committed to the EU-Mercosur agreement, yet it needs to be amended to be inclusive and incorporate climate safeguards said Dr. Patricia Pinho, Deputy Science Director at Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM).
“It is very likely Lula will push for an agreement that is resilient in the context of climate change, ensuring that trade activities do not contribute to more emissions”. Bolsonaro approved it but he did not have strong support or a clear agenda to put it forward. There was no institution in Bolsonaro’s Brazil defending it, which makes it easier to re-design it and make it more positive in terms of safeguarding social and environmental rights and sustainability” added Adriana.
According to Dinaman, the main ingredients for a successful EU-Brazil partnership is the demarcation of Indigenous land. “While recognising the sovereignty of Brazil, any agreement needs to be done in view of the protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights” he added.
The agreement should contain respect for Indigenous Peoples, consultation of local communities, the protection of international human rights and Indigenous Peoples’ rights but also the traceability of products so that corporations in violation of International Labour Organisation Convention 169 are punished accordingly.
Adriana made the point that the EU-Mercosur agreement will be a specific test for Lula’s government because it is a catalyst for all the different views within the alliance behind Lula.
On whether the EU-Mercosur agreement should be stopped or reopened for further negotiations, all speakers agreed that the best scenario would be a reopening of the negotiations so that Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities’ voices can be included in developing such agreements.
“If there is a market that could help improve social and environmental safeguards so that we can improve the production with less impact when it comes to rights and social and environmental matters, this is the European market,” said Adriana.
She mentioned though there is no widespread debate on this, and no robust analysis on how the agreement could push for better standards. Hence impacts are very difficult to predict. But she asked whether the EU has the necessary tools or can develop mechanisms and tools to make sure the agreement will induce good practices? If the market does not demand good practices, this will not happen out of good will or social and environmental awareness.
Patricia made reference to the consultations on the EU-Mercosur agreement organised by IPAM and ISA in the last few months (a briefing will be published in January 2023) which showed that vulnerable groups who could potentially be negatively impacted are not aware of the implications in terms of land use or increases in inequalities which are huge. We need to talk more to people who will suffer the most from the consequences so as to refine and improve the agreement.
Adriana underlined the need to put a coherent policy in place in Brazil first. “We expect at least to have our policies back inside Brazil, so that we can guarantee a good basis for further discussions. Deforestation, violence against Indigenous Peoples and local communities, lack of implementation of Indigenous Peoples’ constitutional territorial rights are so critical that anything that does not help will be a problem. We have our homework to do. We need to have our own mechanisms so that we can put them into discussions.”
On Lula’s future external policy
Patricia highlighted that Lula wants to foster South-South cooperation. Lula has offered to hold the Summit of the Member Countries of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela) so that they can, for the first time, discuss in a sovereign manner the promotion of the integrated development of the region, with social inclusion and climate responsibility. Lula also insists on the need to have fair trade and peace for all through a robust and functioning multilateral system, and wants to be guided by the search for the decarbonisation of the global economy to tackle the climate crisis. This global approach needs to be kept in mind when we discuss EU-Brazil partnerships.
Who benefits from international trade?
The webinar also discussed the issue of the volume of trade. Patricia underlined that family farmers struggle with the scale of international trade and have difficulties to access the international market. When we talk about social inclusion, we need to be mindful of this. With the EU-Mercosur agreement, w the exact opposite happening. “Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) always benefit large producers, large corporations which prevent small producers from accessing new markets so that they end up being the recipients of negative externalities. It needs to include small holders and fair distribution of revenue and benefits. It should be a topic in the renegotiations and we should send signals to the government on how to foster this agenda. FTAs contain a harmful potential in terms of expanding volumes and impacts on the environment and climate. Lula has mentioned new development models – a bioeconomy - other than the one based on commodities and monocultures. This could be a way to promote alternatives to the current model” she concluded.