– Embassy denies any “hidden US Govt. agenda”
By Latoya Giles
Guyana and the United States have reached a final agreement on the design and implementation of the US-funded Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) Project.
This announcement was made yesterday during a joint press briefing between Chargé d’ Affaires for the US Embassy, Bryan Hunt and Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon.
In declaring the agreement, Hunt emphasised that he must reiterate that there is no “hidden US government agenda” being presented in the project.
He opined that the conclusion of the bilateral agreement is a cause for celebration, as it marks the culmination of several months of fruitful discussions on the ways in which two countries can collaborate on shared democratic values.
Hunt said that while the discussions have been lengthy and, at times, challenging, in the end, both sides feel that the LEAD project’s design and implementation mechanisms are now stronger. The programme has benefitted from the additional review and consultations that have been undertaken.
He noted that with the leadership of Dr. Luncheon, along with the input of his Cabinet colleagues, the venture will be able to stand as a model of collaboration and innovative development assistance for democratic governance.
Hunt noted that the willingness of the government to participate ensures that the LEAD project will accurately reflect the needs and interests of all Guyanese stakeholders.
“The Programme can now embark on its important work of facilitating conversations and undertaking activities that will hopefully yield to consensus and collaboration between all stakeholders that serve Guyana’s national interests,” Hunt said.
“As we move rapidly from negotiation to renewed project implementation, it is important to recognize the shared importance that all stakeholders and beneficiaries of the programme place on inclusive democratic governance,” he said.
Hunt said that it is hoped that the LEAD Project, one designed to promote understanding and active participation in democratic governance, will contribute to enhancing democracy and its positive values that all Guyanese share and desire for their country.
He noted that the newly designed programme appropriately recognizes that Guyana’s democratic future is one that must, at its core, be shaped by Guyanese. Hunt said that it seeks not to define the democratic future, but rather to support Guyanese stakeholders in defining it for themselves.
“It will provide tools, international expertise, and opportunities to help facilitate conversations and activities on important national issues,” Hunt said.
It was stated that at all times, the programme will act to support Guyanese stakeholders in being the driving force in identifying relevant issues and with developing solutions to address identified problems.
Hunt maintained that the two countries have sought to develop implementation and coordination mechanisms, foremost in their minds to ensure that Guyanese institutions are fundamentally defining the agenda for both the LEAD programme and the country’s democratic advancement.
To that end, he said, they have sought to provide existing Guyanese institutions: the National Assembly, the Guyana Elections Commission, the Gender and Equality Commission, and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport with leading roles in coordination of LEAD activities.
“Despite any modifications that we have made to programme activities and implementation tools, the redesigned LEAD programme’s fundamental objectives remain the same,” Hunt stressed.
He said that the project is aimed at strengthening the work of the National Assembly and building consensus around important national issues; civic education for local government elections, and encouraging greater participation in civic life by women and youth.
“At the same time, it is our hope that the opportunities for reflection and discussion that will be provided through LEAD programme activities will assist Guyanese of all political viewpoints to come together and chart a common way forward that reflects and protects Guyanese national interests,” Hunt posited.
He maintained that the programme’s only agenda is to assist Guyanese in charting and strengthening the democratic future that they, themselves, identify for their country.
“The success of the LEAD Programme in meeting its objectives will fundamentally depend on the continued goodwill and participation of a broad cross-section of Guyanese stakeholders in politics, in civil society, and in the public service,” the Chargé d’ Affaires said.
Meanwhile, Glenn Bradbury has returned to Guyana to head the implementation of the project under the International Republican Institute (IRI). The administration had suspended Bradbury’s work permit; claiming that despite their objection the project was still being implemented.
Dr. Luncheon assured that when the benefits of the project are realized, the citizenry will no doubt admire the work put into the design and implementation.
Meanwhile, Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Luncheon clarified that there were two interventions, one which saw more content being added to the programme and another which ensured a fuller elaboration on the process through which the project is to be implemented. Luncheon said also, that he was happy that the two countries have met an agreement with regards to the project.
“A mutually acceptable regime was all government insisted as an outcome,” Luncheon told the media. Moreover, he said that government was relying more on the process that has been agreed to.
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