Mensaje del Presidente

For AVINA and much of the world, the principal challenge of 2009 was to turn crisis into opportunity. With a global financial meltdown affecting jobs and bottom lines across the globe, businesses, governments and civil society organizations had to be creative, find efficiencies and adapt. Although the challenge continues in 2010, at AVINA we are pleased to report that we were able to make good use of the crisis/opportunity to redesign our structures in a way that will better serve our continental strategy and mission for the future. Certainly our mission of sustainable development has never been more relevant.


I think 2009 reminded us all of how interconnected we are and how insufficient our national and international mechanisms are in dealing with the spiraling complexity and variability that we see all around. As we move into the second decade of the new century, we can take nothing for granted. Whether it was erratic commodity and food prices, the general disappointment with the Copenhagen climate conference, or the specter of political instability returning to Latin America, events made it clear that citizens, governments and international bodies must find new ways to organize and perform in the new global context. The alternative is to jeopardize the hard-fought achievements of current generations and offer only deteriorating conditions to future ones.


In this global context, Latin America has an increasingly influential role to play. Nothing makes this clearer than the climate challenge. While the US and China continue to avoid assuming their responsibility to reduce emissions and help developing countries mitigate emissions and adapt to climate change, Brazil arrived in Copenhagen with concrete targets for emission reductions and a pledge to transfer financing and technology to help other developing nations. Another Latin American country, Costa Rica, represents a model to follow, having instituted a carbon tax over a decade ago, while Colombia has protected over 90% of the Colombian Amazon in indigenous reserves and ecological parks.


Across the region innovative models for valuing standing forests and ecosystem services are serving as a reference for climate policy, such as the Yazuní proposal in Ecuador, the Fundo Amazônia in Brazil or REDD projects in Bolivia. It is becoming increasingly obvious that Latin America is not only a region blessed by nature in terms of forests, fresh water and biodiversity, but is also a source of innovative thinking and experimentation in prosperous, green, low-carbon development. Will Latin America choose to take advantage of this great opportunity to position itself for the future, or will the shadows of its past hold it back once again? We see some causes for concern.


A recent study, Análisis de Sostenibilidad 2009, available in Spanish from the Fundación Latinoamérica Posible demonstrates the situation well. Poverty still holds back progress in the region, resulting in substandard education, rising crime and violence, and increasing inequality. What’s more, accelerating polarization is taking place, with some countries strengthening their democracies, their economies and their human development indicators while others appear to be headed in the wrong direction on all three counts. The outcomes of the 11 national elections scheduled across the region during 2010 will be key in determining whether Latin America is headed towards more polarization or increased stability.


Surely this is a defining moment for the future of Latin America and the world, whether the subject is climate, economy, natural resources, democracy or human rights. Fundación AVINA is pleased to be playing a role along with its thousands of allies within the region and beyond, marshalling its resources to tip the balance across the continent towards a more sustainable future. Our job is to invest in social capital and broker alliances that empower people and organizations to meet the most relevant challenges of the day. We were pleased to support and participate in a number of heartening achievements in 2009, changes that made conditions better for millions of Latin Americans.


AVINA worked with urban waste recyclers in Peru as they proposed and succeeded in passing a federal law that formally recognizes their livelihood, opening up opportunities and improving conditions for over 100,000 families. AVINA is collaborating with a coalition of organizations across the continent that seek to integrate millions of waste collectors into the recycling sector as economic actors who create for their communities environmental, social and economic value with dignity. We celebrated a number of advances this year in the recycling program, with cities and national governments opening doors and establishing partnerships with recycling cooperatives in Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil.


In Chile AVINA and its allies were able to put energy policy on the national agenda, mobilizing the media, businesses and utilities, as well as three presidential candidates around a review of different energy scenarios for the future prepared by experts along with various options for meeting Chile’s energy needs. After producing studies and convening a national debate, AVINA is now working with a network of organizations to raise citizen awareness and involvement in the energy debate in order to make sure the politicians follow through by making the best energy decisions in a transparent way for Chile’s future.


AVINA is one of the co-founders and committee members of the Forum Amazónia Sustentável in Brazil, along with 30 leading businesses and civil society organizations. In 2009, the Forum was instrumental in pressuring the Brazilian government to get serious about its goals to reduce deforestation in the Amazon and reduce carbon emissions. AVINA was also an early supporter of Fundo Amazônia, now capitalized with a billion-dollar commitment from Norway, which made its first selection of five mitigation projects in 2009, investing close to USD 50 million. AVINA co-produced a study with AccountAbility for the COP 15 Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen, where Fundo was presented as one of the most promising REDD models in the world, certainly the largest one yet created. Our allies feel these factors played a role in the decision of President Lula to embrace concrete emission-reduction targets at the Copenhagen conference, setting an example we hope others will follow. These actions form part of an integrated strategy of support to actions and networks in the nine-country Amazon Basin, working with a coalition of dozens of organizations, government bodies and businesses as part of our shared commitment to the Amazon biome.


These are but a few examples of the achievements we celebrated in 2009, amidst the dust and clamor of global crisis and our own transition. You will find many more examples in the pages of this, our second “virtual” annual report.


I am privileged to chair a committed Board whose members I want to thank for their dedication. The Board in turn offers its appreciation to our founder, Stephan Schmidheiny, and to the VIVA Trust for its ongoing orientation and financial support. We also want to recognize the institutions with whom we have allied to expand key elements of the continental strategies we support: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Packard Foundation, Coca-Cola Brazil, and Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation (ICCO). Finally, we want to thank the AVINA team and all of our partners and allies across Latin America who are on the front lines seeking to change things for the better to the benefit of this generation and the next. The achievements in this report are all yours, congratulations! We look forward to continuing our work together in 2010 and beyond.


Brizio Biondi-Morra