Indigenous leaders’ objections to LCDS, REDD+ ‘malicious distortion’
The Office of Climate Change (OCC) last night described the objections by some indigenous leaders to the LCDS and REDD+ policies as “malicious misrepresentations and distortions” and a deliberate attempt to mislead the public on the two policies.
The OCC referred to articles published in this newspaper and the Kaieteur News following a statement issued after a workshop on ‘Indigenous Peoples Rights, Extractive Industries and National Development Policies in Guyana.’ The statement had, among other things, called for the policies to be shelved until free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) guidelines for land use are in place.
In a statement late last night, the OCC reiterated that the LCDS and REDD+ processes have demonstrated openness, transparency, accountability, availability of information and public participation.
It said from the onset the LCDS sensitisation education and consultation process was designed and implemented in accordance with international best practice. Further, the statement said, an independent international NGO, the London-based International Institute for Environmental Development (IIED), provided monitoring of the entire stakeholder engagement process of the LCDS and concluded that the “the LCDS has established the principle of FPIC as the standard for Amerindian communities.”
As such, the OCC labelled the statement, which said that land rights and right to free, prior and informed consent are not respected in Guyana, as being “inaccurate and appalling”.
“This assertion is furthest from the truth. There are democratic institutions in operation in Guyana to ensure that Amerindian rights are respected and in particular the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs,” the statement said.
According to the OCC, in order to ensure transparency of the LCDS, stakeholder consultations were held to ensure the participation of all with a representation from a wide-cross section of society. It said that Amerindian non-governmental organisations were invited to participate in the consultations and all accepted the invitation except the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), a major player in the recent conference.
“The OCC wishes to categorically reiterate that the APA and some chosen community representatives cannot purport to be more representative of Guyana’s indigenous peoples than the National Toshaos Council (NTC) whose members are elected in an open and democratic process. The council has been an integral part of the LCDS process from the beginning,” the statement said.
The OCC found the call by the leaders for the establishment of satellite telecommunications and internet facilities in the hinterland villages “interesting” stating that at the same time they speak against the LCDS which calls for the use of REDD+ funds for development of information technology for hinterland communities.
“With regard to the claim of respect for Amerindian rights, government has always stated that titled Amerindian villages have the right to opt in or not to opt in,” the statement said. It said that should the villages opt in they would benefit from direct funds to their communities and those who opt out will benefit from the development opportunities available to the rest of the country from the LCDS.
“There is absolutely no coercion or compulsion for any Amerindian village to opt into a REDD Plus Scheme,” the OCC said.