Erik Solheim’s reply to the Open Letter outlining eight problems with Norway’s REDD support to Guyana: “It will not be possible to go into the details of your letter here”

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Solheim: It will not be possible to go into the details of your letter here

Yesterday, I wrote that the writers of the Open Letter outlining eight problems with Norway’s REDD support to Guyana were still waiting for a response from Erik Solheim, Norway’s Minister of the Environment. Within a couple of hours of posting, REDD-Monitor received a copy of a letter from Erik Solheim. His letter is extraordinary on several counts, but most importantly, it fails to address the eight problems in the Open Letter.

Solheim writes that, “It will not be possible to go into the details of your letter here, but please allow me some general comments to the issues you raise.” This is an extraordinary way of replying to a letter. The Open Letter listed eight points of concern. The details are crucial. The letter raised a great deal of comment in Guyana and elsewhere. One of the interesting aspects of the discussion that the letter generated is that the vast majority of the commentators ignored the content of the letter and failed to provide meaningful responses to the eight problems raised.

For example, following on from yesterday’s post, the 7th point raised in the letter discusses the “Inadequate Independent Verification Report”. A subsequent NGO critique of Rainforest Alliance’s verification report highlights the concern that “the Rainforest Alliance report does not provide an accurate picture of progress on the ground”. In his reply, Solheim utterly ignores the criticism of the verification report and states that,

“The verification for 2009 – 2010 showed that Guyana had delivered on the initial benchmarks and this resulted in the second disbursement according to what had been agreed.”

Clearly, this is unacceptable. Here is Solheim’s reply (attached here – pdf file, 919.3 KB). Although the letter is dated 10 May 2011, it appears to have been sent to the letter writers, by email, only on 18 May 2011.

See attached list

Your ref
Our ref
Date 10.05.2011

Dear all,

I would like to thank all of you who signed the open letter to me dated March 24 this year on the Norway-Guyana Memorandum of Understanding. I have read your letter with interest. The letter is focusing on issues that are important to our cooperation with Guyana and where our two countries have an open dialogue on how to achieve our common objectives.

Through our partnership, Guyana and Norway are exploring new models of cooperation and new ways to meet the challenges of climate change. We are “breaking new ground” which is not an easy task and we will meet criticism. But the alternative, doing nothing, cannot be an option. We do appreciate feedback. The participation of engaged individuals and civil society is vital in this process.

It will not be possible to go into the details of your letter here, but please allow me some general comments to the issues you raise:

The first transfer of funds to the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund that you are referring to, was done to make money available for projects for the Fund to start operating. As you are aware, funds are only disbursed from the Trustee to the Partner Entities when projects have been approved by the Fund’s Steering Committee. The money cannot be used for other purposes than what have been agreed. The process of preparing projects has taken longer than anticipated, and therefore no money has been disbursed from the Fund to Guyana.

During my visit to Guyana in March, I underlined that it is a prerequisite for Norway that international standards for fiduciary, social and environmental safeguards are adhered to. This is also part of the legal framework of the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund. the Partner Entities (the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank) are all reputable international organizations applying such standards. The projects or project concept notes presented to the Steering Committee for approval will be published on the Low Carbon Development Strategy / Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund’s website. At the moment there is only the project concept note for institutional strengthening that is under consideration by the Steering Committee and the document can be found on the website. The project for titling of indigenous land is under preparation. Norway has confidence that the United Nations Development Programme as one of the key organizations of the United Nations working with governance, local democracy and human rights, has the experience and know-how to deliver.

Transparency is essential to the Guyana – Norway cooperation and none of the consultants responsible for the verification reports related to the cooperation have indicated to us that they had problems in obtaining information from the government of Guyana. the verification for 2009 – 2010 showed that Guyana had delivered on the initial benchmarks and this resulted in the second disbursement according to what had been agreed. The money will be kept in the Fund until projects have been approved by the Steering Committee. The benchmarks for 2011 are further elaborated in the revised Joint Concept Note agreed between Guyana and Norway. The reference level and calculation of the results based payment is explained in the revised Joint Concept Note and various documents available on the Low Carbon Development Strategy / Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund’s website.

I would once again like to thank you for your input and comments. This is an innovative process where there will be a diversity of views and even disagreements. Such diversity of views can be a positive force to get us closer to success as long as we are working towards the same goal.

Addressees:
Diana Abraham
Malcolm Alli
Seelochan Beharry
Janette Bulkan
Tanya Chung Tiam Fook
Anand Dalijeet
Everall Franklin, MP
Malcolm Harripaul
Christina Jardim
Tarron Khemraj
Allison Lindner
Colette McDermott
Alissa Trotz
Karen Jardim
Edward Meertins-George
Sharon Ousman-Arjoon
Christopher Ram
Khemraj Ramjattan, MP
Oma Swehdat
Charlene Wilkinson
Fitzgerald Yaw
David Yhann


Office address: Myntg. 2 Telephone: +47 22 24 57 00 Telefax: +47 22 24 60 34
Postal address: PO Box 8013 Dep, N-0030 Oslo, Norway
Org. no.: 972 417 882

PHOTO credit: Utenriksdept on flickr.

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4 Comments

  1. The (revised) Joint Concept Note of March 2011 which Mr Solheim refers to above, and which is the basis of the Norway-Guyana ‘REDD’ cooperation, states that “The contributions to Guyana’s REDD-plus/LCDS from Norway [...] will be administered in a transparent manner”.

    Is this what the Minister calls “transparency”??

  2. Concerned Guyanese

    The Minister is not very transparent in his reply, or should I say that he is very very transparent in what he didn’t say regarding the scam that the Jagdeo regime is trying to pull on the Guyanese people.

  3. I consider the response by Norway’s Minister of the Environment adequate enough and it has covered the concerns raised in the referenced letter. Why should the Hon Minister of Environment for Norway respond in detail (point for point) and dignify a group of people, under the disguise as members of civil society, when most of them live in North America (including “chief cook and bottle washer” Janette Bulkan)and who clearly has an agenda to stall progress of any kind under the current government. As the Minister pointed out this is an innovative process so there would be many challenges. REDD in itself is relatively new so there are many lessons to be learnt. There is a difference in offering constructive criticisms and wanting to stop a process. The intentions of this group are clear but the Minister is much smarter. This process will continue and it will be a model to the world.

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