A number of letter writers to the daily newspapers seem to be confused about the protocol prepared by the International Institute for Environment and Development (Edinburgh, UK) for the consultations on the President’s Low Carbon Development Strategy.
Displaying the protocol on the LCDS website is not the same as implementing it. Having a series of short presentations and question/answer sessions, one in each of 13 hinterland communities and 11 or more urban awareness sessions and 8 or more meetings with hinterland miners, is not the same as implementing a consultation on a proposal for a potential spend of US$1 billion. In other words, there are substantial differences between a consultation on a national strategy as laid out in the protocol, and the process actually followed by the Office of Climate Change (OCC) and the ministerial teams dispatched to convey the President’s vision for this spend.
Incidentally, the IIED protocol was developed in May, before the launch of the June 2009 version of the LCDS and so predated the formation of the LCDS Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee, not afterwards.
When the bulk of that US$1 billion spend would be concentrated in the coastal plain, it is surely not unreasonable for hinterland communities to question what the LCDS could mean for their livelihoods in agriculture, logging and mining and why the OCC was urging an “opting in” to the LCDS without being unable to say what effects such opting in would have on livelihoods. We can see on page 39 of the December 2009 version on the LCDS that the President is explicitly allowing continued large-scale logging, and so implicitly the emissions of forest carbon associated with the forest degradation by that logging. We cannot read in the LCDS any commitment by the Government of Guyana to make reductions in emissions of forest carbon from any source. Yet at the same time the LCDS draft claims compatibility with international schemes for REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation). The OCC has done nothing to explain such paradoxes, or to respond ‘on the record’ to the questions raised but not answered at those hinterland and urban meetings.
So it is irrational for other letter writers and the Minister for Amerindian Affairs to criticize the Amerindian Peoples Association for providing training to some of its members, training which compensates for the lack of information and response from the government offices. That information should be helpful to the Amerindian communities in considering what the incomplete LCDS could mean for them. And note that training sessions by the APA are not for the same purpose as the OCC’s consultations on a hugely expensive and weakly argued LCDS. It is unclear why there should be reference to Article 34 of the Amerindian Act 2006, as that concerns Amerindian Village meetings, not APA meetings.
I draw to the attention of readers that the OCC still has not posted to the public domain the original consultancy document prepared for the President by McKinsey & Co and weakly abstracted in December 2008, nor the land capability studies and soil surveys to justify deforesting 90 per cent of Guyana’s forests over 25 years, nor the detailed justifications and comparative studies for the US$1 billion spend which is the brief core of the LCDS. These nine months of silence since the LCDS launch in June 2009 contribute to the lack of credibility of this draft.
It is unreasonable to advocate that citizens should have to make personal visits to the President’s Office of Climate Change, the Guyana Forestry Commission HQ, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission HQ and the Environmental Protection Agency to obtain documents which those agencies have failed to make available to the public through their websites. Having to visit those offices is not a requirement given in or implied by Article 13 of the constitution on Guyana’s inclusionary democracy.
May I also point out, Editor, to those who ascribe to me an “anti-nationalist, unpatriotic, anti-developmental, personal agenda” that my concern is none of these. It is instead an attempt to act on Article 13 of the Guyana Constitution; to remind the government that there are laws and regulations concerning logging and mining and environmental protection; and to draw attention to the National Development Strategy (NDS). The NDS was developed through a non-partisan, independently-moderated process with coordination provided by the Carter Center of Georgia in response to a request by then President Cheddi Jagan. The NDS report is a multi-volume document, referenced, with considered options and argued choices.
Although the NDS was developed while the Minister of Finance was Bharrat Jagdeo, it was condensed in 2000-1 but not carried forward into an action plan. The National Competitiveness Strategy is a different kind of document, not clearly rooted in the NDS, more project orientated. The three strategies – NDS, NCS and LCDS – could usefully contribute to a fully rationalized national development action plan, unlike the weakly argued and poorly based LCDS on its own.