Vulnerable groups in Guyana and the Caribbean say they could be denied European Union (EU) funds being administered by the regional trade and integration bloc, CARICOM.
The groups making the claim include organizations that represent drug users, orphans and vulnerable children, commercial sex workers and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people.
The groups claim they have been left out of the definition of “civil society” in a proposal by CARIFORUM, which is made up of the 15-nation CARICOM and the Dominican Republic. The possible funding of 4.5 million Euros would be administered by CARICOM.
Representatives of the various groups argue that if the proposal goes through they would be missing out on much needed funds.
Further, Dr. John Waters, who represents vulnerable groups in the Dominican Republic, claims that vulnerable groups in that country were not even consulted.
Ian McKnight, the executive Director of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, said the funding is being made available under the 10th European Development Fund and is intended to enable civil society groups to be “front and centre” in the decision-making process.
He said that if the proposal goes ahead and excludes vulnerable groups from the definition of civil society, then that would represent a “threat” to these groups.
He accused CARICOM of being selective in using the term “vulnerable” groups when it suits its purpose, such as seeking funding from the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Waters, mentioned earlier, said that by excluding vulnerable groups in the proposal for the EU funding, CARICOM was in fact “diluting” the concept of civil society.
The resort to a public outcry is part of the groups’ strategy to force a change in the proposal that would be more favourable to them.
Miriam Edwards, who represents a group of commercial sex workers, insisted that vulnerable groups would not give up in their fight.
“We are not prepared to be left out anymore,” Edwards said at a press conference held at Moray House in Georgetown.
The groups have written a letter to Irwin LaRocque, the Secretary-General of CARICOM.
“One can only wonder if prejudice and discrimination is the source of the resistance in including the populations long considered vulnerable populations, from inclusion in the project,” the groups stated in their letter.
“It would appear that it would be disingenuous to have one definition of vulnerable population when it suits the Community in their negotiations with the Global Fund and then to allow technocrats to exclude those same populations because of their personal prejudices and phobias,” the groups further charged.
The groups want the CARICOM Secretary General to clarify how men who have sex with men, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people, sex workers, orphans and vulnerable children, migrant populations, people who use drugs (PWUD) would be reached with capacity building activities under the 10th European development Fund.
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