The ability of the National Toshaos’ Council (NTC) to properly carry out its mandate specifically in the interest of Amerindian land titling is being impeded by a lack of financing, according to Vice Chairman Lenox Shuman.
In a letter published in yesterday’s edition of the Stabroek News, Shuman explained that at the conclusion of the NTC Conference in August of 2015, it was decided that special interest would be given to specific areas which were deemed to be of utmost importance.
These included plans to establish an extension of a timeframe for the current Amerindian Land Titling (ALT) programme; a revision of the Amerindian Act of 2006, including the incorporation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and advancing the rights of women and gender balance.
However, Shuman stated that because of the financial restrictions placed on the committee’s budget, works in those areas are stymied.
“Of these resolutions, to date the NTC has been impeded by finances to have movement in any direction and thus hampering the NTC’s ability to meet its mandate under the Amerindian Act, or even to grow,” he said.
Elaborating on this, Shuman stated that the body had prepared a proposed budget of $38 million, however, less than half of that sum was approved for the council, thus putting it at a severe disadvantage to do any effective work.
Further, he said while the NTC is aware that alternative financing is available through other agencies, such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to execute projects, the body does not have the necessary financial infrastructure to apply to those agencies for financial support. Because of this, Shuman opined that it puts the NTC as the footstool of many other organisations that may want to take advantage of the committee to push their agenda.
When contacted for a comment on Shuman’s concern, Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Sydney Allicock agreed that the current budget does not allow for effective work to be carried out by the NTC.
However, he explained that the issue of restricted budgetary allocations is not common to the NTC alone since the Ministry itself did not receive the amount it had proposed for 2016. He further stated that because of this, the Ministry has allowed the NTC to ‘piggyback’ on visits to the hinterland regions when it can and has asked that other ministries consider the same.
Nevertheless, Allicock noted that he remains hopeful that indigenous communities and by extension the Ministry will make better representation to have their projects be approved in the 2017 budget.
Additional calls were made by Shuman for the current administration to seek an extension from the government of Norway to the funding and timeframe for the ATL programme, since, according to him, the NTC views this as being of utmost importance to the indigenous people as they have been the one who have taken care of these jungles and lands for millennia.
Shuman stated that the council remains committed to working with the government on key initiatives in helping to protect indigenous peoples’ ways of life, culture, traditions, and to securing their lands.
“In that light, to name one initiative we are working in consultation with indigenous communities and with the Government and Conservation International on a key initiative to see communities plan better for their future in the form of a Community Development Plan,” he stated.