As Guyana joins with the rest of the World in observance of UN International Day of the Youth, I as Minister of Social Cohesion, salute the young people of Guyana. As many of you know, young people comprise more than half of our population. As such growth and development in Guyana would only be sustainable, by engaging you in all facets of the process.
The Ministry of Social Cohesion is not yet well known in Guyana. This is because it is new, established under the Hon. David Granger administration, following the APNU AFC victory at the May 11, 2015 National and Regional Elections. Some of you may remember in his inaugural address to the nation, His Excellency had indicated that he intends to be “President for all of Guyana”. He had urged all to “embrace each other regardless of religion, race, class, or occupation and work together to realize our inspiring motto of One People, One nation and One Destiny”.
It is for this reason that the establishment of the Ministry is so critical. Its mandate is to undertake “the ongoing process of developing a community of shared values, shared challenges and equal opportunity within Guyana, based on a sense of trust, hope and reciprocity among Guyanese.” The Ministry is committed therefore to working with a wide cross section of stakeholders, to ensure that an agenda that seeks to reduce disparities, inequalities and social exclusion is pursued in our country. Programs, projects and whatever policies are required would be implemented in order to strengthen social relations, interactions and ties at the community and national levels. This latter dimension is designed to embrace all aspects which are generally considered as the social capital of our society.
Young people of Guyana, social cohesion is about those elements that bring and hold people together in society. In a socially cohesive society all individuals and groups have a sense of belonging to that society. Moreover, they are allowed to participate in the mainstream of societal processes and their inclusion is considered as important and significant. Beside a sense of belonging, inclusion and participation, in socially cohesive societies, there is respect for others as well as the recognition of the rights and potential of everyone. It is about an awareness of one’s legitimacy and the legitimacy of others. In such societies, people are not necessarily all the same in terms of race and ethnicity. They are not the same in terms of political persuasion, religious beliefs or economic status. Rather, in most societies around the world, including ours, people are different in many ways. However, by respecting differences, we are able to harness or bring together the potential residing in our society (in terms of people, their ideas, their opinions, skills, and resources) for the benefit of all. If we do this, which is what the Ministry aims to accomplish, Guyana would be less prone to slip into destructive patterns of tension and conflict when differences of interests collide
I believe you are becoming more and more conscious of the use of the phrase “quality of life”. His Excellency makes frequent reference to this and you may have heard it over and over in the National Budget presentation. As young people, I want you to know that the quality of life for citizens has been a major goal of governments, serving to guide national policies. Under the current government, Guyana is no different. Quality of life has replaced the idea of wealth as the main goal of societal development. This is a shift from considering economic aspects of life to a broader perspective, to include social and other concerns. A common feature is to focus on the individual. It is about you as a young Guyanese, your family and your community. It is against this background, much discussion will be centered on societal qualities such as the extent of equality, security, freedom or the quality and structure of the relations within our society. Therefore, your relationships in the community are important. The Ministry of Social Cohesion wants to promote useful and productive relationships within and among groups at the community level. That means your youth group, your NGO, FBO, CSO, sports or cultural group. For us, how you relate to neighboring communities is also important. It is not helpful for us as Guyanese when groups and communities disagree and cannot find common ground for working together. The Ministry wants to build trust and where healing is needed, create an environment for this to happen and move forward.
I mentioned trust and this is important. As young people you must be able to have a sense of trust, trust in the Government….you must believe and know that this government is working in your best interest, and that we are making decisions that would benefit you and your family. You must have that confidence that if you stay in school or attend a technical or Vocational Center, or a tertiary institution, this government would have plans and policies, in place so that you can secure a decent job or otherwise establish your own means of generating income. On behalf of the government, the Ministry considers it important to engage young people in the process of development as many of you are entrepreneurial and are very open to taking risks. Many of you initiate processes and we want to be able to support you in those undertakings. When social cohesion is fostered like this administration is emphasizing, there is a level play field for all and everyone is offered an opportunity for upward mobility.
As your Minister, I want you to trust me and the Ministry over the short term starting now, to make a difference. You will have opportunities to tell us, what will work in your communities, so that we can partner for these undertakings. My ministry would use these windows of opportunity for working together to strengthen national bonds and diminish intergroup friction. We want to be able to encourage groups, including youth and other interest groups, to organize programs to foster among others, intercultural understanding for children and young people. We are working with other Ministries, the Local authorities and a cross section of agencies and organizations, to advance the agenda of the Ministry in order to create a socially cohesive Guyana and I welcome our youth population to partner with us.
Hon. Minister of Social Cohesion, Ms. Amna Ally, MP