‘Guyana aspires to be a success story in its implementation of the UNCCD’ – Minister Harmon at opening of CRIC 17

Georgetown, Guyana – (January 28, 2019) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, this morning, recommitted Guyana’s support to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) while noting that Guyana aspires to be a success story through its implementation of the UNCCD.

Minister Harmon, who holds responsibility for the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), which is the focal point to the UNCCD, was at the time speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 17) of the UNCCD. The Conference, the largest since the 1972 Non-Aligned Foreign Ministers Conference to be held in Guyana and the English-speaking Caribbean, will run until January 31, 2019 and has 125 participating countries.

The Minister of State said that Guyana has a deep appreciation for its unique position and the critical nature of its responsibility in relation to the preservation of land cover and the protection of the environment. The country and the Government, he noted, are fully aware of the importance of the implementation of UNCCD to the environmental health and well-being of the planet. He therefore noted that Guyana is fully committed to this process.

“In its implementation of the UNCCD, Guyana aspires to be a success story and an example for fellow country parties. Guyana is proud of its achievements, most notably its recent ascension to the position of Vice President of the Conference of the Parties (COP) Bureau and now this inaugural hosting of a session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC17) in the Anglophone Caribbean. We are deeply conscious that our land represents a link between our people and our environment and that it connects economic, social, cultural and geographical spheres. In fact, our national anthem begins in letter-like manner “Dear land of Guyana” and pays homage to land seven times throughout its four stanzas. Guyana is, therefore, fully committed to the protection and conservation of its natural patrimony, including its land resources. Our record of environmental protection and conservation of land and its resources provides a global model for good practice,” the Minister said.

He noted that Guyana’s contributions to national and international conservation include the one-million-acre Iwokrama rainforest, “gifted to the world” in 1989; the inclusion of the approximately 700,000 hectares or 3,000 square miles protected area of Konashen, the home of the Indigenous Wai-Wai people in the South Rupununi, in the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy and the commitment made by President David Granger to place a further two million hectares under conservation.

Further, he noted that evidence of the importance of Guyana’s role as a partner in the global environmental movement can be seen in the agreements that it has entered into with the Kingdom of Norway, The Netherlands, Germany and Japan as well as international organisations such as Conservation International for the protection of its pristine rainforest.

This Government’s conviction about the absolute necessity for environmental protection and conservation, he said, has inspired its determination to establish a ‘green’ economy, the ‘green’ state of Guyana and to the promotion of a Green State Development Strategy (GSDS).

“The GSDS: Vision 2040 is Guyana’s 20-year national development policy that reflects the guiding vision and principles for the establishment of the ‘green state’. The essence of this vision is captured as: ‘An inclusive and prosperous Guyana that provides a good quality of life for all its citizens based on sound education and social protection, low-carbon and resilient development, providing new economic opportunities, justice and political empowerment.’ One of the key elements for the success of Vision 2040 and the pursuit of our ‘green’ agenda is sustainable land management and development, which includes the mitigation and prevention of land degradation. While Guyana’s context may not be seen as extreme to be considered ‘desertification’, the impact of land degradation is being taken into consideration as we plan and strategize for the sustainable use of our land resources. Guyana therefore, endorses and fully supports the UNCCD’s vision, which is “to support the development and implementation of national and regional policies, programmes and measures to prevent, control and reverse desertification/land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought,” Minister Harmon said.

Guyana’s key issues, the Minister of State said, relates to the optimal deployment of the convention including: floods, droughts, salt water intrusion in agricultural areas, as well as natural resource utilisation in the mining, forestry and agriculture sectors. To address these issues, Guyana has finalized its Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme (LDN-TSP) and its Aligned National Action Plan (Aligned Nap) to combat land degradation.

Additionally, the country has operationalised the Sustainable Land Development and Management (SLDM) project. This project seeks to establish an enabling environment for promoting sustainable and climate-resilient land development, management and reclamation in support of Guyana’s ‘Green’ State trajectory.

“In addition, on December 21, 2017, the Government of Guyana and the Government of the Federative Republic of Brazil signed a technical cooperation agreement for the implementation of a project to reduce the impact of drought in the Upper Takutu – Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) of Guyana.  The agreement was established to mitigate the historical impact of droughts in the region and its implementation has so far resulted in the drilling of eight wells that are now providing year-round potable water to the residents of the South Rupununi.

“The deliberations and outcomes of CRIC17 are therefore of significant importance to the furtherance of the strategic management of the earth’s land resources. CRIC17 also represents a signal achievement not only for Guyana but for the entire Latin America and the Caribbean region and provides an opportunity for our region to put forward unified perspectives and positions in the issues that will be discussed. I would also like to commend the GLSC for their efforts in planning for this Conference. I especially wish to acknowledge the support of the People’s Republic of China and CARICOM member states, through the CARICOM Secretariat and its subsidiary bodies and to thank them for their invaluable contribution to the planning of the CRIC 17,” Minister Harmon stated.

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, Ms. Monique Barbut in her remarks said that the Convention is ahead of the international Sustainable Development Goal and success is within its grasp. However, she told the delegates that the steps taken and the recommendations made during this week will ultimately make or break the current momentum.

“As you may remember, in 2103, 169 of the Convention’s 196 Parties claimed they were affected by desertification, land degradation and or drought. The challenge is universal. By the time of the launch of the first edition of the Global Land Outlook last year, we knew that at least 20 per cent of the Earth’s vegetated areas showed persistent degradation. The first piece of good news is that we now know more about what is going on. Your analysis at CRIC17 could help to sharpen this understanding further. The second piece of good news concerns what the report tells us about the conditions of affected populations. In all regions, rural populations have more access to safe drinking water and despite the challenges of extreme difficulty in rural areas, overall poverty has declined by 27 percent.  The third piece of good news is that Parties are strongly committed to tackling the social, economic and environmental challenges associated with desertification, land degradation and drought head on,” she said.

Ms. Barbut noted too that more than 120 countries have signalled plans to set LDN targets and 82 of these countries have already set their targets. However, more must and can be done.

“At the same time, the evidence also tells us that the threat of drought is on the rise. We are still not sufficiently well equipped to respond effectively. Critically endangered species are suffering significant losses due to changes of our land use. Aspects such as land governance, education, demography and land use planning still have a long way to go. If we are afraid, things seem worse than they are. So, let us be brave and let us not underestimate our ability to trigger change in these most pressing areas. CRIC17 is our opportunity for candid dialogue, the chance to re-examine our assumptions about what is possible and to chart an even bolder course,” Ms. Barbut charged the delegates.

The opening ceremony also featured statements from the Asia/Pacific, Caribbean, South American, European Union and African groups and saw attendance from Ministers of the Government and representatives from civil society.

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