President David Granger: Minster of State, [Honourable Joseph Harmon]; Honourable Dominic Gaskin, Minster of Business; Ms. Ndibi Schwiers, Director of the Department of Environment; commissioners; chairmen; chiefs of various agencies, commissions and boards; members of the Green Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen.
First of all I would like to thank you for coming here this morning at the start of our monsoon season, so you get practical exposure and experience of our environment. This meeting, of course, is long overdue and we have taken a pledge to make sure it is conducted much more frequently so that we can pay closer attention and more intense attention to the issues that we need to confront as we move towards becoming a ‘green’ state.
So, my sincere thanks to you for coming and I would like to assure you that the attendance this morning is not final; it is not cast in stone we want to establish a consultative process and if there are others who wish to join we would like to hear their voices.
As you know the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee is an important mechanism which demonstrates the resolve of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana- it demonstrates our commitment to establishing an inclusionary system of governance; one that is characterised by consultations, by cooperation and collaboration and most of all by inclusion. We don’t want anybody left out in the rain.
This committee as you know emerged out of an agreement which was signed on the 9th November 2009 between the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Kingdom of Norway; at that time it was aimed at establishing a model of environmental governance. The committee was a key mechanism arising out of that agreement, so in a sense, this committee is, or ought to be eight years old and we need to do much more to ensure that it functions and meets more frequently to fulfil its initial objective.
The MSSC then was intended to ensure that the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) with which we are all familiar; including the REDD-plus (REDD+) Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation were undergirded by both inclusivity and transparency.
The LCDS was an important first step in demonstrating how one country and in this case Guyana, could benefit while providing climate mitigating services for all countries of the world. It represented a model for rewarding countries for their environmental services which their forests provide to the rest of the world.
Guyana expects therefore that once it fulfils its obligations it would receive benefits for the services which it earned and to which it is entitled. Guyana, by reconvening the MSSC, is expanding its mandate to allow it to serve as part of the inclusionary governance architecture of the evolving ‘green’ state.
Guyana is committed to implementing the LCDS; it is committed to honouring its obligations under its agreement with Norway; it is committed to ensuring the framework of governance and consultations are entrenched as part of that agreement.
As you have heard over the last two years Guyana is on the way to becoming a ‘green’ state. This country is developing a ‘green’ development strategy which goes beyond LCDS. This country is committed to adopting a transformative agenda, which involves ‘green’ state development at the household level; at the community level; at the regional level and at the national level; and given my meeting just now with the Secretary General of the ACS- the Association of Caribbean States – at the international level.
It is intended to impact on the livelihoods of each and every citizen. Our green strategy will allow for the protection and preservation of our wildlife; perhaps one of our most precious resources, for the preservation of our lakes-some Guyanese don’t even know we have lakes- our wetlands; some Guyanese like to fill in our wetlands, they don’t realise the rich fauna which inhabit the wetland.
Our waterways- it is such a pain to go into our rivers and see people throwing Styrofoam boxes and plastic bottle in our rivers. Two weeks ago I was in the Pomeroon River and I have never seen so many floating coconut husks so EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] has work to do.
Our ‘green’ strategy will promote the development of eco-tourism and eco-educational tourism- people will want to come here to see our rich flora and fauna. As you can look around this very benab- every post has a photograph of a bird and the only reason you can see only two dozen photographs is because we don’t have nine hundred posts to put a bird on every post.
We want to promote this ecotourism and that is part of our ‘green’ strategy. We want to extend our protected areas system so that every single region could have its own protected areas. Some protected areas are unique. What you find in the Canje you would not find in the Rupununi, what you find in Moruca you would not find in East Berbice.
Our ‘green’ development strategy will fortify the management of our coastal zone. Again, people don’t realise and recognise the value of our mangroves and the value of that coastal zone. A few months ago I [hosted] the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago [Dr. Keith Rowley] for lunch and I showed him where the scarlet ibis came from – among the ones he has too – so we were able to compare notes but when you see our ibises along our coastal zone you realise how precious a country, how precious that coastal zone is.
Our strategy will help us to graduate towards fully renewable energy use. So despite the discovery of petroleum offshore we will still pursue the development of energy from renewable sources, solar, water and wind and of course not least of all; it would allow for the deeper penetration of low carbon, low emission measures including into manufacture.
Guyana, therefore, needs a new development paradigm; one that fosters human development, one that generates growth, one that promotes inclusion, one that reduces economic, political and social marginalisation. Our ‘green’ development aims at human development and specifically at eradicating poverty and inequality, at increasing employment, at promoting sustainable livelihoods and building economic and environmental resilience. The ‘green’ path to development, which we have identified, will guarantee prosperity for all and sustainable human development.
Ladies and gentlemen, the ‘green’ path to development will be defined by a process of sustained consultation and inclusivity. No one, not the government alone, no non-governmental organisation on its own, no international institution on its own, can claim to have a monopoly of knowledge. We must come together.
Stakeholders in a forum like this represent an important repository of accumulated experience and expertise. Guyana’s consultative and inclusive approach will allow for a wider expression of the ‘green’ development strategy.
Public ownership of this strategy will contribute to better understanding. It will contribute to public confidence and public confidence in turn will contribute to the success of the implementation of the strategy. Our consultative and inclusionary approach to human development, particularly to overcome the perils of inequality and poverty is at the core of our philosophy of governance. Consultation and inclusivity are permanent features of our governance.
Ladies and gentlemen, policies arising from this approach enjoy greater public confidence which we want to build. The involvement of stakeholders in decision making is vital to the success of developmental initiatives. It ensures that everyone understands the policies which are being pursued in the public interest. So I hope that we don’t have another gap in meetings of this consultative committee. We now call it the ‘Green’ Multi Stakeholder Steering Committee, the GMSSC and this meeting is evidence of our commitment, is evidence of our desire to ensure that development is not only people centered but it is people driven.
This meeting is intended to become a permanent consultative mechanism which will allow for stakeholder input and participation in the governing mechanism of both the LCDS and the green development strategy. This committee, therefore, has a double mandate; the first is to become part of the government’s framework of the LCDS process; the second is to become an integral part of the consultative mechanism for the ‘green’ development strategy. I look forward to your cooperation. I look forward to your contribution to making Guyana a ‘green’ state, not only for us, not only for our children, but for yet unborn generations.
Thank you very much for coming here this morning and allow me to say that I regret that owing to other commitments I will have to leave you in the tender hands of the Head of the Department of the Environment because I have another meeting to attend…
So thank you very much for coming here and I hope that your discussions will be fruitful.