Toshaos agree by majority vote on resolution to fast track Norway forest funds
Amerindian leaders have agreed by majority vote to a resolution calling for the fast-tracking of the institutional requirements for the release of the Norway funds critical to the implementation of projects under the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). The accord emanated on day two of the 5th National Toshaos Council (NTC) meeting where Amerindian leaders gathered in consultation at the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC). After discussions among the indigenous body, the document was presented to President Bharrat Jagdeo today at the closing of the conference. The resolution reiterates the firm commitment by the indigenous people to protect forests in response to the national call for development, a move which they see lends support for the achievement of the LCDS goals.
It also affirms the desire of the Amerindians to protect their heritage and welfare and the continued contribution and strengthened partnership that will enhance the development of all Guyanese. The declaration also echoes the frustration and disappointment in the lengthy delay in the release of the Guyana REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Investment Fund (GRIF) and the hindrance which the impasse has on village development.
It also calls on the Governments of Guyana and Norway to “urgently intervene so that the release of the funds is expedited.” The resolution follows public knowledge that the Guyana/Norway funds were committed for the funding of national projects including the distribution of solar power units to the hinterland including the completion of land titling and demarcation of Amerindian lands and Community Development Projects (CDPs).It affirmed that the aforementioned plans are in accordance with the principles of free prior and informed consent at the village level.
“We also welcome the agreement between the government of Guyana and the Kingdom of Norway and acknowledge the direct and indirect benefits of the MOU for the Amerindian villages and communities and Guyana as a whole,” the resolution stated. The resolution was appraised at the last National Toshao Council (NTC) executive meeting and given the green light but during the closing session many Amerindian leaders ventilated their disappointment in the fact that the funds are still being held up.
Toshao of Annai Michael Williams questioned the rationale behind the impasse, suggesting that an audience be sought between the financial intermediary and the Amerindian leaders for an answer. Toshao of Rivers’ View Melena Pollard said she is burdened with daily questions from residents in the area about the release of the funds.
At the opening of the NTC President Jagdeo assured the Toshaos that despite the delay in the disbursement of the forest based carbon incentives earned from Norway, the solar panel project that Government has identified to bring electricity to households in the hinterland will move ahead as planned. Acknowledging the few leaders in the Upper Mazaruni district who may have difficulty in agreeing to the resolution, President Jagdeo stated that Government will not force them to do what they do not want to do. “We respect the Amerindian communities and the rights of Amerindian Leaders to do what their people request,” he said.
However, he noted that, “we have a duty to go to those communities and the Minister and a team will go and ask the people whether they want the money from Norway to be spent in their communities and let the people say whether they want it or not. If the people say no, then that is perfectly fine with us we will spend it in the villages that want it,” he said.