The Steering Committee for the Revision of the Amerindian Act (2006) yesterday completed its training of facilitators for consultations on the revision of the legislation. The four-day workshop brought together indigenous representatives from several organisations, villages and regions from across Guyana. The meeting trained individuals to input information on key sections of the Act and what this would mean to its amendment. These facilitators are expected to support communities in building capacity towards the effective and organized presentation of information for revision of the act which will then be submitted to the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs.
Earlier this month, the Steering Committee met with the Minister of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Sydney Allicock, in an effort to find synergies for implementation of the revision process. While both Ministers of the relevant Ministry declared the Committee’s proposed strategy as a “commendable document” and the initiative undertaken by the body is said to be praiseworthy, the revision process in itself will be done separately since, according to the Ministry, the Government has its own role to play within the ambits of their responsibility. The Ministry has indicated that there will be opportunities for recommendations coming out of parallel independent processes during the consultations to coalesce where possible.
The Committee functions to guide a formal independent process towards the revision of the Amerindian Act of 2006. This move follows repeated calls from various indigenous leaders, their communities and organisations to amend or revise the 2006 legislation to ensure that language is in line with international laws and are contained therein. The group of Steering Committee consists of national and grassroots organisations such as the Amerindian Peoples Association, National Toshaos Council, Guyana Organisation of Indigenous Peoples (GOIP), North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB), The Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana (TAAMOG) and National Amerindian Development Foundation (NADF) as well as various district councils like the Upper Mazuruni District Council (UMDC), South Rupununi District Council (SRDC), North Pakaraimas District Council (NPDC) and Moruca District Council (MDC).
The Steering Committee will be guided by a framework, which was developed by representatives out of prior meetings between organisations and district councils, that outlines a Code of Conduct; a Work Plan that includes identification and training of facilitators to conduct consultations; Consultation Strategy with timelines; a Communication Strategy and Feedback Mechanism, and a budget. Initial discussions and arrangements to source independent technical and legal experts have been initiated. These experts will support the work of the Committee under clearly defined Terms of References collectively drafted by the committee.
The Steering Committee will function as a body that will develop, propose, oversee, and approve different duties aimed towards ensuring an effective revision process. Its functions will be to: develop the principles for the review process; share progress reports on the revision process; liaise with legislative officials of the Nation Assembly, and conduct workshops to build community capacity in engaging with the process among others. The committee plans to continue seeking meetings with the Minister of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, and his ministry to chart the way forward on the process in other areas.
The move to kick-start the revision process for the Amerindian Act 2006 began in March 2017 when a meeting of indigenous peoples’ representatives was co-hosted by the APA and the NTC. This meeting discussed the pros and cons of the Amerindian Act including indigenous peoples’ land and resource rights, protected areas systems and conservation programmes, the extractive sector and their impacts on indigenous peoples, and the decision-making mechanisms among others. Following the conclusion of this meeting, a final report was compiled on the way forward which led to the development of the Terms of Reference for the current Steering Committee. This Terms of Reference was subsequently adopted by the involved organisations in December 2017 and will guide the committee on its functions as it continues to advocate for the amendment of the Amerindian Act 2006.
Support for the revision process comes from a larger APA project: Protecting Forests through Protecting Right in Guyana. This project was embarked upon with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) the European Union through a partnership with the Rainforest Foundation US and the Forest Peoples Programme UK.