The Amazon Basin and the Role of Conservation and Sustainable Management

The Amazon basin is widely recognized as the most diverse ecological region on the planet and is essential to the region’s environmental, social, and economic prosperity. It plays a critical role in global climate regulation, every year absorbing nearly a quarter of carbon taken up by the world’s forests.2 It is the single largest repository of biodiversity on the planet, with over 40,000 species of plants, 16,000 species of trees, 2,000 species of mammals and birds, and 2,500 species of fish. One in ten known species in the world lives in Amazonian ecosystems. The region includes 210 million hectares of protected areas, around 3,000 indigenous territories covering over 200 million hectares, and hosts 40 percent of the world’s remaining rainforest, including the largest amount of wetland forests. About 33 million people live in the Amazon watershed, including over 380 indigenous groups, all deriving their livelihoods from its forests, rivers, and tributaries.

The Amazon and its diversity are threatened by deforestation, land degradation, fragmentation, and the over-exploitation of the forest and freshwater ecosystems. Deforestation has been recognized as a priority transboundary problem in the Amazon region by the member countries. Despite national and international commitments to halt deforestation, it is still a challenge for the region. In 2019 alone, more than 1.7 million hectares of Amazonian primary forest were lost in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, according to figures from the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP).3

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the Amazon’s environmental problems. Economic pressures and health crises have thwarted enforcement efforts and undermined governments’ abilities to further protect the forest. Illegal deforestation, mining, and other unsustainable activities have increased since the beginning of the pandemic. The pandemic has also revealed the inequities and high vulnerability of communities in the Amazon region where the virus has rapidly expanded.

Around 17 percent of the Amazon forest has been lost in the last 50 years and prominent scientists have warned that the loss of just 20 to 25 percent more of the rainforest could send the Amazon to a point of no return, marking an unstoppable transition to a drier, savanna-like ecosystem (Lovejoy and Nobre, 2019). Coordinated action is urgently needed to prevent reaching the no return point. Several investors have taken steps to green their portfolios and promote more sustainable investment strategies with a focus on the Amazon.4 International organizations and foundations have increased their attention and funding towards the region. The scientific community is working to identify evidence and solutions to control these and other environmental threats.5 Finally, national governments have continued committing and manifesting interest in promoting, through policies and plans (such as the 2019 Leticia Pact6), specific actions to conserve the Amazon ecosystems, acknowledging the role ecosystem services have in contributing to their citizens’ well-being. This study comes at a time where national and international discussions, such as the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) among others, are planned to strengthen the conservation of the world’s natural resources and make decisions on resource allocation to promote that goal.

Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Program

Recognizing the urgent need to reduce deforestation and facilitate a regional approach to curb the growing pressures in the Amazon, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) approved the Amazon Sustainable Landscapes Program (ASL) under its sixth replenishment period as an integrated program aiming to protect globally significant biodiversity and implementing policies to foster sustainable land use and restoration of native vegetation cover.

Dense Amazon Forest

Source: Alvaro Gaviria

The ASL, with the World Bank as the lead agency, takes a regional approach to improve integrated landscape management and conservation of ecosystems in targeted areas in the Amazon region. The Program operates under the rationale that if the following goals are met, then the protection of significant biodiversity and the integrity of the ecosystem services of the Amazon region can be achieved: (a) An adequate area of the Amazon is conserved under various regimes (protected areas and indigenous lands); (b) Agriculture, degraded, and forest lands are managed sustainably and restored with zero illegal deforestation tolerance; (c) National policies and strategies support sustainable development that minimizes deforestation and loss of ecosystem services; and, (d) Capacity of and regional cooperation among key players is improved.

ASL currently includes national projects in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru (led by their Ministries of Environment), and a regional project that aims to strengthen coordination, access to information, and capacity of the national projects’ stakeholders. The World Bank (as lead agency), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), serve as GEF implementing agencies for the projects. The program is expanding. GEF approved a second phase with the participation of Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana and Suriname, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF) development bank will serve as new agencies.

The World Bank, as the leader of the Program and Amazon Coordination Technical Assistance project, is responsible for guiding the national projects towards common goals and the expected transformational changes, fostering intergovernmental, multi-sectoral and multiagency cooperation, tracking program-level progress, promoting south-south learning and capacity building opportunities, and developing communication and awareness raising strategies.

One of the key activities of this regional project is to support a donor coordination exchange platform. The platform will allow a better understanding of the current financing flows for conservation and sustainable management, and potential investments in the Amazon for all stakeholders. This, in turn, will build stronger collaboration and learning lessons that, together, will help implement more effective strategies for the conservation and sustainable development in the Amazon. This study also represents a step towards the donor coordination exchange platform.

Birds in the Amazon

Source: Petr Salinger/Shutterstock

About this Report: Tracking Funding within the Amazon, 2007 - 2019

In 2014 and 2017, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF), an important partner and co-financier of the ASL, commissioned two studies to understand the funding for conservation in the Amazon region and identify potential gaps and needs (Castro de la Mata and Riega-Campos, 2014; Strelneck and Vilela, 2017). These products created an important baseline for the donor community and others to understand the amount of non-reimbursable finance flowing to the region and the strategies used.

Building on these GBMF-commissioned studies and recognizing the global significance of the Amazon, the ASL coordination team conducted this new analysis to provide an updated picture of the depth and breadth of international support for conservation covering the 2016-2019 period (see Table 1 for an overview of these studies).

Table 1

This new study maintains the same format as the previously commissioned 2017 study to provide a deeper understanding of which donors provide the most support, how their funding has evolved over time, and how they direct their funding by country, grantee, and strategy. Given the methodological differences between the first and second study, this report does not compare results to the first study period (2007-2012).

Understanding funding trends provides essential information about donors’ interests and priorities. Most donors’ decisions are demand-driven, responding to explicit local or national level priorities and needs manifested by the recipients. However, this kind of tracking is not an easy task as it requires mapping a spread of resources across multiple countries from diverse donors, including bilateral agencies, multilateral agencies, private foundations, and a broad spectrum of NGOs, as well as private sector actors. These donors have different approaches, procedures, processes, and systems, and collecting this funding data can be complex and time-consuming.

This analysis is intended to promote dialogue among donors and facilitate collaboration as the philanthropic community seeks to maximize the impact of their investments. Since 2007, these three studies have identified more than US$4.8 billion dollars of non-reimbursable grants that have been invested in Amazon conservation.