The Office of the Vice President has taken note of the Press Release issued by the Amerindian Peoples’ Association (APA) dated 15th April, 2023. This Release is regarding APA’s Complaint to the Architecture for REDD+ Transaction Secretariat (the certifying body for Guyana’s carbon programme), to suspend the issuance of carbon credits to Guyana and, therefore, future payments to Amerindian villages and local communities.
At the recently held Press Conference by the Hon. Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, the public was informed of the complaint that was issued, in secret, by the APA, who recommended that the ART Secretariat suspends all future issuances of credits.
The Office of the Vice President invites the public to note the letter to the editor from Toshao Derrick John, Chairman of the National Toshaos’ Council, published in today’s edition of Stabroek News. The NTC Chairman stated unequivocally, that the APA did not inform or consult with indigenous villages, the National Toshaos Council, or any representative group of the Indigenous Peoples of Guyana. This violates the principles of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) – including the principle that villages and communities should be free to give or refuse their consent on matters which impact on them, through their own village-led processes.
The Office of the Vice President reiterates that political neutrality is a virtue that the APA cannot claim. As a non-governmental organization, the APA’s members and leadership are free to engage in partisan politics, including standing for election. However, when purporting to represent non-partisan interests, it is important to declare relevant political allegiances to ensure transparency, and uphold credibility. It is therefore relevant to point out that leading members of the APA are – and have been – politically active, including the Executive Director of the APA, Ms Jean La Rose, who was the Deputy Representative of the list of political party candidates of the PNC-Led Coalition which was in government between 2015 and 2020. Ms La Rose was a leading candidate within the PNC-led Coalition’s list in the 2015 elections, and while she failed to win a seat in the National Assembly, the then-President appointed her to a senior Board position within the Coalition Government. This should be declared as it has bearing on her commentary about public policy under various administrations.
The APA is well aware that every report of the ART TREES process is publicly available for perusal. The APA’s complaint refers to the structure of the Verification Reports, the sections of the Guyana Application documents under ART, all of which prove that they have read and are aware of the public reporting process under ART. These very reports present the background and reasons supporting the Independent Verifier issuing full approval for Guyana’s credits.
The Office of the Vice President notes that the APA is also deliberately hiding their involvement in the very audit process about which they are complaining about. As part of the audit of Guyana’s application for 2016-2020, the independent verifier conducted an assessment mission to Guyana in April 2022. Field visits were made to several Indigenous Villages to inform their findings. Further, the verifier engaged with multiple stakeholders in more than 20 sessions – a key aspect of the public scoping in the audit process.
The APA was invited and participated in the independent verifier’s session. Additionally, the APA was also invited at the end of this stakeholder meeting, to follow up with the auditor should this be needed. The APA made no such request and expressed no request for follow-up or concern to the Auditors in the Audit Process. They chose instead to trigger a complaints process for no apparent, justifiable reason.
The Office of the Vice President contends that APA cannot justifiably say they were not engaged as the evidence available to the public proves otherwise. In fact, for over two years, the APA has been invited by the Office of the President to participate in, and to help lead, consultations across Guyana concerning the LCDS 2030 and ART-TREES. However, the APA was very selective in engaging in the consultation that it has now raised grievances about.
For example, the APA was asked to join other stakeholders on the LCDS Communications Sub-Committee– yet did not attend meetings or participate in any way. They neglected – even though they made an initial offer – to come up with suggestions on addressing some challenges during the national consultations process, such as identifying translators fluent in local languages, leaving this work to others. Yet, included in their complaint to the ART Secretariat, is a claim of lack of translation into the local indigenous languages.
Furthermore, the APA was asked – like other members of the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee – to participate in and lead consultations. Unlike other members of the Steering Committee who led consultations, and gathered input and feedback, the APA never fulfilled this responsibility. The Public should note that after the consultation period was completed, other members of the Steering Committee discovered hundreds of copies of the draft LCDS 2030, given to the APA to help with distribution and consultation, were still sitting in the APA’s headquarters in the city. The Office of the Vice President is aware that resources were provided to assist with the distribution of the draft LCDS to communities all across the country
Yet now the APA raises unspecific complaints about a consultation it intentionally did not participate in and seeks to drown out the views and voices of indigenous leaders and other local and international stakeholders who participated and made very valuable contributions to the consultations process.
The APA’s main concern as expressed in their Press Release centers on triggering their default position for any programme that will benefit Amerindian People – there needs to be more consultations and, that development cannot take place unless the conditions and ultimatums they set are met to their satisfaction. This is a position that the APA will struggle to justify by facts and is entirely unacceptable. The facts show that the initial three-month consultation period, announced by His Excellency the President in October 2021, was extended to a seven-month long process of consultations on Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy 2030, and executed from December 2021 to June 2022. The draft LCDS 2030 for public consultation is presented in a publicly available 315 Page Report – https://lcds.gov.gy/summary-of-feedback/ providing records showing 𝐞𝐱𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐝𝐮𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐋𝐂𝐃𝐒 𝟐𝟎𝟑𝟎 and showing names of persons consulted, dates and minutes of discussions, including some of the persons now putting forward inaccurate information.
Thousands of persons were consulted, starting with four-hour cluster sessions, which covered in excess of 200 Indigenous Communities over the seven-month period. During these sessions, Guyana’s jurisdictional/national approach to ART TREES was consulted on and the benefits-sharing mechanism was a main part of each session. The sessions led to suggestions, that in turn, informed the evolution of the benefits-sharing mechanism that was documented in the July 2022 version of the LCDS; this was then reviewed by the National Toshaos’ Council and other key stakeholders.
Guyana’s ART TREES engagement was also (i) consulted on at the National Toshaos’ Conference in July 2022 and a resolution passed supporting this engagement: https://lcds.gov.gy/endorsement-of-lcds-2030-by-the…/; (ii) approved by a Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee overseeing the LCDS: https://lcds.gov.gy/mssc-approves-finalisation-of-ldcs-2030/; and (iii) tabled and debated in the Parliament of Guyana with a resolution passed in August 2022: https://lcds.gov.gy/parliamentary-resolution-lcds-2030/. The Endorsement, Approval and Resolution each outline the focus of the LCDS 2030, Guyana’s Jurisdictional ART TREES engagement, and the proposed benefits-sharing mechanism which were all part of this process of review and debate.
The APA’s accusations are also unfounded as the Government is on record in saying that consultation is not a one-off process. As the LCDS 2030 moves into implementation, and revenues are available through the benefit-sharing mechanism, individual villages will have the opportunity to continuously deepen their engagement as set out in the Strategy, which emphasizes the ongoing nature of village-led village sustainability plans which must be approved following the engagement of villagers. Each year, opportunities will be provided for input.
The APA makes claims that remarks were made in the consultations that were not captured in the 315-page report on the consultation. The APA – like all members of the Steering Committee – were asked to review the 315-page report before it was finalized and to raise any issues and recommend changes. The public should note that the APA opted to absent themselves from those meetings which considered stakeholders’ feedback and later claimed they had the meeting dates confused.
Guyanese citizens – including indigenous peoples and members of local forest communities – have a lot to be proud of in Guyana’s long-standing stewardship of the forests. They are creating a pathway to overcoming difficult issues for which there are no straightforward answers, and where the world will benefit from these solutions. Most Guyanese stakeholders are demonstrating innovation and dedication in identifying solutions, as well as respect for others who are wholeheartedly participating in the process.
The Office of the Vice President is concerned and disheartened that thousands of citizens across hundreds of indigenous villages and local communities who are working hard to identify how to advance developmental priorities for their people – are totally unaware that the APA has called for the suspension of the finances to fund these priorities they are formulating for their future.
The APA’s recent efforts fall woefully short on transparency and accountability is needed by the Guyanese public now that they have been called out. The APA should also provide answers, as the Chairman of the NTC has done in his letter to the Editor of the Stabroek Newspapers, has demanded.
The public must be told why the APA is seeking to prevent the process of village planning in each community? Why should this process to develop villages utilizing revenues from the carbon credits programme be frozen? And why would APA, in good faith, prevent Indigenous villages and local communities from accessing carbon credits revenue from 2016 that are already in their bank accounts? What option does the APA offer the 242 villages and communities to meet their most pressing needs, and those they have developed for their own development?
These answers will be hard to come by for the APA, as it reveals their true motive of sacrificing the development of Amerindian villages, to foster their political motives. They are not protecting the rights of Amerindian people; the APA is taking that right away from Guyana’s first people.
𝐎𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐕𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭