WGPAD hails Green State Strategy

DPI, GUYANA, Friday, October 6, 2017

The United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (WGPAD) welcomed Guyana’s Green State Development Strategy’s efforts to address human rights and protection of vulnerable groups among other issues.

Chair of the WGPAD, Sabelo Gumedze, noted the Green State Strategy is “in alignment with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.” The objective of the Strategy is to ensure a sustainable and fair transition to inclusive green growth and a better quality of life for all Guyanese.

Members of the WGPAD (from left to right) Ahmed Reid, Chair, Sabelo Gumedze and Michal Balcerzak.

Gumedze also welcomed the government’s Five Bs initiative which is aimed at providing boats, buses, bicycles, breakfast, books and other rudimentary school needs for students to have easier access to schools across the country.

The commendations were raised during a press briefing on Friday at the UNDP country office, Brickdam.

The WGPAD were presenting their preliminary findings and recommendations after a five-day fact-finding mission on the human rights situation of people of African descent living in Guyana.

Guyana is among the countries that adopted the UN Resolution 68/237 which is The International Decade for People of Africa Descent. It is observed from 2015 to 2024.

As part of taking “effective measures” in the “spirit of recognition, justice, and development”, the government extended an invitation to the WGPAD to “gather information on the forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Afrophobia and related intolerance” faced by Guyanese people of African descent.

Between October 2-6, the three-member WGPAD visited Georgetown, Linden, and Buxton. They interacted with the Prime Minister and a number of ministers and senior ministry officials, members of Parliament including representatives of the Opposition, the Ombudsman, and civil society.

In its preliminary report, the WPGAD highlighted 13 findings and more than 30 recommendations about the human rights situation of people of African descent in Guyana. These include racism and racial discrimination, overcrowding in the prisons, economic deficiencies faced by people of African descent, among others.

“The Working Group welcomes the formation of the Guyana Reparations Committee and the government’s commitment to funding it. We also welcome the call by the government for submissions of funding proposals to carry out activates related to the International Decade,” Gumedze stated.

In his recommendations, Gumedze noted that Guyana “must continue to play an active role in seeking reparatory justice through efforts underway in the CARICOM region, including its 10 Point Action Plan on Reparations”.

The need for stronger data collection and analysis to assess the situation of any groups of individuals who are victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance was also highlighted.

Gumedze also noted the important role of the media as a public watchdog to ensure “factual and reliable information about people of African descent is reported while refraining from political hate speech and polarization of the society”.

Overall, the Working Group was satisfied with the government’s “willingness to engage in dialogue, cooperation and action to combat racial discrimination”.

The protection of human rights and the prohibition of racial discrimination is enshrined in the country’s Constitution. The Racial Hostility Act and the Prevention of Discrimination Act are also important laws prohibiting racial discrimination.

The group encouraged the administration to “seriously consider constitutional reform that would reinforce protection and promotion of human rights to address racism and racial discrimination.”

The WPGAD will present their final report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2018. However, Gumedze said that the Working Group will still be accepting written submissions until such time. The WPGAD also presented their preliminary findings and recommendations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

By: Tiffny Rhodius

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