The general coordinator of the IV Pan-Amazon Social Forum, Adilson Vieira, informed that a big effort is being made this year in Manaus, capital of the state of Amazonas, Brazil, to ensure the presence of black representatives.
Vieira would like to see the participation of Afro-descendant communities, especially from neighboring countries, such as French Guiana, in which they form the majority of the population, and runaway slave communities (“quilombos”) in the Brazilian Amazon.
He acknowledged that in past forums their participation was very limited. The coordinator also mentioned the larger number of foreign observers expected to attend the Forum, which will get underway on January 18 in Manaus.
The Forum was held the first two times in Belém, state of Pará, and then last year in Venezuela. Vieira said that last year’s session in Venezuela “was adversely affected by the political process at the time.” He explained that some of the scheduled speakers did not “feel safe” and failed to show.
Besides entire caravans from the nine countries that make up the Amazon Basin, attendance by observers from the United States, Canada, India, Finland, and a delegation from the European Union has been confirmed.
According to the coordinator of the Forum, this growth in international interest concerning Amazon communities can only serve to enrich the debates.
Citing the cases of Bolivia, Venezuela, and French Guiana, Vieira recalled that the agenda has gone beyond environmental matters
“There will even be a big debate on the final remaining colony in the Americas, an interesting debate on the independence of French Guiana,” he informed.
Another item that will attract attention in Manaus, according to Vieira, is the “Meeting without Frontiers.” For this event, a caravan formed by 250 people from the Upper Solimões region of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil will be traveling together on the same boat.
These are people who divide “an imaginary border line” but who need to discuss joint strategies, according to the coordinator. He asserted that the Amazon Basin countries occupy a “strategic region for humanity” and, consequently, require a different outlook.
“It is necessary to go beyond the idea of frontiers and states,” said Vieira, who is also the secretary-general of the Amazon Work Group (GTA), which represents over 500 associations and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s).
He recalled the importance to the IV Forum of participation by Amazon Indians who live in regions with open frontiers and circulate freely between countries.
Unlike the first Pan-Amazon Forum, which was held in 2002 in Belém and was organized to receive 500 people (the attendance turned out to be over three thousand), this year’s Forum in Manaus expects to receive 10 thousand, according to the coordinator.
More than 600 volunteers are working on the infrastructure. The first Forum “was simply a trial run, and we didn’t even know what it would be like to build this alternative Amazônia.”
In 2002 each Amazon country sent one or two representatives. “Now there are caravans, some with hundreds of people,” he concluded.
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