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The Resource Centre, intended for use by the many partners and social partner groups of the Atlanta-based Carter Center, features a wide selection of printed and electronic resources focused on issues related to the non-profit sector.
Topics covered in the range of publications include The role of Civil Society; Advocacy; Training methods; Elections; Indigenous Rights; Women in Development; and Justice and Human Rights.
The centre, launched Friday, is equipped with photocopying facilities, a computer workstation, Internet and data base research, and correspondence or research and networking purposes.
The Resource Centre, which is in collaboration with the Carter Center's resource room at its Atlanta, Georgia headquarters, will also offer Carter Center informational material, officials explained.
Staff at the centre will be available to assist with all enquiries and research, and will be able to provide information about the holdings of other libraries and resource centres.
Country Project Director, Ms. Melanie Reimer has said that the centre will be open by appointment to members of all established non-profit organisations (NGOs) in Guyana, other international agencies, government agencies, and tertiary level students conducting research.
It is organised under the auspices of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programme "More Responsive and Participatory Governance and Rule of Law in Guyana'.
Through this programme, the Carter Center is working to strengthen the judicial system and capacity of civil society or non-profit organisations in Guyana, to contribute to public debate and public policy making, with a focus on organisations that involve and assist women, youth and Amerindians.
The Carter Center is working with the National Democratic Institute and International Foundation for Election Systems in the overall project. NDI supports legislative and local government reforms, while IFES provides technical assistance on electoral administration.
Among those at the launching ceremony were USAID Senior Advisor for Democracy and Governance, Project Officer, Mr. Charles Cutshall and partners and associate partners of some 25 NGOs funded by the centre.
Office Manager, Mr. Brian Lewis said the Carter Center is one of three partners executing the USAID funding project `More Responsive and Participatory Governance and Rule of Law in Guyana'.
Cutshall said he was pleased to see that the Resource Centre was being launched, and its collection made available to the partners and associate partners as they move forward in developing their advocacy campaigns and programmes. He wished them every success as they go about their work.
Noting that it is widely acknowledged that the hallmark of a democratic society is the way citizens of like lines come together to express their viewpoints in public policymaking context, he acknowledged that civic advocacy is indeed the cornerstone of participatory democracy.
"It is of little use to simply complain that we don't like things. It is incumbent upon you as civic advocates to express your opinions in a way that will result in positive change," he stressed.
However, outlining their civic responsibilities in relation to advocacy or addressing matters of concern, Cutshall cautioned that while it is the right of citizens to come together and express their opinions, the partners and associates have a responsibility to ensure that any engagement with public policy makers be positive and productive.
But in the absence of information, it is difficult for opinions to be expressed in an informed manner, he noted.
He added that the opening of the Resource Centre to them was therefore most timely, as they move forward in developing their advocacy campaigns and programmes.
Giving insights into their activities were representatives of three local NGOs, operating through funding from the Carter Center.
** 'Comforting Hearts', represented by Mr. Michael Hemerding; a well established organisation comprising some 84 volunteer members, working in Regions Five and Six, to raise the level of understanding about HIV/AIDS and fight against the spread of the deadly disease, especially among youths.
** Groenveldt Youth group, represented by Chandroutie Persaud. Established in 2001 it is known for the many developmental projects it has already undertaken including construction of a playfield, painting pedestrian crossings near schools, fencing a community centre ground, and providing free tutoring for students.
With a membership of 90, this group is now taking on a project to combat substance abuse among youths in Region Three, with funding from the Carter Center.
** The Guyana Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (GOIP), represented by Ms. Christine Lowe. One of the leading indigenous organisations of Guyana, it has been in existence since 1990, and has more than 2,000 members across the country. Their mission is to promote empowerment of indigenous people in Guyana via education, advocacy and entrepreneurial activities. (SHIRLEY THOMAS)