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–—bemoan proposed 15% share in revenues from forest management
Indigenous leaders, in a joint statement, said Government’s decision to proceed with the drafting of the Local Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) without first consulting them is a breach of their right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
“We consider that our rights to consultation, participation, and FPIC have already been violated because the Government has published this draft LCDS since October 2021 but is only now thinking about consultations with the Indigenous peoples. We have a right to be consulted and provide inputs at the very inception of any strategy being considered for national development,” the Indigenous Leaders said in the statement.
The statement, which dates April 12, was compiled at the conclusion of a LCDS consultative session with representatives of Indigenous groups from across Guyana. Maintaining that their rights have been trampled upon, the Indigenous Leaders said Government must now take corrective steps, firstly by allowing the Village Councils, District Councils and National Toshaos’ Council (NTC) to facilitate the selection of representatives.
“The Government must respect our right to choose who will represent us and sit on any committee that oversees the development process for the LCDS,” they said, noting that the identified representatives must be given the opportunity to consult their communities on developmental matters being discussed at the level of the committee, with a view to provide meaning input.
According to the Indigenous Leaders, the Government must not finalise the LCDS until mechanisms are in place for proper consultation. But for this to happen, there needs to be an urgent holding of transparent elections for the NTC, they said.
Further, the leaders underscored the need for the Government to assist with training as well as the provision of materials to help District and Village Councils better understand the strategy.
“They can either provide the training or provide funding for the NTC and District Councils to organize these trainings with their chosen technical advisors,” the leaders explained while adding that a simplified version of the draft LCDS document would be beneficial. They also made a case for the document to be translated into indigenous languages to allow for effective communication. “The information provided must include statistical data, analyses, or other relevant projections that explain some of the proposals being made. For example, why is the percentage of revenue to be shared to indigenous communities only 15% when we are the protectors and guardians of the majority of forests in Guyana?” they said.
Further, it was submitted that the LCDS document must include a FPIC protocol that sets out minimum guidelines that must be followed by everyone, including the government and non-governmental organisations.
According to the leaders, the LCDS must also commit to urgently revise the Amerindian Act to enshrine the right to FPIC and the right to their lands, territories and resources.
Turning its attention to the issue of Indigenous Land Titling, the leaders submitted that the Government must allocate funds to village to aid with land titling, including preliminary work such as mapping.
“There should be a maximum of a one-year time period to investigate and decide upon land title/extension applications,” they posited, while adding that the NTC should be invited to help develop a plan to finalize all outstanding land claims.
The Amerindian Development Fund, low impact mining and logging, and opt-in mechanism were among other issues alluded to in the statement. “Communities should choose which projects they wish to implement with adequate time to make decisions. Funding should go directly to communities through their district councils…The Government must [also] provide funding, subsidies and training to support indigenous communities who want to do low-impact mining and logging,” they posited.
The leaders are expecting that Government responds favorably to their recommendations through the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA).