Suriname gives “hope and inspiration to the world to save tropical forests”: Guterres

Secretary General António Guterres speaks to the press in Suriname.

The beautiful and dense tropical forest of Suriname, which allows you to have a almost negative carbon footprintcan be easily seen from almost anywhere, even from the outskirts of the capital, Paramaribo, which itself is dotted with bustling markets and cultural centers.

This Saturday, the General secretary of the UN, António Guterres, observed first-hand the commitment of the Surinamese people to protect its natural treasures and ancestral knowledge.

“Rainforests are a precious gift to humanity. Therefore, from here in Suriname, I want to send a message to the world: we must honor and preserve the gift of the rainforests because this is not a gift that will continue to be given,” Guterres told reporters at a joint news conference with the country’s president, Chan Santokhiat, at the end of his first day in that nation.

UN News

Secretary General António Guterres speaks to the press in Suriname.

A global suicide in slow motion

The UN chief also issued a harsh warning: “If we continue to see the current scale of destruction in the world’s rainforests, Not only we are biting the hand that feeds usWe are destroying it.”

António Guterres emphasized that rampant deforestation and worsening climate impacts are increasing wildfires and droughts.

“This it is outrageous and embarrassing. It is global suicide in slow motion,” he said, adding that such destruction should be a global wake-up call to save the lungs of our planet.

Secretary-General António Guterres (center) talks with members of indigenous-led agricultural cooperatives in Suriname.

UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Secretary-General António Guterres (center) talks with members of indigenous-led agricultural cooperatives in Suriname.

Call of the indigenous peoples of Suriname

Earlier in the day, the General secretary visited the indigenous village of Pierre Kondre – Redi Dotiabout 67 kilometers south of the capital, surrounded by 9,000 hectares of forest and home to about a hundred inhabitants.

After driving through a field rich in iron, characterized by its reddish soil, Guterres was greeted by Captain Lloyd Read, of the Kaliña peoples, along with women and men members of the community, who sang and wore their traditional clothes, predominantly red in color.

“The challenge of protecting Mother Earth and the Amazon rainforest is not perceived and represents a threat to our lives,” Lloyd lamented, adding that his people are endangered by the exploitation of natural resources and the consequences of climate change, such as intense and sustained rains and floods. All this without having responsibility for it.

He said that mercury contamination, caused mainly by illegal extractive activitiesalso threatens the lives and livelihoods of indigenous people.

“In the south, mercury ruins life. There is no fish, no meat, no clean water to drink. Extremely high levels of this metal have even been found in the hair of our natives,” she denounced.

The Secretary General, noting the concerns and asking for more details, promised to be the “spokesperson” for the community during his subsequent meeting with the government.

“This is a visit from solidarity with the indigenous communities of Suriname and around the world. When we witness that we are still losing the battle of climate change, when you see biodiversity increasingly threatened everywhere, when you see pollution around the world, it is very important to recognize that indigenous communities are showing the wisdom, the resilience and the will to be at peace with nature”, he asserted to the people gathered in the town.

Agriculture is an important part of Suriname's economy.

UNDP Suriname

Agriculture is an important part of Suriname’s economy.

Pineapples for sustainable development

The village of Redi Doti, partially located within Suriname’s savannah belt, an area of ​​white silicate sand that is mostly infertile, manages to farm pineapples, passion fruit and cassavawhich represent the main source of livelihood for the community.

In the International Day of CooperativesGuterres was able to see the work of two cooperatives supported by the UN and its agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

One of those cooperatives, run by local women, prepares organic products derived from pineapple, such as jam, juices and fruit cups. The other cooperative deals with the cultivation process, which tries to turn the pineapple harvest into a year-round production, instead of a seasonal one.

According to him United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the inclusion of indigenous and tribal communities in economic prosperity is essential. Although they constitute only 4% of the total population, their land rights cover more than 80% of Suriname’s territorybut they are not officially recognized by national legislation.

Before leaving the community, Captain Lloyd Read told the Secretary General that he would ask Tamushi, the almighty, the great spiritual God, to give him the strength and power to go further, in a world threatened by climate change and war.

Singing a beautiful prayer in his native language Kaliña, he said goodbye and said that he hoped he would remember them.

Indigenous peoples have not contributed to climate change, but they are among the most affected. At the same time, they have solutions that the world can learn a lot from. They are proud guardians of some of the planet’s indispensable biological diversity, and they need support to do so,” the UN chief later stressed at a press conference.

Secretary-General António Guterres and Suriname's Foreign Minister Albert Ramchand Ramdin plant a young mangrove in the Weg Naar Zee area.

UN/Evan Schneider

Secretary-General António Guterres and Suriname’s Foreign Minister Albert Ramchand Ramdin plant a young mangrove in the Weg Naar Zee area.

Sowing hope with mangroves

From the forest, the Secretary-General made his way to the beach, where he was able to see the devastating impacts of climate change fueled by coastal erosion, flooding and sea level rise.

Weg Naar Zee, an easily accessible coastal area of ​​about 4,000 hectares located northwest of Paramaribo and part of Suriname’s 386 km of mainly muddy coastal area, has suffered from extreme erosion resulting in the absence of soft mud, a Preferred foraging habitat for shorebirds.

Since 2016, the UN has supported the country’s efforts, led by academics and students, to increase the conservation, natural restoration and rehabilitation of mangroves. One such project, led by Suriname’s Anton de Kom University, installs structures to trap sediment along the shoreline and plants to reverse the damage.

Walking along the muddy shore with Suriname’s Foreign Minister Albert Ramchand Ramdin, Guterres planted a young mangrove.

“The nature-based solutions, such as the preservation of mangroves, tropical forests and other essential ecosystems, are vital. The world needs more initiatives of this type”, he pointed out to the press.

Earlier, the Secretary-General explained that mangroves have a special meaning for him, because the first book he read as a child was about these hardy and exceptionally beneficial trees and shrubs.

The mangroves play a key role in combating climate changeas they can capture and store large amounts of carbon in the roots and even in the soils in which they grow.

They are also extremely important to our coastal environments and habitats and breeding havens for a wide variety of species. they are called ‘kidneys of the coasts’ due to its role in nutrient cycling within the coastal environment.

93% of Suriname is covered by forests with great biological richness.

UNDP Suriname/Pelu Vidal

93% of Suriname is covered by forests with great biological richness.

an inspiring example

“What I have seen here in Suriname gives hope and inspiration. But what we are seeing around the world is cause for deep shock and anger,” Guterres said at the end of the day.

The UN leader stressed that, unfortunately, Suriname stands out as an exception in a world moving in the wrong direction.

“All over the world, we are seeing the failure of climate leadership and the proliferation of disastrous climate shocks… To meet the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century, global emissions must fall by 45% by 2030. Yet national climate pledges current will result in an increase in emissions of 14% by 2030,” he warned.

Emphasizing that large emitters have a particular responsibility, Guterres recalled that the Caribbean nations are on the front lines of the climate crisis and have shown constant leadership.

“As I saw today, we have the tools and the knowledge. Our world needs the political will and solidarity to make the difference that is needed. Suriname and the Caribbean region are leading the way forward. We must follow that example, for people, for posterity and for our planet,” he concluded.

The Secretary General will be in Suriname until Sunday, when he will attend the opening of the 43rd Ordinary Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

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Written by Editor TLN

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