Human development and hinterland advancement
Development would be meaningless unless peoples’ lives could be improved. Human development is at the core of ensuring a ‘good life’. It recognises the importance of improving people’s lives – especially in the four fields of education, health, livelihood and social protection.
Human development aims at ensuring the ‘good life’ for all. Indigenous people inhabit all ten administrative regions of Guyana, mainly in the hinterland. Human development in Guyana, therefore, must mean hinterland advancement.
The United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report 1990 noted that:
People are the real wealth of a nation. The basic objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives.
The ‘Report’ emphasised that education, health and decent standards of living are essential to the ‘good life.’ I add a fourth essential element – social protection.
Guyana is moving towards becoming a more inclusive and equal society. This means that hinterland human development is imperative – especially in education, health, livelihood and social protection – the four essential fields of existence and human endeavour.
Hinterland human development has improved appreciably over the past four years. Indigenous peoples are enjoying better access to public education, public health, public information, public infrastructure, public security, public telecommunications and social security.
Progress in these four essential fields of human development – education, health, livelihood and social protection – has been measurable. The persistence and gravity of social ills such as alcoholism, child labour, drug abuse, sexual abuse and teenage pregnancies, however, should not be allowed to derail progress on the path to development.
The eradication of these social ills and the elimination of extreme poverty require intensified cooperation among Regional Democratic Councils, the National Toshaos’ Council, Indigenous Village Councils and Central Government, particularly through the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs.
Public education is indisputably a pillar of national development. Your Government has invested $170 B in public education over the last four years and a further $52.2 B committed in 2019. Hinterland education gained a good share of these investments. Hinterland education is being improved and expanded:
Learning resource centres have been established in several regions – at Aishalton, Annai, Bartica, Kato, Lethem, Mabaruma, Monkey Mountain, Paramakatoi, Kamarang, Waramadong and Wauna. Smart classrooms have been installed at Bartica, Mabaruma, Lethem, Paramakatoi, Three-Miles and Santa Rosa.
School-feeding programmes benefit more than 20,000 students, in some form, in 216 hinterland nursery and primary schools and annexes.
The Public Education Transport Service (PETS) is providing bicycles, boats and buses to transport hinterland children to school, including at Annai, Baracara, Coomacka, Mabaruma, Mahdia; Kwakwani, Mainstay-Whyaka, Queenstown, Riversview and for communities in the Lower and Upper Pomeroon River.
Scholarships will be awarded to thirteen top performers at the National Grade Six Assessment from the Rupununi Region by the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs. The number of hinterland scholarships has increased from 110 in 2014 t0 187 in 2018. Hinterland students, also, have been among the beneficiaries of the 1,599 tertiary-level scholarships offered by the Department of the Public Service since 2015.
Residential accommodation benefits two thousand, two hundred and forty (2240) secondary school students in the four hinterland regions – Barima-Waini, Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Potaro-Siparuni and Rupununi.
I commissioned a G$186M Hinterland Student Dormitory, on 15th July 2019 at Lilliendaal, to provide accommodation for 120 hinterland students pursuing tertiary education on the coastland.
Hinterland health services have been upgraded over the past four years and are being expanded further. Health clinics, which provide medical services to indigenous people, have been rehabilitated.
Health professionals have been deployed to the hinterland to boost health-care delivery. Emergency health-care services have been improved with the addition of new water ambulances in riverine neighbourhoods – at Baracara, Karawab, Kwakwani, Moruca, Orealla and St. Monica.
Vaccination and immunisation against preventable diseases have benefitted hinterland communities. Vaccination coverage to help fight preventable diseases reached 90 per cent coverage. Malaria cases – most prevalent in the hinterland – have reduced from 17,599 reported cases in 2014 to 11,000 cases in 2018.
Potable water supply is helping to improve health by reducing the risk of water-borne diseases and enhancing sanitation. Water systems were, or are in the process of being, improved at Kamwatta, Kanuku, Mabaruma, Matthews Ridge, Moco Moco, Port Kaituma, Quiko, Rupunau, Sand Creek, Shiriri, Shulinab, St Ignatius and White Water.
Higher standards of living for indigenous people can be assured by improved access to public services – such as public infrastructure, public telecommunications and public security. Your Government has continued to narrow development gaps between the coastland and hinterland in the provision of these services.
The Hinterland Sustainable Agriculture Development Programme has improved food security through the expansion of hinterland agriculture and agro-processing in the Barima-Waini, Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Potaro-Siparuni and Rupununi Regions. Hinterland farmers have benefitted from the services provided by the programme.
The Hinterland Employment Youth Service (HEYS) and the Youth Entrepreneurship and Skills Training (YEST) programme have been stimulating jobs and entrepreneurship within indigenous communities. Jobs are important in providing incomes for households and in diversifying and stimulating village economies.
Hinterland infrastructure has been transformed over the past four years. More than 30 hinterland aerodromes have been rehabilitated to improve air transport links. 350 km of hinterland roads have been rehabilitated and maintained. Roads have been upgraded in the four new capital towns – at Bartica, Mabaruma, Mahdia and Lethem. Works have been done to major roads linking Rockstone to Mabura, Kurupukari to Annai, and Linden to Mabura.
A new bridge was constructed across the Moruca River to replace the dilapidated structure. Other bridges have been built or repaired at Papaya, Cassandra Crossing, Sand Creek, Aishalton, Paruima, Hosororo, Surama, Wakapao and Kwatamang.
Telecommunication connectivity has been improved in hinterland communities. ICT hubs have been established in 171 communities – including in Aishalton, Annai, Baramita, Bartica, Iwokrama, Kato, Karasabai, Masakenari, Port Kaituma, Mabaruma, Matthew’s Ridge, Mahdia, Paramakatoi, Sand Creek, Santa Rosa, St. Ignatius and Waramadong. ICT hubs are scheduled to be established at Kaikan, Jawalla, Phillipai, Paruima, Kako, Rewa, Surama, Toka and Wiruni this year.
Birth and death registration services have been extended by the Department of Citizenship. Legal services, including the registration of businesses have been extended through the creation of new magisterial districts in Linden and Lethem, now a capital town; the commissioning of courts at Karasabai and Aishalton and the construction of a new magistrates’ court at Mahdia, now, also, a capital town.
Business development will offer greater opportunities, including employment for people. Your Government is working to expand businesses within our hinterland regions. It is establishing new business registration hubs in six of our Regions to make it easier to register companies. Industrial estates are being developed at Lethem in the Rupununi and at Belvedere in the East Berbice-Corentyne Region.
A Frontier Villages’ Policy was unveiled in 2018 to improve the security of border communities. The ‘Policy’ is helping to make hinterland border communities safe from attacks from ‘sindicatos’ and incursions by illegal miners and contraband smugglers.
New police divisions have been established for the Barima-Waini, Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Potaro-Siparuni and the Rupununi.
Social protection is integral to human development. It is necessary to protect citizens and to ensure that they enjoy decent and dignified lives, free from abuse and deprivation.
The Ministry of Social Protection has been making interventions to improve hinterland social protection services, in collaboration with other Government Ministries. The situation which we inherited in May 2015, was disturbing.
The Ministry of Social Protection in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) undertook a survey of women and children in Guyana – entitled, A Situational Analysis of Children and Women in Guyana – in the period 2015-2016. I highlight some of the Report’s distressing findings as they relate to indigenous women and children:
children living in indigenous communities have three times more chance of having diarrhoea than children in other parts of the country;
children living in indigenous communities have the highest rate of acute respiratory infection and stunting of all ethnicities;
four out of ten indigenous children are believed to be involved in some form of child labour;
six out every ten indigenous children were not attending nursery school in 2014;
one in every five indigenous boys and girls was not attending secondary school; and
the highest incidence of poverty is to be found in the hinterland.
These and other social maladies could hamper the development of indigenous communities. The situation is serious and suggests urgent action and cooperation among all the stakeholders, including government and the National Toshaos’ Council. The Ministry of Social Protection has:
intensified its anti-human trafficking campaign and taken steps to reduce labour violations in the mining sector;
increased training and awareness education programmes to combat sexual offences and domestic abuse; and
installed Child Advocacy Centres in six regions and will expand these to combat child abuse.
Hinterland development is about human beings, it is about people and we are on the right path. Hinterland development is advancing. Hinterland communities, however, continue to be bedevilled by social ills which act as brake on human development.
I repeat my appeal to the National Toshaos’ Council Conference 2017 to work together to reduce the incidence of alcoholism, incest, murder, non-communicable diseases, people-trafficking, prostitution, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and suicide in certain communities.
I noted then that anti-social behaviour undermines the cultural fabric of communities and lowers everyone’s quality of life. I called attention to the fact that one indigenous community, tragically, had an average of seven suicides per year over the previous decade.
Cooperation among all stakeholders is needed to arrest social decay. The next ten years offers us a critical opportunity to do so.
Sustainable Development Agenda
The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Resolution [a/RES/70/1] entitled Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, on 25th September 2015. The ‘Agenda’ is commonly known as the Sustainable Development Agenda and its political declaration observes that:
All people… [including] indigenous peoples… should have access to life-long learning opportunities that help them to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to exploit opportunities and to participate fully in society.
The ‘Agenda’ established 17 sustainable development goals with corresponding targets and indicators intended to set the world on a path to sustainable development up to the year 2030.
Guyana endorsed the Agenda and incorporated the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its Green State Development Strategy: Vision 2040. The United Nations member states committed themselves to:
…implement the Agenda within our own countries and at the regional and global levels, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.
The ‘Agenda’ affirms the right of each Government to determine how the SDGs aspirational and global targets will be incorporated into national planning processes, policies and strategies. I urge the NTC to pay attention to the SDGs to help to incorporate them into their own planning for the next ten years.
Decade of Development 2020-2029
The Decade of Development 2020-2029, will be launched next year 2020. The ‘Decade’ aims at promoting a more equal society in which everyone would feel a sense of belonging and share in national development. The objectives of the ‘Decade’ will be aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The ‘Decade’ will promote measures aimed at closing the development gaps between the hinterland and coastland. It will aim at ensuring that indigenous peoples, inter alia, would not be left behind. It will seek to promote measures aimed at solving the social problems which handicap indigenous peoples and hamper human development.
The SDGs are important to human development. Their targets and indicators are useful measures by which to assess progress during the Decade of Development in addressing human development:
SDG No. 1 has as its aim, to: End poverty in all its forms everywhere. It [Target 1.1] calls for states to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere. The Decade of Development will allow us, by 2029, to eradicate extreme poverty in Guyana.
SDG No. 2 has as its aim to: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. It [Target 2.1] calls on countries to end hunger by 2030 and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round. The Decade of Development will aim at ensuring that, by 2029, no indigenous child goes to bed hungry, no indigenous community would be unsafe and that nutritious and sufficient food all year round.
SDG No. 3 has as its aim, to: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. It [Target 3.9] calls on states to reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination substantially.
Water safety and sanitation is vital to achieving this target. Hinterland creeks and rivers must be protected from pollution, including from mining effluent and mercury. These waterways are still used by our indigenous peoples for bathing, drinking, cooking, fishing and washing. They must be kept clean.
We are a signatory to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Guyana is committed to phasing out the use of mercury in the gold-mining sector by 2030, on condition that viable alternatives to mercury can be found. The Decade of Development will promote safe water, sanitation and hygiene services (WASH) for indigenous communities.
– SDG No. 4 has as its aim, to: Encourage inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. It [Target 4.4] requires that all boys and girls complete free equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes, by 2030. It [Target 4.4] requires a substantive increase in the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills for employment and entrepreneurship. The Decade of Development will ensure that, by 2029, all indigenous children have universal access to both primary and secondary education and an increase by 50 per cent in the number of youths and adults who are trained in technical and vocational skills.
The Decade of Development aims at eliminating hunger; ensuring food security, safe water and hygiene; enabling everyone to access universal primary and secondary education and expanding technical and vocational training opportunities for indigenous peoples.
I have identified five targets which are achievable and which would improve substantively the quality of life of indigenous peoples by 2029. I believe that these are realistic goals which can be achieved within the next ‘Decade.’ I urge this National Toshaos’ Council Conference 2019 to endorse these five fields of action for inclusion in the objectives of the Decade of Development 2020-2029.
National Toshaos’ Council
The National Toshaos’ Council’s Conferences are annual opportunities to expedite plans for social and economic improvement. They are occasions for indigenous leaders to review the progress they made in developing their villages, to renew their commitment to improve the lives and livelihoods of their people and to repair or remodel their village improvement plans (VIPs) for future years.
The National Toshaos’ Council (NTC), in accordance with the Amerindian Act, is responsible for the preparation of plans for promoting hinterland human development. The Council must do so. I look forward to working with the National Toshaos’ Council to further hinterland human development.
We have made great progress in hinterland human development over the past four years. There is still much more work to be done. The gap between hinterland and coastal areas remains wide. I iterate that:
People are the real wealth of a nation. The basic objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives.
I am confident that we will make a real and lasting positive impact in ensuring that the essentials of human development – education, health, decent standards of living and social protection – are realised within the next ten years.