Interfaith Rainforest Initiative newsletter

September 12, 2022




IRI holds first learning exchange between Brazil, Colombia, DRC, Indonesia and Peru country programs and teams

The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative hosted its first ever in-person learning exchange between the IRI country programs and leadership teams from Brazil, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia and Peru from 15-18 August in Bogota, Colombia.  The 4-day exchange focused on facilitating the transfer of lessons learned and best practices between the five country programs on mobilizing faith-based action for the protection of forests and the rights of indigenous peoples.  The first day of the exchange included high-level briefings by Carlos A. Nobre, Senior Researcher, Institute for Advanced Studies, University of São Paulo on Overview of the latest science behind rainforests and climate change, including the risk of releasing an Amazon tipping-point; Frances Seymour, Senior Fellow, World Resources Institute on the state of the forests and global efforts to halt and reverse deforestation; and Dario Jose Mejia Montalvo, Chair, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on the status of global efforts to guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples and forest communities.  The second day focused on best practices and lessons learned from each IRI country program on mobilizing action across sectors and linking up with existing efforts to protect forests and the rights of indigenous peoples.  The third and fourth days of the exchange focused on workshops by IRI Colombia to display their leadership, methodology and innovations on education and training, establishing and managing IRI chapters in regions of the country where forests face the greatest threats, advocacy for laws and policies to protect forests, and strategic communications.  The exchange concluded with an immersion visit to the Colombian Amazon where the IRI country programs discussed how to ensure an ongoing community of practice and mutual support to make an impact on ending deforestation.    


IRI featured at the Lambeth Conference

The bishop of the Anglican Church in Colombia, Monsignor Francisco Duque, presented the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative at the 15th Lambeth Conference, which began on 26 July and ended on 8 August 2022, in the United Kingdom. During his presentation, Bishop Duque spoke about the work and mission of IRI, the countries in which it is present and the progress of the initiative in Colombia.  The presentation took place in the framework of the seminar “Living with the Fifth Mark of Mission”, held on Saturday 30 July. This year's Lambeth Conference brought together more than two thousand bishops representing churches and Christian communities of the Anglican Communion from 165 countries to discuss church and world issues, as well as the global mission of the Anglican Communion for the next decade. The central theme was “God's Church for God's World: Walking, Listening and Witnessing Together” and its aim was to explore how the Anglican Communion can respond to the needs of a 21st century world.




IRI Brazil conducts series of trainings for religious leaders at CEMADEN (Monitoring and Natural Disaster Alert Center) and INPE (Space Research Institute) on forests and climate change

Throughout July and August, IRI Brazil conducted a series of trainings for over 40 religious leaders on forests and climate change.  The multi-day trainings included visits to CEMADEN (Monitoring and Natural Disaster Alert Center) and INPE (Space Research Institute) where participants learned directly from leading scientsist about the state of deforestation in the Amazon and the science behind deforestation and climate change.  The training included senior religious leaders from nine different faith traditions (Judaism, Islam, Kardecism, Buddhism, Barhai, Candomblé, Catholicism, Protestants and Pentecostal Evangelicals) from ten different states, covering all regions of the country. The training also included six members of IRI Brazil's Advisory Council, including Pastor Romi Bencke (CONIC), Reverend Agnaldo Gomes (RPPB), Pastor Maruilson Souza (ACEB), Reverend Áureo Oliveira (IPI), Rabbi Guershon (CONIB), and Ana Carolina Evangelista (ISER).  A video capturing the trainings is available here. As a follow-up on the exchange, 54 religious leaders participated in an online course on the theology of creation. 


IRI Brazil conducts immersion visit for senior religious leaders in the Amazon

In partnership with the National Association for an Economy of Communion - ANPECOM and System B Brazil, IRI Brazil organized a learning journey and immersion visit to the Amazon. The visit was conducted in Manaus-AM, Belém, Bragança and Augusto Corrêa-PA, from August 27th to 31st and included the participation of 40 religious, indigenous, scientific and entrepreneurial leaders. The objective of the visit was to offer a broad vision about the characteristics and importance of the Amazon forest, the cultural richness and importance of indigenous peoples in the region, as well as successful restoration and forest management initiatives and sustainable entrepreneurship initiatives in the Amazon. The immersion experience included visits to Manaus, the Museum of the Amazon, the Association of Indigenous Women of the Upper Rio Negro, the Impact Hub of the Amazon, the Bacuri Farm, the Rota Amazônia Atlântica ecotourism project, the Caeté-Taperaçu Marine Extractive Reserve, and the Emílio Goeldi Museum of Pará. 




IRI Colombia participates in meeting with the new national government

On 11 July, IRi Colombia participated in the social dialogue space developed by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of the new government of President Gustavo Petro. Together with IRI Colombia, organisations such as Gaia Amazonas, the Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development, the Departmental Roundtable on Climate Change of Nariño and the Indigenous Forum of the Amazon held a critical dialogue on the current deforestation law and raised with the new government the need to activate oversight mechanisms and generate accurate data on deforestation. IRI Colombia also called for the strengthening of institutions working on forest management, such as the National Forest Service and the environmental authorities.  “It is important to give continuity to programmes such as Visión Amazonía, which has done important work in the region,” said Blanca Lucía Echeverry, National Facilitator of IRI Colombia. She also emphasised the government's responsibility to guarantee the rights of environmental leaders. In addition, the organisations raised the need to formulate a sustainable development model that respects the establishment of protected areas and called on the new government to review programs such as Operation Artemis, and to give greater emphasis to actions to address land grabbing and the establishment of agricultural frontiers.


IRI Colombia participates in the construction of the National Development Plan 2022-2026

Since last April, IRI Colombia joined the Alisos (Alliances for Sustainability) initiative, which brings together the Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development, Gran Tierra Energy, Gaia Amazonas, Parques Nacionales cómo vamos, the Natura Colombia Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce of Putumayo, the Inbianam research centre, the Chamber of Commerce of Florencia, the National Learning Service (SENA) and the National University of Colombia, the Chamber of Commerce of Florencia, the National Learning Service (SENA) and the National University of Colombia with the aim of consolidating six public policy proposals on protection of the Amazon, to present them to the current national government for inclusion in the National Development Plan 2022-2026. From April to August, the alliance held six territorial roundtables in six departments (Putumayo, Caquetá, Guaviare, Vaupés, Guainía and Amazonas), in which 340 leaders from various sectors of civil society participated, including religious leaders from IRI Colombia's local chapters in Putumayo and Guaviare. Collectively, the participants formulated 1,053 proposals, of which 36 were prioritised, on strategies for forest conservation management, inclusion and diversity, peace, development model and economic opportunities, connectivity and access to basic services, and state consolidation in the Amazon. The alliance will soon hold a regional roundtable in Bogotá with 40 representatives from the six departments, who will choose six of the 36 prioritised proposals. These six proposals will be presented in November to the National Council for Economic and Social Policy (CONPES), the National Planning Council and the Congress of the Republic to request their inclusion in the National Development Plan 2022-2026.


IRI Colombia presents the Escucha la Amazonia alliance during UN High-Level Political Forum

As part of the Escucha la Amazonia alliance campaign, IRI Colombia participated in the webinar “Preserving life on Earth: projects, plans, partnerships and challenges for the conservation of the rainforest”.  “We seek to invite and motivate the international community to become involved in achieving the general objectives of Listening to the Amazon and, specifically, the objectives of defending the indigenous peoples who inhabit it and adopting the Escazú Agreement”, said Blanca Lucía Echeverry, National Facilitator of IRI Colombia, who presented the Alliance and referred to the five areas of work on which it calls for action by the new national government. The webinar took place in the framework of the United Nations High Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and was organized by the Episcopal Church of the United States in partnership with the World Council of Churches, the Parliament of the World's Religions and the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative. “Without tropical forests we cannot avert global catastrophe,” stressed Charles McNeill, Senior Advisor on Forests and Climate at the United Nations Environment Programme. 


IRI Colombia local chapters in San José del Guaviare make progress in fulfilling pastoral action plans

IRI Colombia held a series of meetings with members of the local chapters in San José del Guaviare to follow up on their pastoral and environmental action plans, and to learn about the progress and challenges presented. The IRI Colombia national team was able to see the work of the religious leaders, who will dedicate their homilies and worship services in the first week of September to highlight the importance of human rights and, specifically, the right to a healthy environment.  Additionally, IRI's local chapters in San José del Guaviare, Charras Boquerón and El Capricho will join together to hold a massive public event on 29 October in the Parque de la Vida to raise awareness about the deforestation crisis, the effects of climate change, the rights of indigenous peoples and, especially, the construction of environmental citizenship. In addition to members of IRI's local chapters, the event will be attended by the Governor's Office, the Secretary of Government, the Secretary of Education, schools and universities in the municipality, local media.  The event is expected to be attended by around 1,500 people.


IRI Colombia prepares awareness-raising strategy for educational institutions in San José del Guaviare

In the capital of Guaviare, IRI Colombia met with Alejandro Lara, Secretary of Education of the department, to present the initiative and explore how departmental government entities can contribute to strengthening the work of local chapters. The Secretary of Education committed to convene a meeting on 29 September with the rectors of the 200 educational institutions of San José del Guaviare, El Retorno, Miraflores and Calamar, in order to create a day dedicated to the protection of tropical forests and the defence of the rights of indigenous peoples, to raising awareness among students about the deforestation crisis, the climate emergency and the urgency of protecting the Amazon rainforests, and for students in grades 6-11 to formulate an environmental action plan that includes activities such as reforestation days - with seedlings to be donated by the Ministry of Agriculture. 


IRI Colombia contributes to Global Sustainability and Management Summit

IRI Colombia National Facilitator, Blanca Echeverry, made a presentation on the initiative as part of the Global Sustainability and Management Summit, organised by the School of Management of the Universidad del Rosario, on 24 August. “IRI Colombia seeks to raise awareness about the seriousness of deforestation and inspire action to restore and protect forests and defend the special rights of indigenous peoples. It also seeks to influence governments to stop deforestation and companies to adopt measures to protect tropical forests. IRI Colombia has a presence in the Amazonian municipalities with the highest rates of deforestation. There we have installed 36 local chapters in which religious, social, environmental and political leaders, social organisations and local governments participate,” said Blanca Echeverry. During her presentation, Blanca spoke about the impact that IRI Colombia has had on the relationship between religious leaders and indigenous communities in the Colombian Amazon, the work of IRI in favour of the protection of tropical forests, the urgency of addressing the issue of wasteful consumption and building environmental citizenship, as necessary steps to address the global climate crisis.


IRI Colombia publishes materials and infographics on forests 

IRI Colombia carried out a campaign in July promoting materials and inforgraphics on forests, climate and the rights of indigenous peoples. The materials included issues like what are the Amazon rainforests, what is the Escazú agreement, who are the indigenous peoples of the Colombian Amazon and what is climate change. The graphics were developed as primers for religious leaders and faith-based networks that may be new to the issue of forests and the connections with climate, human rights and sustainable development. The graphics and materials can be found on IRI Colombia’s website. 




IRI Peru formally installs Parliamentary Group for a sustainable Amazon

After months of dialogue and coordination, IRI Peru formally installed the Parliamentary Group for a Sustainable Amazon on Friday 22 July in the Congress of the Republic. The event was attended by seven members of Congress, various religious authorities and experts in forestry and environmental issues.  The group has a mandate to bring together science and ethics to promote a sustainability agenda for the Amazon and Peru's forests. The event, co-organised with the Peruvian Society of Environmental Law - SPDA, was webcast and presented the main conclusions of the working groups held the previous week with public and civil society forestry experts on the priorities for the environmental forestry agenda in Congress.  All attendees signed the Declaration Charter of the Group for a Sustainable Amazon. The group of parliamentarians will now get to work on a legislative agenda to protect forests. 


IRI Peru meets with the Director General of Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice, follows up on the protection mechanism for environmental defenders

IRI Peru recently met with the Director General of Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice to follow up on a decree they helped secure regarding a protection mechanism for environmental defenders.  The decree is the first time there has been an articulated action of eight ministries with responsibility in this area, with leadership by the Ministry of Justice. Significant progress has been made in Ucayali, where a working group has been set up that incorporates all the parties involved and the indigenous peoples. IRI Ucayali is part of this working group, and recently a new working group has been set up in Madre De Dios. With an interest that this mechanism can also be deployed in the region of Condorcanqui in Amazonas, IRI Peru requested a meeting with the Director of Human Rights. IRI Peru requested that, where the mechanism is installed, IRI local chapters be considered as full members in moniotoring and accompaniment. 


IRI Peru organizes working groups with experts from the executive, civil society and faith communities on legislative priorities for sustainable forests

On Wednesday 13 July, IRI Peru co-organised expert roundtables to determine priority actions to be implemented by Congress to promote a sustainable forests agenda. These working sessions were attended by SERFOR, MINAM, DAR, EII, ProPurús, the Coalition for Sustainable Production and SPDA, among others. The dialogue was based on the document of forestry legislative priorities that was developed by IRI Peru between February and July. Several of the experts from these roundtables accompanied IRI Peru to present the legislative agenda to Congress on July 22nd.


IRI Peru continues coordination of Electoral Dialogues

IRI Peru has continued its work with the Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development to hold electoral dialogues between September and October 2022 as part of the regional and municipal elections that will be held in October. The electoral dialogues will be held in four Amazonian departments: Loreto, Ucayali, San Martín and Madre de Dios. To date, the Jurado Nacional de Elecciones, the civil association Transparencia, the Mesa de Lucha contra la Pobreza, the ProPurús association and the Amazónicos por la Amazonía association, among others, have confirmed their interest in joining the dialogues.


IRI Peru issues statement to Congress on dangers of change to forest laws

In the second week of July, Congress approved a law containing a provision that changes the use of forests for agricultural purposes, introducing greater flexibility. According to experts and executive branch authorities, this could be harmful in the fight to prevent deforestation. On 18 July IRI Peru issued a statement on the matter and initiated a sustained campaign together with allied organisations to ask the Executive Branch to observe this Law, which the President finally did on 8 August.  The Law was then sent back to the Congress of the Republic for review and on 29 August the Commission sent it to the Plenary of Congress for approval on insistence. In response to this, IRI Peru again activated a campaign to raise awareness among the members of the Parliamentary Group for a Healthy Amazon formed by IRI and others, including the preparation of technical documents, dissemination, statements and letters. Fortunately, this campaign, articulated with IRI Peru’s strategic allies, bore fruit and the Plenary agreed to return the bill to the Agrarian Commission and send it to the Indigenous Peoples and Environment Commission for an opinion.


IRI Peru publishes opinion piece by Monsignor Miguel Ángel Cadenas

Monsignor Miguel Angel Cadenas, Bishop Vicar Apostolic of Iquitos, a member of the IRI Peru Advisory Council, issued an editorial in El Peruano, a paper with national circulation, criticizing a Regional Government of Loreto pronouncement ignoring the rights of the PIAVCI of the Yavarí Tapiche corridor. A proposal was requested to Congress by Sustainable Development Loreto, a body made up of business sectors linked to logging and mining, and with an extractivist approach to development. The editorial expressed concern about the rolling back of the rights of indigenous peoples. The editorial received wide circulation amongst a range of organizations. 


IRI Peru training workshop with IRI Bellavista

A workshop was delivered with IRI Bellavista on Saturday 16 July focused on developing plans and priorities for the coming year.  The workshop had two main themes: one related to the ecosystem services of the Amazon, via a video with the specialist from the Ministry of the Environment, José Álvarez; and the other related to the sacredness of nature, through a video edited by Fr Javier Melloni. The workshop established a commitment to replicate the traiing with other religious and civil society leaders, to plan and deliver an electoral forum to raise the profile of the forests agenda, and to have a follow up workshop on lessons learned. 


IRI Peru participates in sit-in, issues statement on Escazú Agreement

In coordination with several institutions and the RPA's Integral Ecology Commission, IRI Peru signed a pronouncement against recent statements by the new Foreign Minister dismissing the importance of the Escazu Agreement.  The statements by the Foreign Minister produces strong protests from various sectors of the population who consider signing of the agreement a moral priority. IRI Peru also participated in a sit-in in front of the Foreign Ministry building.   


IRI Peru training workshops

During August, initial workshops were held in eight local chapters: Madre de Dios (8), Moyobamba (9), Yurimaguas (10), Quillabamba (11), Iquitos (24), Puerto Inca (25), Ucayali (29) and Aucayacu (29). The workshops, held virtually, involved the participation of the IRI coordination teams of each local chapter. Two training videos prepared for the session were shared, which include a work module that promotes dialogue, reflection and the establishment of agreements for action. Each local IRI developed a training plan that is to conclude with a workshop to identify lessons learned and evaluate the training process.


IRI Peru working meeting with business groups and Amazonian municipalities

On 27 August, IRI Peru participated in the presentation of the Strategic Development Plan for sustainability and inclusion of the Pachitea and Aguaytia basins. The Plan is the result of the articulation of the main business groups and local authorities in the area, gathered in the ProAmazon Consortium and the Pachitea Aguaytia Community of Municipalities. This initiative covers an area of 6 million hectares in the Amazon and accounts for 25% of the accumulated deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon over the last twenty years. This is why it is urgent that the actors involved in tackling the issue be better coordinated. ProAmazonia and the Commonwealth of 13 municipalities and 2 regional governments see in IRI Peru and in the Pact for the Amazon and Healthy Forests a potential ally for local articulation and informed dialogue.