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Georgetown, Guyana – (October 17, 2016) An additional 41 stakeholders from Corriverton, East Berbice-Corentyne (Region Six), today, were added to the hundreds of persons that have so far contributed to the Ministry of Social Cohesion’s countrywide Consultation Initiative, and the Ministry has said that the Consultations have so far been receiving an overwhelming response from participants around the country. Further, the consultation process has been used as a social cohesion awareness vehicle.

Today’s session was the twentieth of 32 planned Consultations. Two other Consultations are planned for New Amsterdam and Rose Hall over the next two days. The participants ranged from members of Non-Governmental Organisations, religious and youth groups, and also included residents from the neighbouring indigenous communities of Orealla and Siparuta.

Ministry of Social Cohesion, Technical Officer, Ms. Natasha Singh-Lewis said that part of the positive response coming out of all the Consultations include the sensitisation aspect, as residents are able to learn more about the Ministry’s work. “We have residents, especially from Hinterland communities, who are particularly happy to learn about social cohesion. ,’ she said.

Dr. Gittens interacts with one of the participants at the Consultation

Lead Consultant for the Social Cohesion National Strategic Plan, Dr. Thomas Gittens said that the Consultations have also highlighted proposals and responses that reflect the particular issues that are affecting the communities, which, he noted gives tremendous insight into the needs of those communities.

“We have had a tremendous level of participation and input at all the consultations. In many cases we have received very good content, because people have been speaking their minds,” he said. He added that the Ministry’s aim has been to make the Consultations free of politics, which he believes has led to people being more inclined to share their views. “We have also been seeing people thinking very deeply about what they want to see at a community and national level. There has been a lot of commitment in terms of how people are seeing the whole process and how they are modelling their participation to the process and it is very heartening,” he said.

The participants were given the chance to provide feedback on five thematic areas affecting social cohesion in Guyana: economic equity and opportunities, citizens’ safety and security, social inclusion and tolerance, inclusive and participatory governance and harmonious ethnic and racial relations. Their feedback will contribute to the development of a 2017-2021 Strategic Plan on Social Cohesion in Guyana which is expected to be completed by this year-end.

Speaking with regard to economic inclusion, Mr. Nicholas Jaundoo, a businessman from Corriverton, said that it is important for people of various professional backgrounds to have equal access to financing. “This will enable them to make a contribution in their community and will help to uplift the community. The whole idea of this programme is very inclusive with a wide cross section of people. I would like to see more of these consultations so that people can be informed of what the government has planned for the country,” he said.

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The Participants were divided into groups to discuss five thematic areas on social cohesion

Ms. Loretta Angel, a resident of Corriverton, said that in the area of security, residents are concerned about crime and that it is important for all groups to work together to fight it. “If we can work together for our social wellness, we can be more comfortable and feel more secure. If we work together we would be at a better place when it comes to security, wellness of mind and socialising no matter what our differences. You get more from people when you have cooperation,” she said.

The Consultations are supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Resident Representative of the UNDP to Guyana, Ms. Mikiko Tanaka, who was present at today’s session, said that the organisation is pleased to support the Ministry’s work, as social cohesion serves as a core foundation for peace and development, and as it is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals.

“In the context of Guyana, I am very happy to hear that this is a very important issue and objective for the country. This motto Guyana has of ‘One People, One Nation, One Destiny’ very much captures that aspiration that Guyana has, so the UNDP has been accompanying the process of developing a national strategy for social cohesion under this current administration and led by the Ministry of Social Cohesion,” she said.

Ms. Tanaka said that most importantly, it is the voice of the local people that make up the issues and challenges of social cohesion and what they would like to do to achieve social cohesion. “As a result of all of the consultations, we hope that we get a better sense at the national level or the regional levels of the strategic complimentary actions needed to really bring the society together,” she said.

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