No group of Amerindians living in voluntary isolation
TOSHAOS and Regional Chairmen of the 10 administrative regions yesterday declared that Guyana does not have any existing group of indigenous people living in isolation. This declaration came following a presentation by Project Coordinator- Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Sharon Austin, on the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation (ACTO) with particular emphasis on indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation and initial contact.
Austin and Toshao of Annai, Region 9, Michael Williams, will be in Brazil for the ACTO conference in August to share the Guyana Government’s policy towards indigenous peoples, which includes access to education, health, land titling and provisions in the constitution for their uplift.
Austin made her presentation at the 5th National Toshaos Council (NTC) meeting being held at the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC), Liliendaal under the theme, “Consolidating and Expanding Frontiers for Amerindian Development.”
In an effort to ensure the Toshaos understood the term ‘voluntary isolation’, NTC Chairperson and Toshao Yvonne Pearson explained that the term refers to indigenous persons who have left their communities, willingly, for various reasons to live by themselves.
She further explained that living in a ‘remote community’ is different from living in ‘voluntary isolation’, since those persons living in isolation do not access education, health care or any other governmental services made available for them.
Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, reiterated this point by making reference to Konashen, also known as Masakenari, which was once a remote/isolated community; however, “by choice they sought not to be isolated and they are one of the most connected villages today.”
Minister Sukhai emphasised that the delegation going to Brazil next month has the opportunity to examine Konashen’s experience and share Guyana’s approach with regard to integrating the community with not only other Amerindian communities, but into national development, as well.
Bertie Xavier, Toshao of Wowetta, suggested that the two representatives attending ACTO’s conference next month strongly enforce the model that has been implemented in Guyana, and showed its progress over the year; this has to be promoted on the international scene.
Several of the Toshaos, particularly those in Region 9, made mention of tribal groups in Brazil which are in isolation and do not benefit from the same services as they do.
Austin indicated that the project was approved in February 2011, following a two - year consultation with the member countries and is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for its strategic framework to protect indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation and initial contact.
At the first meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of ACTO, they determined three topics that guide ACTO’s agenda, these include indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation and initial contact, protection of traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and other tribal communities, and land and territories of indigenous peoples and other tribal communities.
She disclosed that the project aims to help protect indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation and initial contact by defining the effective policies and consensual actions among governments, indigenous organisations and NGOs. Additionally, it aims to develop a strategic framework to protect indigenous peoples that inter-connect countries where they live, thus safeguarding their physical and cultural integrity.
Austin highlighted that the programme has five components that include an inter -institutional regional and coordination mechanism supported by the national entities, a concerted strategic framework that incorporates measures to protect physical and cultural integrity, an action plan containing territorial protection measures including legal protection, physical control of the activities developed by external agents in the territories occupied by these people, a regional health care strategy that includes a technical standard for prevention in health with a causal approach and emergency health systems inhabited by these people, and systemised data and knowledge on the situation of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation and capacity development and commitment to protect them.
ACTO was initially signed in 1978 by the Governments of Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela, to carry out efforts and actions to promote harmonious development in Amazonian territories. In 1998, the countries decided to establish ACTO with the purpose of strengthening cooperation and joint action of the countries in the region to promote sustainable development that will benefit its people.
This process was finalized in December 2002, in Brazil, and now ACTO is operational. (GINA)