Session summary

In the opening Keynote of Day 2, we learned about cases where Indigenous Peoples have been living in harmony with nature for millenia, and how respect of this ancestral knowledge and wisdom is needed to have a chance of solving the environmental crisis we are in.

Marc Palahi introduced the concept of the circular bioeconomy, which aims to provide sustainable and regenerative wellbeing through the provision of ecosystem services and the sustainable management of biological resources, within the ecological boundaries of the ecosystems that it relies on.  “We can shift to valuing life, not consumption, with a circular bioeconomy”, he said, the pillars of which are biodiversity, knowledge (including partnerships between scientific and indigenous knowledge), circularity (including reducing, reusing, repairing and recycling), and local and indigenous communities as the social fabric.

We were then joined by Belén Paéz from the Ecuadorian Amazon. Belen emphasised that to sustain a healthy bioeconomy we need to listen to the wisdom of Indigenous Peoples. She highlighted the urgent need to help them stop the expansion of oil large-scale mining developments in Amazonia, which are threatening local communities and biodiversity. We were also honoured to hear from Gregorio Mirabal, who highlighted the critical role of Indigenous Peoples as the defenders of Amazonian ecosystems, and who often are murdered for the work they do trying to prevent the destruction caused in name of development. He reminded us of the well-known fact, backed up by scientific research, that the areas with the least amount of environmental degradation worldwide have been within indigenous territories and that securing the rights of indigenous peoples is one of the most effective mechanisms for avoiding deforestation. Mirabal called for the Escazú Agreement, an environmental treaty aimed to guarantee the protection of environmental defenders, to be implemented and respected. He also called for a global agreement for the permanent protection of 80% of the Amazon by 2025, and signalled the need for legal security in indigenous people’s territories throughout the Amazon, the need for direct financing with permanent technical support, and the recognition of their right to free, prior and informed consent. In closing, he asked: “Can the Amazon be declared as living world heritage so we can put a stop to the murder and destruction of all living beings in it? Is it possible to save this ecosystem from extinction before it reaches a tipping point and becomes too late?”


  • Marc Palahi 's photo
    Keynote speaker

    Marc Palahi

    Director of the European Forest Institute, Chair of the Circular Bio-economy Alliance

    Marc Palahí is a leading expert on forests and global change, with a new vision of the transformational role forests can play in fighting climate change and developing a circular bioeconomy. He has been Director of the European Forest Institute since 2015, driving its development as a pan-European science-policy platform, and working to connect knowledge to action at the interface of science, policy and business. Marc has a PhD in forestry and economics and his work, which has featured in Nature and other high-level scientific journals, focuses on the development of a sustainable circular bioeconomy that prospers in harmony with nature. Marc leads the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance established by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales under his Sustainable Markets Initiative.

  • Belén Paéz's photo
    Keynote speaker

    Belén Paéz

    Executive Director of the Pachamama Alliance and General Secretariat for the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative

    Belén Paez has been the President and Director of Fundación Pachamama, a nonprofit organization founded in Ecuador 1996 to protect the rainforest and advance the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples of the Amazon. She is an Ecuadorian ecologist with a master's degree from the Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, Spain, in ecosystem approaches for managing the natural environment. She is a specialist in Climate Change, the Amazon and the rights of indigenous peoples. Belén directs the implementation of women’s maternal health programs, clean energy, community ecotourism, and legal programs to defend collective rights and the rights of Nature. Belén is serving as the secretariat responsible for strategy implementation for the Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative aimed at protecting this vast biodiverse region on the Ecuador-Peru border in the headwaters of the Amazon River.

  • Gregorio Mirabal's photo
    Keynote speaker

    Gregorio Mirabal

    Head of COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon River Basin)

    Gregório Mirabal is a member of the Kurripako Indigenous People from Venezuela, member of the Council of the FSC Indigenous Foundation, General Coordinator of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) and an indigenous leader committed to the defense of the rights of Indigenous Peoples . He was vice-president of the Indigenous Parliament of America chapter on Venezuela, General Coordinator of the Organizations of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon (ORPIA), and member of different UN Conferences of the Parties including the Convention on Biological Diversity and UN Framework Convention on Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Gregorio and his team at COICA represent 511 Indigenous communities living in the Amazonia, protect 66 isolated tribes, and serve as a voice for human rights, natural resources, international relations, education, family, and health.