Georgetown, Guyana – (April 16, 2016) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, this morning, said Community Development Councils (CDCs) must be established to identify and address community needs and foster economic development and social cohesion, in his address at the opening ceremony of the Community Development Seminar, held in the St. Stanislaus College auditorium.
“Those of us who believe in equitable development of our people have a clear understanding of the fundamental and foundational role of Community Development Councils,” Minister Harmon said.

The Minister noted that the holding of Local Government Elections (LGEs) after a hiatus of about twenty years has now strengthened Guyana’s democracy by returning power to the people. As such, all individuals or groups claiming to have the people’s interests at heart, including CDCs, must respect the pre-eminence of the will of the people.
“We are all well aware that our communities are made up of a variety of competing and complementary interests and our Community Development Councils must ensure that all of these interests are served through their programmes and activities. The structural arrangements and governance model of the Community Development Councils, therefore, must stand [up to] the scrutiny and facilitate the involvement of all concerned. As a consequence, there must now be a renewed focus on and a review of the role that community based organisations must play in promoting community development,” the Minister said.

He opined that the CDC must now accommodate all political, economic, social, cultural and other perspectives to meet the needs of the people they serve.

“[Your] role must also be seen as being inextricably intertwined and bound up with the development of the individual, the family and the community as a whole. All of these interventions must be made within the context of achieving the 17 sustainable development goals and the 169 targets outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and are critical for us as a developing country,” he said.

Creating linkages

However, the Minister said, before this can happen there are certain key elements that must be established and paramount among them is the nexus between the CDCs and the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs). Effort must also be put into building capacity, overcoming challenges to development, creating wealth within communities and using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to advance development.

“The local government system as is presently structured comprises, for the most part, of neighbourhood democratic councils that form the first direct link with central government to deliver on specific government programmes. Community Development Councils however, with their more direct connection to the people, have the advantage of better understanding their issues being more closely connected to them and consequently, are better placed to be responsive to their needs.

Your government will therefore ensure that community development councils are adequately supported to ensure their success while encouraging their close collaboration and co-operation with neighbourhood democratic councils to foster true and real development of our communities,” he said.

Building capacity

Given the CDCs important connection to the grassroots, it is imperative that they develop the capacity to maintain that role. In this regard, the Minister gave assurances that the Government will facilitate and/or provide training opportunities and institute an enhanced programme of capacity building every step of the way. This will include areas such as leadership, management, personal development, and entrepreneurship. Already, he said, steps have been taken to commit resources to nineteen CDCs.

Confronting challenges

Minister Harmon also pointed out that meaningful community development can only take place in an enabling environment. As such, he charged the CDCs to create a conducive atmosphere by taking the lead in the fight against poverty, social deprivation, crime, delinquency and the predatory drug culture.

Wealth creation

The CDCs must network with the business community and capitalise on the skills and talents within their own communities to facilitate internships, training opportunities and to create jobs and enterprises.

“Corporate social responsibility must be encouraged to create linkages between the business persons within the communities and the community development councils to transfer business knowledge and experience to contribute to the growth and the creation of wealth in those communities. This will contribute to job creation and developmental opportunities for all, especially our youth,” the Minister said.

Prioritise family

Noting that the family is the basic building block of a healthy community, Minister Harmon said that strengthening the family unit is a fundamental objective of community development. The CDCs, therefore, must include this task on its priority agenda and take steps to ensure that dysfunctional families are given the necessary support to overcome their challenges.

“This cannot be overemphasised as problems such as school drop-outs, single parents (mostly mothers) and teenage pregnancies can all be attributed to weak or dysfunctional families. Enhancing family values is critical in promoting strong communities, hence a strong nation. Community Development Councils should be encouraged and assisted in initiating programmes aimed at promoting strong family values and enhancing family life,” he said.

Information and Communication Technology

Minister Harmon also said that CDCs must take advantage of the availability of ICT in communities to stay connected to residents, respond to queries and to maintain (and create) networks. The CDCs must also create a database of the challenges and schedule of actions to remedy them, as well as a monitoring mechanism for reporting progress and follow up.

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