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When will the multi-stakeholder process for Guyana’s forests begin?

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When will the multi-stakeholder process for Guyana’s forests begin?

Last month, the following letter was published in Guyana’s Stabroek News. It raises serious questions about President Bharrat Jagdeo’s proposals for REDD in Guyana. The author of the letter, Janette Bulkan, has so far received no response.

Yet according to a presentation about Guyana’s “Readiness Plan” on the World Bank’s website, consultation is a “Vital component of the overall plan” and assures us of “Real consultation, not cosmetic exercise”. So when will the multi-stakeholder process start?

The Guyana Forestry Commission has given a series of powerpoint presentations to indigenous and forest-dependent communities. These presentations are available on the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility website. While more powerpoint presentations are planned, the Guyana Forestry Commission appears not to have any plans to address the large-scale loggers who control over 70 percent of allocated forest concessions in Guyana. It appears increasingly obvious that the Guyanese Government’s position is that industrial logging does not cause forest degradation, regardless of the evidence. Instead, the present and future culprits, according to the Government, are small farmers: indigenous and other poor forest-dependent people.

However, the failure to carry out meaningful consultation should not be placed only at the door of the Guyana Forestry Commission. Guyana’s REDD Secretariat, which is located in the Guyana Forestry Commission, was set up in January 2009, with an $8 million grant from Conservation International. Two NGOs are represented on Guyana’s REDD Advisory Committee: Conservation International and the World Wildlife Fund. In February 2009, the Guyana Chronicle reported WWF’s Regional Representative, Dominiek Plouvier, as saying that WWF “fully supports President Jagdeo’s initiative on climate change and assured that a model will be devised for the world to emulate.”

REDD-Monitor looks forward to a response to Janette Bulkan’s letter, from the Guyana Forestry Commission, Conservation International and/or WWF.

When will the multistakeholder process for Guyana’s forests begin?

Stabroek News | 19 March 2009 | Letters

Dear Editor,

The National Forest Policy of 1997 required the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) to produce a strategic plan for the rational allocation of Guyana’s State Forests. This requirement figures also in the National Forest Plan of 2001. The GFC has not yet produced this plan, but is now referring to a sector development plan (KN, March 7, 2009 ‘Forestry Commission moves to reduce log exports,’ and KN, March 12, 2009 ‘Govt. moves to cushion forestry sector from global crisis’). This plan is not to be found on the GFC website. Why not? KN reported (March 12) Minister Robert Persaud as “promoting the advantage that Guyana’s products possess in terms of export being derived from a system characterized by a strong chain of custody system in place,” although this is manifestly untrue as shown by the 2007 and 2008 token penalties imposed on the holders of long-term logging concessions, both Guyanese and Asian, and widely reported in the independent press, showing that the chain of custody exists only on paper but not in practice. Further, the elements of this supposed chain of custody are also not to be found on the GFC website.

Meanwhile, both the President and the GFC Commissioner have recently been making claims about Guyana’s forests at international meetings (SN, March 9, 2009 ‘Jagdeo plugs avoided deforestation at carbon finance summit,’ and the GFC Commissioner at the Forest Carbon Partnership Fund meeting in Panama on March 11) which are misleading or factually incorrect. Why are these public statements also not on the GFC website and available for critical review? The President failed to mention on March 5, 2009 in Washington DC the loss of forest because of the failure of integrated land use planning when mining and logging concessions overlap, while the GFC Commissioner brushes aside the degradation caused by poorly controlled logging, preferring to blame Amerindians. Yet under the GFC, some 187,000 ha are logged annually in 25-year concessions and some 755,000 ha in 2-year concessions (KN, November 16, 2008 ‘GFC’s misleading data on forestry in Guyana,’ but updating the figures from the GFC’s first half-year 2008 Forest Sector Information Report). In these areas, because of inadequate GFC field supervision, some 8 cubic metres of timber per ha are wasted (based on Barama’s data), a national total of over 7.5 million cubic metres, far greater than the reported harvest. But the GFC Commissioner prefers to blame forest degradation on Amerindians whose rotational farming may cause temporary loss of forest of about 6,000 ha per year.

The GFC has no mandate in titled Amerindian Village Lands, so why doesn’t it focus on what it should be doing to improve management of the State Forests, using the powers it has long had but doesn’t use, to prevent the over-harvesting of our best timbers such as greenheart and purpleheart and red cedar; instead of allowing these to be exported without restriction as under-declared and mis-named logs to Asia? This question − about the GFC straying from its mandate − was also raised by the Norwegian delegation in Panama on March 11, with reference to the Guyana request for huge amounts of money for Reduced Emissions from Avoided Defores-tation and Degradation (REDD).

In their ‘Joint Statement on climate and forest issues’ released on February 3, 2009, President Jagdeo and the Prime Minister of Norway committed to “bilateral co-operation… founded on a broad-based, transparent, inclusive, multistakeholder national strategy developed in Guyana. Crucial components will be… sustained efforts to avoid deforestation and forest degradation, strengthening open, transparent forest governance, and establishing an international monitoring, reporting, and verification system for Guyana’s forests.”

When is this multistakeholder process beginning, and what independent monitoring will ensure that this will not be just another series of government agency lectures to passive audiences on the McKinsey proposal alone?

Yours faithfully,
Janette Bulkan

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  1. An article in Kaieteur News on 19 April 2009, gives an indication of how unsuccessful the Guyana Forestry Commission’s “consultation” on REDD has been so far. The headline is: “Indigenous leaders speak frankly: ‘We don’t know anything about Carbon Trading and REDD’“. The article reports on a meeting between Indigenous Peoples’ representatives from Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana (who were in Georgetown for a meeting last week) and President Bharrat Jagdeo. The following exchange is reported in the article:

      “When Sydney Allicock, a leader of the Macushi Amerindian community of Surama, asked the President to teach Amerindians about REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) and carbon trading, the President gave a commitment to take his plan to the communities and explain it to them.”

    To put this in context, Guyana has already written its Readiness Plan (R-Plan) for the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. Having written the R-Plan, Guyana’s president is now promising to explain what REDD is to indigenous communities. This turns the concept of Free Prior Informed Consent on its head.