By Janette Bulkan
The report on the Norway-Guyana MoU is an unusual event in the normally secretive apparatus of government in Guyana. Contrary to the requirement in the Guyana Forestry Commission Act (a revision was enacted in 2007), Article 25, the GFC does not provide to the National Assembly an annual report or audited accounts. So this report is in some ways a new exercise for the forest-related agencies of the Government of Guyana. It is surprising that the government-owned daily newspaper, the Guyana Chronicle has not mentioned this report. A summary has been published by the independent Stabroek News as ‘Guyana met all REDD+ targets in ’09,’ (April 25).
This report shows how difficult it is for a command-and-control government to be transparent in its actual activities as opposed to its public promises. This report was prepared by the President’s Office of Climate Change (OCC) for the period since the signing of the MoU on November 9, 2009 until February 2010. The report was circulated to the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee (MSSC) of the President’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) in early March.1 The report was posted to the LCDS website for a public comment period of 14 days (April 6-20, 2010).
An annual report as such is not explicitly required by the text of the Norway-Guyana MoU or the associated Joint Concept Note (JCN), but see sections E and F below. The report now circulated concentrates on process, listing the mainly government agencies which are involved and the meetings which have been convened, but little on substance. However, it covers a period of only four months (November 2009 – February 2010), so it would be unreasonable to expect significant substantive progress.
The report is structured into nine sections A-I, and these notes follow the same structure. The notes are not claimed to be inclusive or comprehensive, but they show some of the problems which the operation of this MoU could and should address.
A1. The only activity required to be completed by the end of 2009 was the preparation of “an outline of Guyana’s REDD-plus governance development plan” (see the section on governance at the top of page 9 in the combined MoU and JCN document). The GFC is taking the lead on 14 items in the plan; these items are listed in a table in the supporting documents for this report, those documents being posted in a single file on the LCDS website some time after the report itself. The 14 items are listed in a table of 23 items, dated January 13, 2010. The table includes items recommended repeatedly by external consultants since 1994. Five government agencies were engaged in the outline. No non-government participants are mentioned. The MSSC is not recorded as having requested a sight of this plan but circulation to the MSSC was promised by the OCC.2
A2. The 14 items in the table include items in the National Forest Policy 1997 and the National Forest Plan 2001 which have not so far been carried out. The items significantly omit the presidential assent to the revised Forest Act (a notably defective piece of legislation, greatly different from best international practice), so confirming by omission that the forest law remains the Forests Act 1953 as amended to 1996, and the associated Forest Regulations 1953. The items also omit any mention of improved forest management by the large-scale loggers which are dominated by Asian-owned companies which currently control over 70 per cent of the allocated State Forest long-term concessions,3 compared with their legal holding of 40 per cent.
A3. The table significantly re-words the requirements of the Norway-Guyana MoU and JCN, omitting some items entirely on the REDD+ Governance Plan, such as national inter-sectoral land use planning and holistic forest valuation. The table provides no commitment to making decisions and data publicly available.
Other requirements for 2009-2010 are listed on page 14 of the combined MoU and JCN document.
B1. The GFC is in charge of the Monitoring, Reporting and Verification System (MRVS). Bidding documents were openly advertised on the GFC website for consultancies to advise the GFC and/or carry out work. The bids were advertised, and many responses were received, before the evaluation criteria had been prepared. No budget is yet available for carrying out the work. Bid 1 concerns remote sensing and GIS. 52 expressions of interest (EOIs) were received,4 strangely reduced to 49 EOIs,5 with 22 proposals. One proposal was received after the deadline of February 26 and the GFC proposed to bend the rules because the bidder “has promised support to Guyana for the LCDS.” That bidder may be claiming to have connections to a philanthropic foundation with a Climate Initiative.
B2. Bid 2 concerns carbon stock assessment, 44 EOIs were received by March 16;6 15 EOIs were mentioned in the annual report which had been prepared well before these MSSC meetings, no specific bids were mentioned because the closing date was the end of March.
B3. The MRVS steering committee comprises 5 government bodies (including the National Toshaos Council for Amerindians), the University of Guyana, and two private sector trade associations (Forest Products Association and Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association). Three of the government agencies comprise the technical committee.
B4. It is not clear if the GFC has now developed criteria for assessing the bids for the two consultancies. It is not normal practice in other countries to call for public competitive bids and then decide afterwards how to assess those bids.
B5. Agenda item 6.17 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 25 of March 16, 2010 states that “The issue of financing of Bids 1 and 2 needs to be addressed, and it may be advisable to secure financing for these bids [that is, these consultancies] prior to issuing out the contract to selected consultants chosen through the procurement process.” The bid documents on the GFC website did not make clear that the GFC had no money in hand for these consultancies.
C. Operational costs of the LCDS Project Management Office (PMO) and Office of Climate Change (OCC) in the Office of the President are to be covered by the Norway-Guyana MoU. The report notes that both sub-offices are established and are fully functional. The report does not acknowledge that the cost of at least one staff member in the PMO is supported by the UK Department for International Development. The report does not say whether these sub-offices have proper legal status for exercising the mandates given to them by the President. They appear to be exempt from any ministerial or National Assembly scrutiny, but their expenditures should be subject to examination by the Auditor General.
D1. The President continues as chairman of the steering committee for the Multi-Stakeholder Consultation Process. As the minutes record, the President exercises a dominant role in the meetings of this committee, and he is of course the vigorous proponent of his own Low Carbon Development Strategy. Provision for independent facilitation of this committee was included in the IIED consultation protocol but has been ignored. The denigration of anyone who even raises questions about the LCDS or the Norway-Guyana MoU is persistent in the minutes of the MSSC. Neither the OCC nor the MSSC has responded subsequently to the hundreds of unanswered questions during the LCDS hinterland consultations and urban awareness and miners’ meetings. These unanswered questions are recorded in the MSSC-approved records of those meetings, on the LCDS website. The IIED report on the consultation process was issued in November 2009
D2. Although the President sometimes refers to his LCDS as a successor to the National Development Strategy (1995-6) and the National Competitiveness Strategy (2006), the LCDS is in no conventional sense a national development strategy. It is not explicitly founded on any national policies, the supporting data have never been published, and the deforestation scenario developed by McKinsey & Co (US consultants to the President) is simply fantastical, having no ecological or financial soundness. The MSSC has not debated systematically the components of the draft LCDS, nor discussed priorities amongst the shopping list of proposed projects. There is no commitment in the LCDS (or in the GFC’s REDD Readiness Preparation Proposal) to any reduction in emissions of forest carbon on any time scale, and this major omission is also not discussed.
D3. The President is anxious for the 1.7 million ha of forest in titled Amerindian Village Lands to be included in his LCDS but he has been unable to explain how “opting in” would affect the livelihoods of Amerindians; there is a draft paper by the OCC.7 There is also no clear explanation of how the LCDS would affect the livelihoods of miners or loggers, except that the large-scale loggers can continue business-as-usual, subject to compliance with unspecified rules.8 The street protests by miners about the government’s muddled communications on LCDS-related restrictions are not mentioned in this report, nor have these restrictions been clarified. The MSSC has not formally discussed the roles of logging or mining, the major industries in the natural forests of Guyana, in the context of the LCDS.9
E1. In July and August 2009, before the MoU was agreed, two background studies were undertaken. They are mentioned in this report as “Annual verification by neutral experts that the REDD-plus enabling activities are completed.” Jorge Trevin (ex-Iwokrama) and Robert Nasi (CIFOR) wrote on “Forest law enforcement and governance and forest practice in Guyana.” They were apparently unable to access relevant GFC files and, in the absence of a series of GFC annual reports, were unable to do more than summarise previous studies. The minutes of the MSSC record continued disagreement between the authors and the GFC, apparently unresolved by the time of issue of this report. The tone of the observations by the GFC to the MSSC suggests that, as in correspondence with IIED on studies involving Guyana, the government agencies want to have their views treated as the only valid views but are unwilling to put supporting data into the public domain.
E2. The second study, by Jonas Cedergren for FAO, covered “Measurement and reporting of forest carbon in Guyana: preparing for REDD implementation.” This also had to rely substantially on previous work, recently by Denis Alder and M van Kuijk (2009) and earlier by Hans ter Steege for Tropenbos (2001).
E3. The report says that both studies have been reviewed by a sub-committee of the MSSC and presented to the MSSC for consideration. It is not clear what the MSSC has done with these studies.
E4. The GFC does not seem to have explained to the MSSC, or to have noted in this report, that a considerable effort has been given to preparing for more accurate and precise assessment of forest carbon. The GFC has held at least two workshops involving international specialists, and has put the workshop presentations on its website. The terms of reference for the two bids mentioned in section B above were apparently drafted during or in association with these workshops. Previous spatially-extensive forest inventory for most of Guyana had been carried out in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the FAO-assisted Forest Industries Development Survey. Holders of the large-scale long-term logging concessions are supposed to submit 100 per cent inventories of commercial trees in square 100-ha logging blocks for pre-approval by the GFC, but such inventories cover only part of the State Forests. So the proposed carbon-related inventory should be significant for forest planning and sustainable forest management. It is surprising that the GFC has not mentioned the importance of this work in either of the sections B or E of this report.
E5. It is possible that the GFC now appreciates that the claims in the REDD R-PLAN and R-PP to location and measurement of deforestation in 2007-8 by mining (24,428 ha), “agriculture” – unspecified as to type of cropping system (21,903 ha) and forest roads (7,879 ha) are unbelievably precise, especially when the GFC is unable to say which of the several estimates for total forest area is most likely; government has used figures ranging from 15.1 to 18.5 million ha in the LCDS and in the REDD documents. The GFC, while claiming hectare-precise data for deforestation, apparently overlooked a major illegal airstrip over 1100m long by 200m wide, cut into State Forest. The GFC and the President have not responded to requests for clarification.
E6. The strategic forest allocation plan, required by the national forest policy 1997 and the national forest plan 2001, have never been prepared but presumably would be aided by the new effort on forest inventory. The 1997 policy and the 2001 plan were prepared by participatory consultations and working groups. The GFC has indicated that both documents are being or will be revised10 (by what process?), although neither document has been significantly implemented since 2002 and such revision is not explicit in the Norway-Guyana MoU.
F. This section should report on annual verification by neutral expert(s) of the maximum amount due to Guyana according to the indicators for REDD-plus performance. The OCC has changed the last two words to REDD+ Governance, and states curtly that “This report will serve this purpose for 2009,” without further explanation. Surely the REDD-plus performance would be assessed by the interim indicators for REDD+ performance in Guyana – table 2 in the JCN? These are quantitative indicators and cannot (or should not) be dismissed by the OCC in one short sentence, especially when those ten indicators for 2009 are not otherwise discussed in the report.
G. The OCC says that the establishment of a system for Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) is currently in progress. In contrast, the GFC says that it “would be exploring the possibility of including IFM into the FLEGT agenda for Guyana.”11 But IFM is a key component of a FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement, so it appears that the traditional resistance of the government agencies to any kind of independent scrutiny is impeding the understanding of an international requirement.
H. The Norway-Guyana MoU (page 15) requires “evidence of Guyana entering a formal dialogue with the European Union with the intent of joining its FLEGT processes towards a VPA” and “. . . a formal dialogue with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative or an alternative mechanisms agreed by the Participants to further the same aim as EITI.” The file of supporting documents on the LCDS website includes facsimiles of letters to the EU for FLEGT association (dated December 10, 2009) and to EITI (dated December 30, 2010). The FLEGT support unit of the European Forest Institute sent a staff member to Guyana in March 2010, after the end of the reporting period. It is not known what response has been made by EITI.
I1. The establishment of the Guyana REDD+ Investment FUND (GRIF) has preoccupied the President since the signature of the Norway-Guyana MoU and has taken up much time in his commentary in the MSSC meetings, as evidenced by the volume of minutes on this subject. It appears from these records that the President was expecting a lightly-administered fund under his direction through his Office of Project Management,12 and that he has been surprised by the World Bank (as the anticipated GRIF manager) insisting that formal Bank safeguards and fiduciary requirements should be followed. According to the MSSC minutes, the President is seeking more flexible fund managers, but then finding that Norway is not in agreement with their retention as GRIF managers.
I2. The minutes of the MSSC meetings indicate clearly that it is the President who is deciding how to spend the income from the Norway-Guyana MoU. He had decided to allocate US$5M out of USD 30 million to Amerindian development, “a portion” to a small grant fund, and most of the remaining money for hydropower (that is, the Amaila Falls project); see footnote 12 above. The MSSC was not given any role in allocation of the anticipated income. There seems to be some confusion in the government, because the presidential allocation of November 20, 2009 was contradicted by the Minister for Amerindian Affairs on December 9, 2009 when she said that “the contributions to the Amerindian communities will be from government’s ongoing programme in Amerindian communities.”13
I3. By March 2010, the President had decided to allocate other funds to the construction and upgrading of roads to reach the site of the Amaila Falls hydropower dam.14 He did not say what he had then decided to do with those US$15M from the MoU which he had previously allocated to Amaila Falls works. At the time of writing these notes at the end of April 2010, the daily newspapers in Guyana are carrying articles and correspondence about possible distortions in the public procurement process for selecting the road builder for the access roads to the dam; a full set of newspaper pieces can be retrieved from www.guyanaforests.blogspot.com .
I4. There appears to have been no discussion about the use of Norwegian funds for replacement livelihoods of those displaced by reductions in emissions of forest carbon. This may be because the government has been told by the President that logging and mining will continue and that therefore there are no livelihoods which need to be compensated. So it continues to be unclear how the LCDS (and also the R-PP) can be labelled as REDD-compatible while there is no commitment to make reductions in emissions.
One must hope that NCFI and other agencies in Norway will compare very carefully this report with the requirements as detailed in the Norway-Guyana MoU and JCN, and request clarification from Guyana on the omissions and discrepancies. At the same time, it must be said that this report provides an unusual view into the thinking of the President and government agencies in Guyana. This view is not transparent in the conventional sense, but there is at least a shift in that direction, while the President delays consideration of the in-draft Freedom of Information Act (which is not mentioned in the report for Norway).
1 agenda item 7.3 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 25 on March 16, 2010
2 agenda item 6.17 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 24 of March 8, 2010
3 page 26 in the President’s ‘Saving the world’s forests today: creating incentives to avoid deforestation,’ December 2008
4 agenda item 5.10 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 23 on March 2, 2010
5 agenda item 6.19 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 24 on March 8, 2010
6 agenda item 6.17 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 25 on March 16, 2010
7 agenda item 5.4 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 23 on March 2, 2010; agenda items 6.1-6.14 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 24 on March 8, 2010; and agenda items 6.1-6.13 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 25 on March 16, 2010
8 page 39 in the second draft of the LCDS
9 but see agenda items 6.14-6.28 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 21 on December 9, 2009 and agenda items 3.16-3.24 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 22 on January 13, 2010
10 agenda item 6.18 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 24 on March 8, 2010 and items 1-4 in the table in the supporting documents
11 agenda item 6.18 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 25 on March 16, 2010
12 The anxiety about LCDS funding for the access road to the proposed Amaila Falls hydropower dam is reflected in the minutes of MSSC meetings 22 on January 13, 2010 (agenda item 3.30) and 23 on March 2, 2010 (agenda item 5.8). The MRVS consultancies – section B above – were also not included in the national budget but bids were advertised at the direction of the President; agenda items 6.10-6.13 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 20 on November 24, 2009 and agenda items 5.24-5.27 in the minutes of MSSC meeting 21 on December 9, 2009. These notes should be read in the context of the frequent allegations of high-level and persistent corruption.
13 Agenda item 4.2 in minutes of MSSC meeting 21 on December 9, 2009
14 Agenda item 5.3 in minutes of MSSC meeting 25 on March 16, 2010