Conservation International, David Singh part ways

David Singh

After serving as Executive Director of Conservation International Guyana (CIG) for 11 years, David Singh has been asked by the organization to step down and he has agreed saying that CI is moving in a different direction from when he joined.

He will serve up to the end of December of this year.

“Having served at CI for 11 years and we are in a different period of time…we discussed it and it was a mutually agreeable separation,” Singh told Stabroek News yesterday.

Singh was appointed to CIG in 2008 after serving as the Director General at the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development.

When he joined he had said that the job would allow him to continue to work in the Rupununi Savannahs and noted that the area is extremely rich in biodiversity and rivals anywhere else in the world of comparable size.

He explained that since then CI’s office here has evolved. “When I stepped into the role at the time, I stepped in and we were a smaller organization and we have been able to build up a bigger portfolio. We have been able to build up and manage now what we had”, he said.

But with the inevitable emergence of the oil and gas sector here, CI has included heavily in its focus stronger environmental oversight in sustaining this country’s biodiversity while oil is being produced.

However, the organization has come in for flak for entering into a US$10M partnership with the ExxonMobil Foundation. CIG is a carbon-reducing, conservation organisation while ExxonMobil is a carbon releaser that has been accused of denying the impact of fossil fuels on climate change.

CI and the ExxonMobil Foundation in August launched the US$10 million partnership which aims to advance a sustainable economy through investments in education, research, sustainable management and preservation of the country’s ecosystem.

The two will be working along with the University of Guyana (UG) and the Arizona State University (ASU).

CIG has  rejected the assertions of a conflict by stating that notwithstanding the funding, the organisation will remain objective and impartial.

“As a science-based organization with over two decades of conservation success in Guyana, Conservation International is in a unique position to help Guyana achieve its green development goals. We carefully deliberated and determined that this effort will achieve its goals while also maintaining our independence and objectivity,” Global representative Salma Balramy had said in response to the questions from this newspaper.

“We’ve worked with Guyana’s government and people in over 50 communities to help protect nearly three million acres of indigenous lands while improving livelihoods. As long-time partners of Guyana’s commitment to its people and ecosystems, Conservation International is confident this is a necessary step at this critical time in Guyana’s development,” she added.

Beyond

Singh said that his departure has nothing to do with the grant received by CIG and stressed that it was all because of the organization’s focus on its 2020 and beyond plans.

“It has nothing to do with the Exxon thing…You remember when we launched the Exxon project at the Pegasus, our president was there and spoke about plans. So it had nothing to do with me that it is just a different period that Ci is going through,” he said.

He said that he has also given up his Vice Presidential position in the company and is exploring other personal options.

“There are several vice presidents. I was Vice President as well as Executive Director. But they have several Vice Presidents and in the Americas; we have about five or six. I won’t be working with CI in any [capacity]. The important thing for me is that I am looking at my options …I want to be able to explore my options,” he said.

At the August launch of the programme with ExxonMobil, Singh had given no inclination that he would not be a part of the organization’s future plans.

“This is a bold task and we certainly expect to look forward to working closely with all of you even as we design our future. Part of that process will build on the Memorandum of Philanthropic and Academic Understanding that we have established between our key partners – UG and ASU. This week we will start the process through a request for a proposal to carry out a scoping and design study that will detail the goals, the outcomes, the activities and the governance structure of the Guyana Resilient and One initiative,” Singh had said, while noting that interested consultant firms would have been given three weeks to submit their proposals which they will be expected to implement by the end of December.

“It is a short timeframe, but we believe this year is absolutely important for us to know what we are going to do for the next five years. I want to conclude by reflecting on the history of developing countries and what they teach us about Guyana’s future and this will not be determined by Guyanese alone. History is not a step, we cannot build a wall around ourselves and neither can we sit on the sidelines and allow our story to be shaped and written by others. It is our time, this is our moment and it is ours to share and we certainly look forward to working with you as we shape the future of Guyana,” he added.

Singh had also added that they will be considering the feasibility of working on a discrete set of easily implemented early activities that will run in line with the current initiative.

This newspaper understands that the news of Singh’s resignation took the CI office by “total surprise.”  

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