Meaningful dialogue, compromise crucial for constitutional reform process

-UN team reports

A recent United Nations mission on constitutional reform has recommended that the process must emphasise “meaningful dialogue, negotiation and compromise” on the part of the government, opposition and citizenry in order to be successful, the Office of the Prime Minister said yesterday.

According to a press release issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, the team presented its findings to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo for review and consideration.

The release did not say when this was done.

It, however, noted that the team indicated that the process is an opportunity for social cohesion and nation building around issues that affect all Guyanese.  And in addition to recommending “meaningful dialogue, negotiation and compromise,” it also said that the team urged that the constitutional reform commission, which would be responsible for spearheading the process, must be “independent, representative and inclusive” of civil society. It was also recommended that the public at large must be provided with opportunities to participate and public education on constitutional workings and reform is critical in the facilitation of effective participation.

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo (left) receiving the report from UN Resident Coordinator Mikiko Tanaka (Office of the Prime Minister photo)

The release said that the draft bill to establish the constitutional reform commission is being reviewed by the Office of the Attorney General, and would be circulated to stakeholders as soon as the preliminary revision is completed.

Nagamootoo, it added, has indicated that the proposed bill would be sent to a Special Select Committee for further review once it is tabled in the National Assembly.

Nagamootoo, the release stated, commenced discussions for UN support for constitutional reform in mid-2015 with then UN Resident Coordinator Khadija Musa and continued these discussions with her successor Mikiko Tanaka.

The team of UN experts visited Guyana in February of this year to conduct a constitutional assessment mission to advise the government and to provide UN decision makers with context for its support.

The Terms of Reference that guided the mission team provided that it would, among other things, assess the political environment in Guyana and the legal and institutional framework governing the constitutional reform process and assess the potential role of UNDP-UNDPA in assisting this process and resources required.

Constitutional reform was one of the promises in the APNU+AFC campaign manifesto.

According to the release issued yesterday, the team’s report warned against rushing the process of constitutional reform, while stating that the timeframe for constitutional reform varies and would be dependent on variables within different countries. “Guyana, it was surmised, needed to factor in the size of its territory with regard to accessing pockets of citizens and the difficulties associated with reaching consensus,” the release said.

To gather information for the mission’s assessment, the UN team met with a wide range of stakeholders, including the Leader of the Opposition, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the National Toshaos Council Chairman, trade unions, the rights commissions, the Private Sector Commission, religious bodies, the Guyana Bar Association, international partners and several other civil society bodies.

The UN team comprised constitutional and peacekeeping experts Gerardo Noto, Rohan Edrisinha and Jason Gluck, who were assisted by Tanaka and Deputy Resident Coordinator Shabnam Mallick along with Fabio Oliva.

The release said that it is intended that the team’s report will be presented to all stakeholders with whom the mission team engaged.

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