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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/1/19

The UN Could Save the Amazon With One Simple Move

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A group of Indigenous Huni Kuin leaders recently called for a stop to the fires, saying: "Nature is crying and we are crying. If we don't stop this destruction of Mother Nature, future generations will live in a completely different world to the one we live in today. This is Mother Nature's cry, asking us to help her. And we are working today so that humanity has a future. But if we don't stop this destruction, we will be the ones that will be extinguished, burned and the sky will descend upon us, which has already begun to happen."

The UN Security Council Should Order International Firefighters and Economic Boycott

As empowered by the United Nations Charter, the Security Council should find that the fires in the Amazon pose a "threat to the peace" and order measures to restore and maintain international peace and security. Those measures "may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations."

The Council should require that member states refrain from entering into trade agreements with Brazil unless and until it agrees to allow international economic and physical firefighting assistance. As Moira Birss, Amazon Watch's finance campaign director said in a release issued by the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA), "Now that the world is finally paying attention, it's important to also understand that governments and companies around the world are emboldening Bolsonaro's toxic policies when they enter trade agreements with his government or invest in agribusiness companies operating in the Amazon."

In addition, the Council should order member states to contribute money and personnel to fight the fires raging in the Amazon.

There is precedent for this type of resolution. In 1985, the Council passed Resolution 569, which condemned the South African government's policy of apartheid. It urged UN members to adopt measures including suspension of all new investment in South Africa, prohibition of the sale of South African currency and coins, restrictions on cultural relations and sports, suspension of guaranteed export loans, prohibition of new nuclear contracts, and prohibition of sales of computer equipment that could be used by the South African police and army. The international boycott of South Africa led to the end of the apartheid regime.

All UN member countries are bound by the resolutions of the Security Council. Article 25 of the Charter says, "The members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council." And Article 49 states that the UN members "shall join in affording mutual assistance in carrying out the measures" upon which the Council decides.

Bolsonaro's Policies Have Exacerbated the Fires

Fires do not ignite themselves in the rainforest. "Basically, the Amazon hadn't burnt in hundreds of thousands or millions of years," said William Magnusson, a biodiversity specialist at the National Institute of Amazonian Research in Brazil. According to National Geographic, "A growing number of man-made fires have plagued the Amazon in recent years, imperiling the ecosystem. The rain-forest is not built for fire."

Farmers in the Amazon cut down trees to clear the area for planting. Miners and loggers start fires to cover their illegal activities. And some fires are set to force Indigenous peoples from their land. Bolsonaro, however, has fanned the flames in the Amazon.

A New York Times analysis found that for the first six months of 2019, Bolsonaro's pro-development, anti-environmental policies led to a 20 percent decrease in enforcement measures aimed at protecting against deforestation, as compared to the same period in 2018.

"Bolsonaro must take immediate, comprehensive steps to not only extinguish these fires but also address the root causes of this environmental catastrophe: the roll-back of environmental and indigenous rights protections and the recklessness of the profit-seeking agribusiness industry," Christian Poirier, program director at Amazon Watch, said on the IPA release. But, he added, "This burden isn't on the Brazilian government alone. We are all global citizens of our shared planet and must take shared responsibility for its preservation."

We must act internationally to save the precious Amazon rain-forest. Citizens of the 15 member countries on the Security Council should pressure their governments to vote in favor of a resolution calling for an economic boycott of Brazil and the provision of resources to quell the forest fires. The future of our planet is at stake.

This piece originally appeared on Truthout

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Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a member of the National Advisory Board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. See  (more...)
 

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