Ethnicity HIV/AIDS among issues to be raised By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
July 2, 2002

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The first Encounter of Civil Society themed ‘Forward Together in the 21st Century: Towards a New Model of Economic Development’ opens today at the Ocean View Hotel and Convention Centre with the aim of feeding civil society’s views to the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference which starts tomorrow.

Guyana’s recommendations, though not yet made public, will be presented to the encounter. Last minute preparations were taking place yesterday to consolidate Guyana’s position.

Some 150 persons will represent the private sector, non-governmental organisations, women and youth, labour movement, indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities at the local and regional level.

Some 60 of the 100 regional delegates for the encounter, who would be accommodated at the Ocean View Hotel and Convention Centre at Liliendaal began arriving in the country yesterday and others were due to arrive early this morning in time for the start of the session at 0900 hrs.

Delegates were expected to arrive from all the CARICOM member countries - with the exception of Montserrat - and regional organisations. Each country is expected to send five representatives who will present their country’s position at the encounter to have them forwarded to the CARICOM Heads of Government.

The objectives of the encounter are to advance the relationship between civil society and government; to increase the participatory framework in which civil society functions; and to influence the decisions of governments as the region approaches new development projectories during this century.

The Heads of Government will meet civil society members the following day between 0900 hrs and 1200 hrs but there were concerns at the last consultation held at the Cara Inn in Georgetown on Saturday that all the Heads may not be present.

Up to press time yesterday, the recommendations coming out of the meeting were being consolidated. At that time the Guyana delegation was not named, but the private sector, labour, women and youth and indigenous peoples were expected to be among those representing the country.

While reports from 12 member countries, including Haiti, were found on the CARICOM website, Guyana’s had not been posted. Also not posted were Dominica’s and Montserrat’s.

Apart from the delegations from the various countries others expected to be represented include the Caribbean Network for Integrated Rural Development (CNIRD), Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC), Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), Caribbean Youth Federation (CYF), University of the West Indies (UWI), Caribbean Council of Churches (CCC), Caribbean Council of Labour (CLC), Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC), Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Co-chairperson of the Civil Society Consultation on Social Development, Jocelyn Dow, yesterday told Stabroek News that among the issues Guyana was likely to put forward were human resources development and security issues, HIV/AIDS, the environment, racism and ethnicity, land reform, poverty, violence against women, crime and corruption, culture and the media, free movement and the effects of globalisation. These were issues which came out of Saturday’s consultation hosted by the CAFRA and the CPDC in collaboration with CIDA.

In terms of free movement and migration of skills, Dow said that there needed to be a change in attitude towards Guyanese who were being treated unfavourably in other member countries while the country’s best skills were being taken. Traders from Guyana and other member countries making a positive effect to the economies of other territories were also being treated with disrespect.

Dow said participants felt there was need to address and remove barriers dealing with passport requirements, movement of skills and resources in a very clear timeframe.

On the issue of human resources and skills migration, there was a recommendation that Guyana and other Caribbean countries should look at innovative mechanisms to deal with the question of compensation or financial recognition from metropoles or rich countries for locally or regionally trained persons who are lured to larger economies. While it was not the wish to restrict movement, it was felt that there should be innovative mechanisms to augment the level of resources or direct aid in training local skills for export.

Because of the large Caribbean community in the diaspora there was a suggestion that some mechanisms with the diaspora should be established in a more formal way.

It was also felt that the region must recognise that it has one of the youngest populations in the world and that the issue of HIV/AIDS and the alienation and under-achievement of young males must be addressed. This could be done through better and new forms of education including culture and the media to secure the human resources in order to stop the social and economic decline in the region’s interest.

It was also suggested that efforts be made to bring the entire population into life-long education, such as retooling, retraining and making use of retirees so they could make real ongoing contributions to the development of life within the community.

In relation to racism and ethnicity, Dow said that the whole question of land reform and resource allocation was linked to these issues. For example, the preservation of African ancestral land and the issuance of Amerindian land titles should be in keeping with rights contained in the country’s constitution.

In the local situation, it was recognised that the country’s constitution could be a basis for addressing many individual and collective rights but that the constitutional reform should be assented to. In this regard it was felt that Guyana had the opportunity of setting a model for the region in terms of addressing basic human rights.

In terms of trade measures, Dow said participants felt there was need to define competitiveness within the region and external to the region. This should include Caribbean culture which apart from being a positive vehicle of cultural diversity in the region, had global reach and monetary value such as reggae music, calypsos, steel pan.

It was felt that the government and private sector have to place more emphasis and spend more money on culture and the Caribbean media in promoting the cultural richness of the region.

On the issue of organised crime in the region, a facet of globalisation everywhere, it was suggested that the increasing disparities between the rich and the poor and increasing and persistent poverty needed to be addressed urgently.