Good governance, democracy gets US$1.5M American boost
Aid envisaged for standing committees, local govt polls By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
October 1, 2002

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The Guyana and United States governments yesterday signed amendments to two agreements aimed at boosting democracy, good governance, narcotics control and law enforcement.

Meanwhile, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has indicated its willingness to assist in a number of areas including local government elections if it is held within the next year.

The fifth amendment to the Limited Scope Grant Agreement makes provision for an additional US$1.5 million for democracy strengthening activities in Guyana while the narcotics control and law enforcement agreement makes provision for an additional US$50,000.

Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gail Teixeira and Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon signed on behalf of the Guyana government while the US Ambassador to Guyana Ronald Godard and Mission Director of the USAID, Dr Mike Sarhan signed on behalf of the US government at the Foreign Service Institute yesterday.

Both Teixeira and Luncheon said that the agreements indicated the level of the relationship that exists between Guyana and the US. In brief remarks, Godard noted that the additional US$1.5 million for the democracy and governance programme brings funding to US$6,056,208 out of a total estimated amount of US$7.25 million.

He noted that in the second agreement, the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs has committed an additional US$50,000 to assist US and Guyana law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat narcotics trafficking and to strengthen policing. This new allocation brings the total funding to US$170,000 or $32 million.

In an overview of the grant scope agreement, Dr Sarhan noted that the Democracy and Governance Programme was initially authorised in 1998 and is scheduled to run for five years. The current programme is scheduled to end in December 2003 but Guyana and the US were now engaged in developing a new country strategy that will start in 2004.

The new country strategy, Dr Sarhan said will be informed by the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and the National Development Strategy and input from other stakeholders to be consulted. It will be shaped he said “by our awareness of existing constraints and responsiveness to opportunities.

The implementing partners for the democracy and governance programme, the National Democratic Institute, the Carter Center and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, will over the next 12 months step up institutional-building efforts in the areas of legislative strengthening, administration of justice, elections, strengthening civil society organisations and local governance, he said.

In terms of legislative strengthening, funding will be made available for the creation of permanent standing committees which he said was a clear step in establishing the separation of powers of the executive and the legislative branches of government.

USAID, Dr Sarhan said was prepared to offer training and technical assistance to make the committees operational. He noted that the revision of rules to provide for regular citizen input through public hearings was of particular importance in this area.

He pointed out that the Laws of Guyana have been compiled but there was need for copies to be distributed to legal professionals and interested citizens in a format that was uniformly accepted.

He said that the USAID was prepared to assist the office of the Chief Parliamentary Whip in incorporating information technology as a regular component; as well as to assist in the administration of justice which continues to be laborious and time-consuming while the backlog of cases continues to grow.

Noting the need for additional judges and magistrates, he said that USAID has initiated discussions with the Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard and the Chief Justice Carl Singh on ways to deal with the problem.

Noting, too, that the USAID was instrumental in establishing a permanent Elections Commission and Secretariat, he said that over the next year, the agency intends to support the Chief Election Officer to strengthen those key components that need to be maintained during elections. He pointed out that the establishment and maintenance of a valid and reliable database and civic education covering elections systems and electoral procedures were important.

USAID was also willing to assist in the revitalisation of local government structures within the context of decentralisation and in the event that local government elections were to be held within the next year. He said that the USAID was prepared to assist and to provide training to newly-elected officers.

Through civil society activities, he said that the programme this year will target groups such as women, youth and Amerindians to effectively engage them with policymakers.

In his remarks on the narcotics and law enforcement control programme, he noted that the main focus was to provide training, equipment and financial assistance for the development and implementation of an effective narcotics control programme.

The goal this year will be to develop additional inter-regional training opportunities to further enhance cooperation among neighbouring nations in the joint efforts against corruption, smuggling and terrorism.

Godard said that the DEA and other US law enforcement agencies will play a vital role working with Guyana law enforcement agencies to assess equipment needs so that the necessary tools could be provided in the ongoing war on drugs and international crime.

To date, he noted that the programme has facilitated Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) counter-narcotics strategies training, a Federal Bureau of Investigation public corruption seminar, an ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) trafficking seminar and a joint US State Department Diplomatic Security/US Immigration and Naturalisation Service training course on document fraud investigations in addition to the supply of equipment.