Prickly US democracy project cleared

After being put on hold for months to facilitate discussions, the Guyana and United States governments today announced that the Leadership and Democracy Project (LEAD) has been finalized 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 Program,” US Charge d Affaires of Brian Hunt stated at the Office of the President today.

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

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.

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

He explained that changes made dealt 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.

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 three UG law students to provide research and drafting support to the National Assembly.

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