Guyana should build diplomatic support for its rainforest proposal

Dear Editor,

I read with great interest the reports in the media on the very eye-catching proposal concerning Guyana’s rainforests made by President Jagdeo at the opening of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting. While I was thinking about the President’s proposal two issues came to mind.

The first was my recollection that President Cheddi Jagan had in 1996 requested President Carter to assist Guyana in the establishment of a Guyana Rainforest Foundation. I believe that agreement was reached for the Carter Center to assist Guyana in developing the proposal. I understand that one of the principles which inspired Dr. Jagan’s proposal was that in return for conserving some forest tracts to prevent the build-up of greenhouse gases and help stabilise climate, Guyana would be compensated by external donors.

What has been the fate of Dr. Jagan’s proposal? How was it followed up and with what results? President Jagdeo’s proposal appears to go beyond Dr. Jagan’s in that while the latter spoke to foregoing the exploitation of “tracts of forest” the former seems to refer to all the forests.

But be that as it may. To the extent that President Jagdeo’s proposal is intended to address a clear deficiency in the Kyoto Protocol i.e the granting of compensation to countries for keeping standing forests intact, much action has to be taken by Guyana.

This brings me to the second issue which is the need to formulate a strategy, essentially diplomatic, to achieve the President’s objective. I note from reports in the media that the matter will be raised at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Con-ference in Uganda and that Guyana will be represented at the Climate Change Con-ference in Bali, Indonesia in December. These are good and necessary steps. But are they sufficient to achieve success? I believe that Guyana should undertake a carefully structured and sustained diplomatic effort to attract support and to build solidarity alliances. I can think of approaches to Caricom, the Association of Caribbean States, Amazonian countries through ACTO, the RIO group, AOSIS, and the Group of 77, as well as selected countries from these and other groupings and areas.

An indispensable requirement however would be a re-equipped and re-energised Foreign Affairs Establish-ment. Guyana’s interests internationally cannot be properly secured so long as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains hobbled.

Yours faithfully,

Rashleigh E Jackson

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