UN Head – Global Issues

Suriname is considered a carbon negative country because its rainforests absorb more emissions than the country itself emits. Thick green foliage seems to be everywhere, even on the outskirts of the capital Paramaribo, which itself is dotted with bustling markets and cultural centers.

Saturday UN Secretary General António Guterres saw firsthand the commitment of the people of Suriname to protecting their natural wealth and the knowledge of their ancestors.

“The rainforests are a precious gift to mankind. That’s why from here in Suriname I want to send a message to the world: We must honor and preserve the gift of the rainforest because it is not a gift that will last,” Mr. Guterres told reporters at joint press conference with President Chan Santohi at the end of his first day in the country.

The UN chief also issued a stern warning: “If we continue to see [current] the scale of destruction of the world’s rainforests, we’re not just biting the hand that feeds us, we’re tearing it to shreds.”

Mr. Guterres emphasized that rampant deforestation and worsening climate impacts are leading to an increase in wildfires and droughts.

“This is outrageous and shameful. This is global suicide in slow motion,” he said, adding that such destruction must be a global wake-up call to save our planet’s lungs.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres (centre) meets with members of agricultural cooperatives led by indigenous women and men in the village of Pierre Condre-Redy Doty in the Suriname rainforest belt.

UN Photo/Evan Schneider

UN Secretary-General António Guterres (centre) meets with members of agricultural cooperatives led by indigenous women and men in the village of Pierre Condre-Redy Doty in the Suriname rainforest belt.

Message from the indigenous people of Suriname

Earlier that day, the Secretary-General visited Pierre Condret’s indigenous village of Redy Doty, about 67 kilometers south of the capital. The area is surrounded by 9,000 hectares of forest and has about 100 inhabitants.

Driving through iron-rich countryside with reddish soil, Mr. Guterres was met by Captain Lloyd Reid of the Kalinha people, along with the women and men of the community. They sang and were dressed in their traditional predominantly red dresses. colored clothes.

“Competition [we face] protecting Mother Earth and the Amazon rainforest is not valued and is a threat to our lives,” Mr. Lloyd lamented, adding that his people – through no fault of their own – are currently under threat due to the exploitation of natural resources and the consequences climate change. changes such as heavy and prolonged rains and floods.

He said that mercury pollution, mostly caused by illegal mining, also threatens the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples in the region.

“In the South, Mercury destroys life. There is no fish, no meat, no clean water to drink. Even extremely high levels of this metal have been found in the hair of our natives,” he said.

The Secretary General noted these concerns and asked Mr. Lloyd for more details. promises to be a “representative” of the community during his later meeting with government officials.

“This is a visit of solidarity with the indigenous communities of Suriname and the world. When we see that we are still losing the battle against climate change, when you see biodiversity becoming more and more threatened everywhere, when you see pollution around the world, it is very important to recognize that indigenous communities are wise, resilient and will. be in harmony with nature,” he told those gathered in the village.

Much of Suriname's coastal zone is lowland and prone to natural disasters.

UNDP Suriname/Pelo Vidal

Much of Suriname’s coastal zone is lowland and prone to natural disasters.

Pineapples for sustainability

The village of Redi Doty, partly located in the Suriname savannah belt, an area of ​​white silicate sand that is mostly infertile, manages to grow pineapple, passion fruit and cassava, which are the main livelihood of the community.

Today’s visit coincides with Iinternational day of cooperativesand Mr. Guterres was able to see the work of two cooperatives that are supported by the UN and its agencies, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as well as the European Union.

One such cooperative, run by local women, produces organic pineapple products such as jams, juices and fruit cups. Another cooperative is growing pineapples, trying to make the pineapple harvest year-round rather than seasonal.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), including indigenous and tribal communities in economic prosperity is critical. Although they represent only 4 per cent of the total population, their land rights cover more than 80 per cent of Suriname’s territory, but they are not officially recognized by national law.

Before leaving the community, Captain Lloyd Reed told the General Secretary that he would ask Tamushi the almighty [the great spirit God], to give him the strength and ability to move on in a world threatened by climate change and war.

After singing a beautiful prayer in his native language Kalina, he said goodbye and said that he hoped that he would remember them.

“Indigenous peoples have not contributed to climate change, but they are among the hardest hit. At the same time, they have solutions from which the world can learn a lot. They are proud custodians of part of the planet’s irreplaceable biological diversity, and for this they need support, ”the UN head emphasized later at a press conference.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres planting a young mangrove tree at the Veg Naar Zee mangrove restoration site in Suriname.

UN Photo/Evan Schneider

UN Secretary-General António Guterres planting a young mangrove tree at the Veg Naar Zee mangrove restoration site in Suriname.

Planting hope with mangroves

From the forest, the Secretary-General walked to the beach, where he could observe the devastating effects of climate change, causing coastal erosion, flooding and rising sea levels.

Veg Naar Zee, an easily accessible coastal area of ​​about 10,000 acres located northwest of Paramaribo and part of Suriname’s 386 km of mostly muddy coastal zone, has suffered severe erosion that is missing soft muddy mud. preferred feeding site for waders.

Since 2016, the UN has been supporting the country’s efforts, led by scientists and students, to conserve, naturally regenerate and rehabilitate mangroves. One such project, led by Anton de Kom University of Suriname, is installing trapping structures and plants along the coast to repair damage.

Walking along the muddy beach with Suriname’s foreign minister, Albert Ramchand Ramdin, Mr. Guterres planted a young mangrove tree.

“Natural solutions such as the conservation of mangroves, rainforests and other important ecosystems are vital. The world needs more initiatives like this.“, he told the press.

Earlier, the Secretary-General had said that the mangroves were of particular importance to him, as the first book he read as a child was about these hardy, exceptionally useful trees and shrubs.

Mangroves play an important role in fighting climate change because they can capture and store massive amounts of carbon in their roots and even in the soils they grow in.

They are also extremely important to our coastal environments and habitats, as well as nurseries for a wide variety of species. They are called the “buds of the coast” because of the role they play in the nutrient cycling of the coastal environment.

Forests cover 93 percent of Suriname's land mass and are rich in biodiversity.

UNDP Suriname/Pelo Vidal

Forests cover 93 percent of Suriname’s land mass and are rich in biodiversity.

Exceptional Example

“What I saw here in Suriname gives me hope and inspiration. But what we are seeing around the world is deeply shocking and outrageous,” Mr. Guterres said in a press release at the end of the day.

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

“All over the world, we are seeing the failure of climate leadership and the spread of catastrophic climate disruptions… To reach the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, by 2030, global emissions must be reduced by 45 percent.However, current national climate change commitments will result in a 14% increase in emissions by 2030.“, he warned.

Emphasizing that large emitters have a special responsibility, Guterres stressed that the Caribbean is at the forefront of the climate crisis and has consistently shown strong leadership.

“As I saw today, we have the tools and the know-how. Our world needs political will and solidarity to make a difference. Suriname and the Caribbean are leading the way in this regard. We must follow this 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 Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

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