Director of Environment, Nidibi Schwiers, believes that Guyana has found itself in a unique position where it can learn from the mistakes of others in the oil industry. She warns, however, that the nation must avoid the pitfalls that come with oil money.
Schwiers made these and other remarks at a recent consultative session held at the Grand Coastal Inn, Le Ressouvenir, East Coast Demerara.
There, the Ministry of the Presidency, through the Department of Environment, conducted another Green Strategy awareness workshop targeting local government officials from the Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs), and Municipalities.
The seminar was held in collaboration with the Green State Development Coordination Desk (GSDS), and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to develop a thorough understanding of the framework document.
In this regard, the Ministry of Communities plays a supporting role in the sensitisation of citizens. This is part of Government’s commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Schwiers said that Guyana will soon join other oil producing territories; a situation which would present many challenges for a small developing nation.
She explained that many oil-rich countries, more largely endowed, have fallen into recession due to mismanagement and improperly channeled resources.
However, she said that Guyana will steer its development along two limps: by exploiting the oil resources and ensuring that this is done along a sustainable path.
Schwiers said that Guyana is in a fortunate position where it can learn from the mistakes of others and avoid the hazards and pitfalls that comes with oil money.
“We have the benefit of hindsight and so we can ensure that we avoid these traps,” she said.
The director noted that the green strategy will incorporate the economic as well as the social aspect of the sustainable goals so that these and other goals can be accomplished along a green trajectory.
“I hope that we all can fully engage in this process so that we can spark green conversations wherever we go.”
Also speaking at the workshop was Dr Asha Singh of the Coordination Desk (GSDS). Dr. Singh said that the intention of the seminar was to provide a better understanding of what the GSDS is all about.
She said that officials from the relevant government departments must be able to articulate the Green State Development Strategy to all and sundry.
She expressed her optimism about networking with likeminded agencies to ensure proper collaboration and consultation on what exactly the strategy should contain.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Representative, Mikiko Tanaka, said that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of zero hunger and zero poverty hinges on the protection of the environment since climate change has impacted harshly on the availability of scare resources.
This, she said, presents more complexities for countries that are affected by extreme weather events and are vulnerable because of population size, lack of emergency response and other mitigating factors.
Owing to this reality, the strategy requires the broadest possible consultations with every citizen having their say, the UNDP representative said.
She stressed that in order to achieve these deliverables, there must be buy-in from government, inter-sectoral cooperation and extensive societal acceptance.
Inequalities must be seen in the context of gender gaps, and marginalized and minority groupings such as the disabled, women and children, and the indigenous. She said that it also includes the disparity between hinterland and coastal services.
According to Tanaka, issues relating to inequality and exclusion must also be addressed if countries are to achieve the SDGs within the specified timeframe. She said, “All must be included and none must be left behind”.
Tanaka urged stakeholders to be charters of their future and influencers of change rather than mere beneficiaries and passive recipients of government policies and programmes.
Participants spoke to the absence of pollution, quality air, replanting, proper garbage disposal, good water quality, renewable energy and safe mining as some of the deliverables they would expected in a green economy.
It is anticipated that the consultations would run cross-country to engage stakeholders and groups in discussions with focus on various sub-sectors including transportation, mining, forestry and energy.
Using a multi-pronged approach, among them green infrastructural transformation, sustainable extraction and agricultural productivity as the main thematic areas, the consultations are also expected to explore and document the economic niches that are available.
Government recently secured US$1.5 million from the REDD+ Investment Fund to finance the development of the Strategy.
This financing was approved by the Steering Committee of the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund following the submission of a detailed proposal and work plan.
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