Latest update May 28th, 2023 12:59 AM
Mar 22, 2023 News
– urges strengthening of ERC, collective effort from all sectors
Kaieteur News – Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton has called for a more robust fight against all forms of discrimination, here outlining steps that could be taken to achieve this, which includes the unveiling of a National Action Plan on race relations, gender empowerment, and anti-discrimination and also strengthening of the Ethnic Relations Commission.
In an address to mark the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Norton said the PNCR and the Opposition have stood and fought – and continue to stand and fight against all forms of inequality, injustice, indignity, oppression, and discrimination in Guyana and in the wider world. “While racial discrimination continues to dominate our national discourse and scar our national psyche, let us in no way under-emphasise the reality that many persons often face discrimination because of their ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, gender, social status, residence, and other statuses. Women, for example, face discrimination for their sex alone, but also when their race or religion intersects with their sex. Indigenous people face discrimination not only because of their race or ethnicity, but also because of their relative social and economic disempowerment. Indo-Guyanese face discrimination when they choose to support a party other than the PPP. For us, therefore, a comprehensive national anti-discrimination agenda must focus on achieving harmonious race relations, women empowerment, equality of opportunity for all, and the minimizing of all forms of discrimination,” the Leader of the Opposition said.
This year’s theme for the observance focuses on the urgency of combatting racism and racial discrimination, 75 years after the adoption of the (UDHR). In his address Norton highlighted two of the Articles (Articles 2 and 7) in the historic Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 2 states, in part: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. And Article 7 states: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
“We, in the Opposition, therefore, join in the international call for concrete actions and a united stance to fight inequality and discrimination. Lip service and sporadic actions, however, will not work. Guyana needs a NATIONAL ACTION PLAN on race relations, gender empowerment, and anti-discrimination. Such a plan is not only a moral imperative, but also a key driver of economic growth and social progress. When all Guyanese have the opportunity to reach their full potential, when all Guyanese feel respected and included, we all benefit from their contributions to society,” Norton said.
He added that a national plan or agenda must be built on three distinct but mutually-supporting pillars, all of which are reflected in the Guyana Constitution itself. The first three pillar, Norton said is the fostering of good ethnic and other relations. “For the PNCR and the Opposition, the focus here will be to ensure all citizens feel that their identity, culture, and rights are respected by the state and by their fellow citizens; as well as to ensure citizens of different ethnicities and other identities do not live in silos but can engage and cooperate with one another. Education would be a key factor here. In particular, we need to educate people about the history and experiences of different racial and ethnic groups in Guyana, as well as about the social, economic, and political factors that contribute to racial tension and division. This includes promoting greater cultural exchange and intercultural communication, as well as promoting diversity and inclusion in schools and workplaces. Additionally, political parties and leaders have a critical role to play here. Political leaders should promote a vision of a united and inclusive society, and work towards building consensus and cooperation between different racial and ethnic groups. This includes promoting greater representation and participation of underrepresented groups in the political process, as well as promoting greater dialogue and collaboration between different political parties.”
Secondly, he said the elimination of racial and other forms of discrimination. The focus here is to ensure all prohibited forms of unequal treatment of citizens are eliminated in policies and practices, and in those cases of discrimination that result from unintended consequences and implicit bias. “Here, we must strive to ensure that everyone has equal access to economic opportunities, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or other identities. We must create policies that promote equal opportunity, and we must also work to eliminate discrimination in all its forms. We need a government that will proactively establish policies that address these issues. We need to address the immediate needs of communities in all ten Regions that are most affected by poverty, inequality, and discrimination. This means providing targeted support for education, health care, gainful employment, and basic services, as well as addressing barriers to economic opportunity and assets such as access to finance, land, social safety net, and affordable housing.”
The third pillar is the promotion of equity and equal opportunity. Norton said “we must ensure that even in the absence of discrimination, efforts are made to level the playing field and to secure opportunities and resources for disadvantaged ethnic and social groups. In building on these three pillars, we must all subscribe to some common values and principles on race relations, and anti-discrimination in general.”
The Leader of the Opposition said in Guyana, it is past time to shift the national dialogue to the formulation and implementation of concrete actions. He noted that on several occasions over the past year, “we, in the Opposition, have described the specific actions we would support and execute to combat all forms of discrimination and to promote race relations. We will: boost the capability and impact of the Ethnic Relations Commission, the Public Procurement Commission, the Women and Gender Equality Commission, the Human Rights Commission, and the Indigenous Rights Commission — through increased funding, prompt appointments and re-appointments of commissioners, and the facilitating of international technical support. These agencies must become true change agents.”
Additionally, he proposed the implementation of Ethnic Impact Assessments as a requirement for every major government programme or policy. Such assessments, Norton said must identify and mitigate/eliminate problems that may unduly (intentionally or unintentionally) create or exacerbate racial and other inequalities.
He also called for the activation of the Fiscal Transfer Act to “provide for the formulation and implementation of objective criteria for the purpose of the allocation of resources to local democratic organs” thereby reducing discrimination against communities regardless of their voting patterns or social profiles; create an equitable social protection and assistance system that is structured and professionalised. Delivery of benefits will be managed and manned by a modern public service, and not by ministers and other party hacks walking around with the people’s money in bags.
“We are at a critical moment in our country’s history. Further, division and disunity will only rob us of the realisation of our full potential as a people, while the PPP’s friends, families, and favorites get rich through corruption. We must come together as one nation and confront the challenges we face. We must work towards a more equitable society, where all Guyanese have access to economic opportunities and can live with dignity and respect,” Norton noted.
No contracts cast in stone, except Norton and Jagdeo own!
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