Guyana, US finalise agreement on USAID democracy project

After being put on hold for months to facilitate discussions, the Guyana and United States governments yesterday announced that the Leadership and Democracy Project (LEAD) has been finalised and will be implemented soon.

“The governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Guyana have reached final agreement on the design and implementation mechanisms of the USAID Leadership and Democracy Programme,” US Charge d Affaires of Brian Hunt stated at the Office of the President yesterday.

Hunt represented his country while Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon was Guyana’s spokesman on the project.

Hunt said that despite modifications, the project’s fundamental objectives remain the same and stressed that it had been tweaked to involve more government participation.

“A large part of our effort was to ensure that the Government of Guyana’s viewpoint was reflected, that the government felt that government institutions were fully participating in the programme, ensuring that the government had – as is quite rightly the case- a significant and in some cases a leading role in making sure that the programme activities were working towards the benefit of Guyanese people,” Hunt noted.

“The newly designed LEAD programme appropriately recognises that Guyana’s democratic future is one that must, at its core, be shaped by Guyanese. It seeks not to define that democratic future but rather to support Guyanese stakeholders in defining it for themselves… the programme will act to support Guyanese stakeholders in being the driving force in identifying relevant issues and with developing solutions to identified problems,” he also stated.

Further, Hunt pointed out that during the debate that ensued around LEAD some had stated that the programme has a “possible hidden US Government agenda” but he stressed that the claims were untrue. He also dismissed claims that the programme would provide support for opposition political parties. Government had stated that it was uncomfortable with an aspect of the programme, which it had said would give support to political parties. “Let me be very clear: There is no component of assistance to political parties that makes up part of the LEAD programme,” he stressed.

“I want to make it absolutely clear to all Guyanese that no such agenda ever existed. The programme’s only agenda was to assist Guyanese in charting and strengthening the democratic future that they, themselves, identify for their country,” he further asserted.

Hunt also made public and committed to the private pledge that he had given to Luncheon pertaining to the project’s transparency. “All activities undertaken as part of the LEAD programme will be transparent, open to public scrutiny, coordinated within the agreed upon framework, and responsive to the identified needs of stakeholders and for the benefit of all Guyanese,” he said.

 

‘Allaying fears’

 

Luncheon said that government was relying more on the process that has been agreed to but would still keep its eyes open about the role of the US International Republican Institute (IRI) in implementing the project on behalf of the financier, the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

He explained that the changes made deal with more content being added to the programme and fuller elaboration on the implementation process. “Indeed, whilst one cannot dispense with those instances, one cannot dispense with those sentiments; certainly process, a fairly well-established process, contributes enormously towards allaying fears on the one side and concerns about the use of fear on the other side,” Luncheon said.

The row over the project had strained ties between the two countries and saw severe attacks by government officials on former US Ambassador Brent Hardt. At one point, Guyana cancelled the work permit for the IRI head of the project, Glen Bradbury.

Yesterday both countries stated that Bradbury was working as the head of the programme and that his work permit had been sorted out.

Luncheon said that Bradbury’s permit was rescinded on the ground that he could not hold a permit for a job that was not extant, since the programme had not been seen as a legitimate one by government.

The first component of the $300M project endeavours to encourage consensus-building in the National Assembly and facilitate more effective interaction between the Assembly and citizens. It envisages cross-party negotiation workshops, speaker evenings for Members of Parliament, workshops on issue-based policy development, and multi-party issue fora where all parties select a representative to speak about a topic of public interest.

The second component seeks to bolster the effectiveness of the National Assembly and broaden citizen engagement with parliament.

LEAD also seeks to support the establishment of a “Women’s Parliamentary Caucus,” consisting of women from each of the parties represented in the Assembly. The caucus would offer a forum for the discussion of women’s issues in Guyana and a means to bring such issues to the Assembly in a collaborative way. There is also a proposed internship programme for University of Guyana law students to provide research and drafting support to the National Assembly.

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