More U.S. support to strengthen democracy here By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
October 1, 2002

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THE United States Government has, through the signing of two agreements yesterday with the Guyana Government, authorised an additional US$1.5M for democracy strengthening activities here and a further US$50,000 for the continuation of the U.S./Guyana Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Project.
The two agreements - the U.S./Guyana Democracy and Governance Programme (Amendment No. 5) and the U.S./Guyana Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Project - were signed at the Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Georgetown.

The first agreement was signed by Acting Foreign Minister, Ms. Gail Teixeira and U.S. Ambassador, Mr. Ronald Godard while the second agreement was signed between Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Secretary to the Defence Board, Dr. Roger Luncheon and Ambassador Godard. Both agreements were also signed by Mission Director of the USAID/Guyana Programme, Dr. Mike Sarhan.

The agreement signed by Teixeira, Godard and Sarhan is an amendment to the Guyana/U.S. bilateral Democracy Governance Programme. The amendment authorises an additional US$1.5M for democracy strengthening activities in Guyana and increases the programme's funding level to US$6,056,206 out of an estimated life-of-programme total of US$7.25M.

The programme, initially authorised in 1998, is scheduled to run for five years and according to Minister Teixeira, technical assistance has been provided to assist the Government of Guyana in consolidating the democratisation process at the level of the Parliament, electoral systems, judiciary, local government and civil society.

She said the programme, now entering its fourth year, is in keeping with the Government's aim of rebuilding democratic institutions and practices in these key areas.

Ambassador Goddard, in comments after the signing, asserted that "conflict is the principal impediment to good governance and a lack of democratic institutions is a common factor among nations that have succumbed to crisis".

He noted that the United States is committed to helping expand democracy and to strengthen its institutions.

"We are pleased to be able to join with you in pursuing the strengthening of democracy in Guyana, recognising that democracy is the parent of peace, and understanding that peace is necessary for stability and individual security...without which, sustained development and economic growth are virtually unachievable," Goddard said.

He said the democracy programme here has been working over the past three years to build and establish more responsive and participatory governance and rule of law.

The programme works in five broad areas - legislative strengthening, administration of justice, elections, strengthening civil society organisations and local governance.

"We are proud of the programme's achievements over the past year...we have worked with a broad cross-section of governmental and non-governmental actors to help broaden and deepen institutions and processes of democratic governance (and) substantial headway has been made in building the organisational capacity of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), helping the Attorney General to compile the Laws of Guyana, and facilitating the work of the Local Government task force in rationalising the role of local governance in a decentralised policy-making context," Godard said.

"At the same time, civil society actors have been assisted in engaging with policy makers on a variety of issues such as poverty eradication, administration of justice and conflict mitigation (and) it is encouraging that civil society is now acting as a broker to promote dialogue among the nation's political groups to help achieve consensus on issues of urgent national interest, including possible reform of the country's democratic institutions to make them more responsive to current needs," the U.S. Ambassador said.

The technical cooperation programme for which the parties signed the agreement yesterday, is designed to help Guyana in its pursuit of the principles codified in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, he told the gathering, which included GECOM Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally.

"In that document, both our governments renewed our commitment to strengthen and perfect our democratic systems (and) in this agreement, we renew our mutual commitment to work together to achieve those objectives," Godard said.

The Foreign Ministry, in a brief background to the project, said the U.S. and Guyana governments through a Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Agreement between the two countries, initially authorised on September 8, 2002 an agreement to establish and to support a project designed to enhance the Government of Guyana's capability to prevent the transit of drugs through Guyana and the exploitation of Guyanese territory and institutions by drug producers and traffickers and other international criminals.

Since the initiation of the project, law enforcement agencies in Guyana have benefitted from additional inter-regional training opportunities with the main aim of enhancing cooperation amongst neighbouring nations in their joint efforts against corruption, smuggling and terrorism, the ministry said.

Further, agencies were privileged to work in collaboration with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and other law enforcement agencies.

The letter of agreement signed yesterday, is aimed at providing a further US$50,000 under this project for the provision of training, equipment and financial assistance in the development and implementation of additional effective narcotics control programmes.

The funding provided to date under this project amounts to US$210,000, the ministry noted.

"I am especially pleased that we are able to pledge this support at a time when law enforcement agencies in Guyana are under particular stress because of the extraordinary challenges to law and order that the country is currently undergoing," Godard said in his comments on the narcotics agreement.

He gave the assurances that the DEA and other U.S. law enforcement agencies will play a vital role working with Guyana law enforcement agencies to assess equipment needs to provide the necessary tools in the ongoing war on drugs and international crime.

According to Godard, the main focus of the programe is to provide training, equipment and financial assistance to the development and implementation of effective narcotics control programmes. However, he noted that funding is not limited solely to narcotics issues and in years past available funding was distributed to a collection of law enforcement initiatives.

Luncheon thanked the U.S. Government for the assistance noting that it was very timely and important in the fight against narco-trafficking which is an "international scourge".

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry in a statement on the Good Governance agreement said the programme is "a good example of a coordinated collaborative donor approach with the Government, which bodes well for programme implementation."

The ministry noted that programme-funded training and technical assistance for the project is being provided through a cooperative agreement with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and its partners, the Carter Center (TCC) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

NDI is responsible for legislative strengthening and local governance activities while the Carter Center is taking the lead in work with judicial administration and strengthening target civil society organisations while IFES provides leadership in the area of elections, the Foreign Ministry said.

It said that during the past year, the programme worked with the Attorney General's Office to compile the Laws of Guyana for distribution on CD-ROM. The programme also provided assistance to the judiciary to revise the Civil Rules of Court and to review the criminal justice system. According to the ministry, the programme continued to support the organisational development of GECOM, particularly in the information technology area.

Women's and youth groups received organisational training specifically aimed at increasing networking and consensus-building capacity.

Sarhan noted that during 2003, the programme intends to implement a number of activities aimed at strengthening the human and technical capacity of the National Assembly. Additional support will be provided to facilitate judicial reform through expert review, continuing legal education and technical training, he said.

The USAID Mission Head also noted that organisational development activities will continue with GECOM; and technical assistance towards local government elections will be provided. Continuing support will be provided to women's, youth and Amerindian groups to build leadership, networking and advocacy skills, he added.

In addition to these, he said continuing support will be provided to support local government reform aimed at decentralising and devolving authority to appropriate levels.