With the aim of gaining more community participation in the issue of security, the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) through community outreaches has been soliciting public support.
Its most recent attempt was on Monday last when a public conference was held at City Hall. The forum was characteristic of a near four-hour long session of intense dialogue, discussions, deliberations, exchange of views and ideas, making recommendations for a better city and how to create a better Guyana.
Participants who totaled approximately 160 came from all wards of the city. Believed to be a success, the forum represents the sixth to be held of recent but is the 54th Conference to be hosted by the Commission under its Neighbourhood Conference Project which commenced on July 27, 2009.
The theme of the conferences is ‘Enhancing local capacity for participation in governance and in the development of initiatives to resolve conflicts and contribute to community security’.
The specific objectives are to encourage active participation by community members in the establishment of effective Neighbourhood Democratic Councils, to enable community members to develop the capacity and skills to work together for the good of the community and to equip communities with dispute resolution skills.
The conference attracted senior officials of the Mayor and City Council, representatives of religious and civil society organisations, public servants and rank and file citizens.
Despite efforts by one participant to disrupt the Conference by making spurious statements and baseless allegations, the conference went ahead and concluded with participants signing the pledge.
The strategy employed by the Commission in equipping participants of the conference with Conflict Resolution and Negotiation Skills proved successful as the participants were very interactive during the presentation of the Case Study.
During this exercise, residents were placed into groups to review a case study under the guidance of trained facilitators.
The case study highlights a conflict scenario between two communities. At the end, they are asked to report on lessons learnt.
The Conference facilitated an open discussion where residents informed the Commission of problems affecting the communities and how they can be solved. The recommendations/suggestions and views expressed at the conferences will be shared with the relevant stakeholders for their attention and action.
Among the issues raised in the discussion were lack of maintenance for drainage and irrigation systems within the city, lack of employment opportunities for the youths, drug abuse and garbage collection.
Officials of the Mayor and City Council were listening attentively while these issues were being raised. The ERC had a Complaints Desk at the Conference.
The recommendations/suggestions and views expressed at the Conference will be compiled into a report and sent to the National Assembly and all other stakeholders and local Government bodies for them to know the needs of the communities and those that the residents have prioritised.
This will also equip the ERC with answers to deal with the issues that fall within its mandate.
The Commission plans to hold the Hamlet/Chance Neighbourhood Conference on Tuesday, December 8, while the New Amsterdam Municipal Conference will be held on Friday, December 11, 2009.
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