Friday, April 23, 2010

First Week of UN Indigenous Forum Ends

United Nations, NY (UCTP Taino News) – The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a UN body mandated to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights ended its first week of work today. Government representatives, UN agencies, and indigenous representatives from around the world presented reports and statements on key areas of concern.

See full story at UCTP Taino News

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

APA urges donors to ensure indigenous rights upheld when they finance forest conservation

GUYANA - Worried about unresolved land titling and a lack of meaningful participation in decision-making, the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) has urged donors to ensure that indigenous peoples’ guaranteed rights are fully upheld in all forest conservation activities they finance here.

As a result, the APA and some community leaders are calling for an urgent review and amendment of the current Amerindian Act to strengthen land rights as well as the creation of safeguards to ensure that opt-in/opt-out procedures under the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) comply with principles of free, prior, and informed consent. Additionally, they recommended the establishment of an independent Amerindian advisory group to complement the LCDS multi-stakeholder committee and a working group to address the application of international standards in the process.

In a March 10, 2010 letter to Turid Johansen Arnegaard, Senior Advisor for Indigenous Peoples Issues in the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the APA and the community leaders said that the recommendations follow concerns about the lack of an adequate legal framework to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples, including what it described as the absence of meaningful participation in the decision-making on the LCDS/REDD+. “These concerns are crucially important to the sustainability of LCDS/REDD+ but have yet to be adequately addressed,” the APA said, noting that while it fully supports culturally appropriate sustainable development and reducing carbon emissions, the initiatives should not be done at the expense of indigenous peoples’ rights.

The letter has been the source of a recent row between the APA and other indigenous groups over the LCDS. The government has maintained that the LCDS and REDD+ processes have demonstrated openness, transparency, accountability, availability of information and public participation. Further, it has said that from the onset, the LCDS sensitisation education and consultation process was designed and implemented in accordance with international best practice. An independent international NGO, the London-based International Institute for Environmental Development (IIED), provided monitoring of the entire stakeholder engagement process of the LCDS and concluded that the “the LCDS has established the principle of FPIC as the standard for Amerindian communities.”

In the letter, the APA noted that protecting the country’s forests are in the interest of the nation and the world, and it endorsed the idea that the people should benefit from any payments that may be made to protect Guyana’s forests. However, it said a significant percentage of the forest is owned by indigenous peoples, both by virtue of titles issued by the state as well as traditional ownership recognised by international law.

The group’s primary concern is the adequacy of the existing legal framework for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights here, and particularly in the area of regularisation and protection of their rights to own and control their traditional lands, territories and resources. “While Guyana often talks about the number of villages that hold title, the percentage of Guyana covered by these titles, and the need to complete its process of demarcation, these statements neither dispose of this issue,” it said, adding that the process for titling lands falls short of international obligations. “At present, Guyana’s land titling process is simply an exercise in unilateral and unfettered rule by the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs that has little to do with satisfying indigenous peoples’ rights,” the APA argued. It said too that rights of appeal are limited by the absence of enumerated rights and indigenous peoples are left with little option other than to accept the Ministry’s decision.

The APA pointed out that the MOU and the government’s submissions to the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) frame indigenous peoples’ rights solely in the context of Guyana’s existing legislative and constitutional framework. It added that while the underlying assumption appeared to be that the extant legal framework is adequate, both in terms of its recognition and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights, the 2006 Amerindian Act and other important elements of the country’s constitutional framework have been found wanting by the World Bank and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

According to the findings of a 2008 World Bank study, ’The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation,’ the country’s legislation to protect indigenous peoples is “weak.” The Bank also said it was unable to change the framework in place to have adequate recognition of indigenous rights. Its findings were related to the failure of the World Bank/GEF Guyana/National Protected Areas System Project. Meanwhile, two years prior to this, CERD had found that many of the Amerindian Act’s provisions were incompatible with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Among CERD’s findings was the lack of legal recognition of the rights of ownership and possession of indigenous communities over lands they traditionally occupied. In addition, it was also concerned about the state’s practice of granting land titles excluding bodies of waters and subsoil resources to indigenous communities on the basis of unfair criteria. By virtue of Article 154A of the constitution, Guyana is bound to observe the provisions of the convention as part of its international obligations, but the APA said the country has been in breach for four years. “At the very least, these findings call into question key assumptions in the FCPF submissions and the MOU that should provoke… a serious examination of these issues by independent and qualified experts with the full participation of indigenous peoples’ freely chosen representatives,” the APA said. In particular, it argued that the Amerindian Act, in the areas of the regularisation of indigenous peoples’ lands and other issues, must be amended to ensure consistency with Guyana’s international human rights obligations as a prior condition to any financing of further LCDS/REDD+ activities.

Further, the APA said there is also an urgent need to carry out an impartial review of all land titling decisions made to date. The review, it explained, must include an assessment of the extent to which said decisions may or may not be compatible with indigenous peoples’ rights in international law.

Meanwhile, the APA also argued that there has not been adequate participation by the indigenous people in decision-making. It explained that while the process for discussing the LCDS/REDD+ was lauded by the government and others, it has not adequately informed the indigenous people or secured their participation in decision-making. “This does not bode well for the long-term sustainability and effectiveness of the LCDS/REDD+ in Guyana and is contrary to the rights of indigenous peoples,” it said. “The right to participate is triggered at the very earliest stages of the project not after the parameters have been unilaterally predetermined by the State,” it added.

The APA said recent official outreach efforts on the LCDS did not meet the required standards for good faith public consultation, noting that meetings were rushed, documents were not supplied with sufficient time prior, and absent or weak translation support. On the latter point, it noted that local Amerindian translators did not receive prior training in technical climate change and REDD+ terms.

The APA was also critical of the government’s “undue reliance” on only one organisation − the National Toshaos Council − in the discussions. It said the government did not ensure that the council was the organisation legitimately identified by the indigenous peoples as their representative on the issues, as required by international law. While the council is an important statutory body, the APA explained, the views of its executive members must not be substituted for the freely expressed views of indigenous peoples in Guyana.

Source: Stabroek News

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Amerindian communities likely to get up to $7M extra for development

GUYANA - President Bharrat Jagdeo told Toshaos from various sub-districts in the Rupununi that this year each community is likely to receive up to $7 million for development in addition to the annual Presidential Grant.

According to the Government Information Agency (GINA), the president said the sums ranging from $5 million to $7 million will be used to promote food security and profit-making ventures.

He said with funds expected from the implementation of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), he had decided to set aside about US$5M (equivalent to G$1B) in addition for Amerindian communities’ development.

As regard food security, Jagdeo stressed the importance of better drainage and irrigation systems, which he said will boost agriculture productivity and diversify the range of products grown. Guyana is expected to be able to expand access to services and provide new economic opportunities for Amerindian communities within the framework of the LCDS.

“The draft LCDS document states that transforming Guyana’s economy will require among other things, striking a balance between using forest payments to enhance the opportunities for those who live in the forest and recognising the rights of other Guyanese citizens, including the urban poor,” GINA said.

In June 2009 the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs partnered with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) to launch the National Secure Livelihood Programme (NSLP) which sought to address the challenges hampering economic development in the Amerindian villages and hinterland communities through the creation of employment opportunities, sustaining food security, income generation, wealth creation, economic diversification and secure livelihoods. Six VSO Specialists were employed to spur economic development in Region One, focusing on agriculture, aquaculture, pest management, food technology, business, development, marketing and finance and organisational development.

According to GINA, the Presidential Grant was established in 2007 with $150M allocated for meeting the social and economic needs of 140 communities. The Grant was also offered in 2008 but last year 20 additional communities became eligible for grants and as a result $160M was allocated.

Source: Stabroek News

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Toshaos, village councillors picket APA’s LCDS workshop

APA demands respect for learning process

GUYANA - Toshaos and councillors from various Amerindian communities picketed an Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) workshop yesterday, accusing the NGO of trying to put a hold on projects that would bring benefit Amerindian communities.

The picket of the workshop at the Regency Suites, on Brickdam was the latest salvo in a row over the scope of consultations on the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) in indigenous communities, and the demand for the resolution of land issues before movement on projects related to the LCDS and REDD+.

Yvonne Pearson, Chairperson of the National Toshaos Council (NTC), said that the protest was intended to show opposition to recent public statements being made by the organisation.

Displaying placards, the picketers stood across the road from the hotel yesterday and APA member Norma Thomas accused the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs of rounding up persons from the hostel and bringing them to protest.

In a press statement issued later, the APA said it was disappointed at the protest, calling it an attempt “to stifle its knowledge building for APA’s members and other leaders, which constitutes a violation of our freedom of assembly.”

It also charged that Toshaos participating at its workshop recognised some of the picketers as recently discharged patients and some did not know why they were in the picket line.

When some persons were asked to explain their placards, they could not do so, it contended.

Following a recent conference organised by the APA, some indigenous leaders had said that LCDS outreach activities done last year lacked prior information, were often rushed and suffered from weak or non-existent translation support for communities.

They also urged government and international agencies to put a hold on the implementation of policies related to projects like the LCDS and REDD+, until land rights issues are settled and asked that the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) be respected. The statement by the indigenous leaders at the recent APA workshop triggered a strong response by government and Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai accused the APA of communicating “misconceptions and half-truths.”

The five-day workshop on “Indigenous Peoples Rights, Climate Change and the LCDS/REDD” is for participants from regions 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9, and the main focus is on providing simplified information on climate change, REDD, the Low Carbon Development Strategy and related topics.

“The aim is for participants to develop a better understanding of all that is involved in what are very complex issues surrounding climate change, its impacts on indigenous communities and the pros and cons of mitigation and adaptation strategies,” the APA said. “The organisation decided to hold this workshop to fill the information gap that exists among its membership and other community representatives who have indicated on numerous occasions that they have been thrust in to positions where they have been asked to make decisions on these matters, without fully understanding the scope or nature of these initiatives,” it added.

The APA said it respected the rights of the picketers and demanded that its right to educate those willing to learn through its programmes be respected. It quoted workshop participants as saying, “We would like the public to understand that our main reason for participating in the workshop is to educate ourselves so that we can go back to our communities and tell our people what we have learnt-we are in a learning process.”

Pearson, however, said the organisation cannot make decisions for Amerindians and accused it of trying to put a hold on projects and policies which would bring benefit to Amerindians. Pearson was referring to a letter reportedly sent to the Norwegian government by the APA trying to get them to rethink their position on LCDS.

She added that Amerindians want development and fully support the LCDS. This support, she said, was shown by the Toshaos, village councillors and supporters present outside the hotel who on their own initiative decided to hold the exercise.

Pearson added that the LCDS will help Amerindians achieve their goals of forest preservation and lower pollution rates. The APA, she said was invited to be part of the consultations, where they could have raised their objections, but refused to do so citing prior commitments. During the protest, APA President Tony James extended an invite to the picketers to join the organisation’s workshop but Pearson told him it was too late notice since they had prior workshop commitments.

Minster Sukhai, who said she was present to lend her support, noted that the APA had indicated that it did not wish to be part of the stakeholder committee, since it had other commitments.

Querying its availability, she wondered whether the organisation is an individual, and why it could not find other members to attend the consultations.

Sukhai also said the APA had written to the Norway Aid agency pinpointing their objections to the agreement and asking them to review the MOU they have with the government. The picket, she said, was spearheaded by the NTC with Toshaos representing regions 1, 3, 4, 7, 9 and 10 present.

While the MOU may not offer much financially, it brings opportunities to address concerns of Amerindians including the demarcation, application and extension of lands, Sukhai said.

Peter Persaud, President of TAAMOG said that his organisation is in support of the LCDS and lashed out at the APA for what he considered a campaign to block the funding and to frustrate Amerindian development. Ronald Samuels, Toshao of Santa Aratak, in Region 3 said that he was there because he was disturbed by the allegations of the APA that they represent the interest of Amerindians when their stance is affecting the development of Amerindians.

Author: Candace Phillips
Source: Stabroek News

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

CALL FOR APPLICATIONS: Central America Women's Leadership Fellowship in Seattle, Washington, USA

  • Are you a community leader from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala?
  • Are you interested in deepening your leadership skills and expanding your understanding of how to create sustainable social change?
  • Are you available in September 2010 to travel to the United States, to the City of Seattle, to participate in a unique 3 month intensive training program?
  • Are you a woman?

If you answered 'yes' to all of these questions, then you are strongly encouraged to apply for this terrific opportunity!

The Central America Women's Leadership Fellowship Program (CAWL) is a partnership between iLEAP: The Center for Critical Service and the Seattle International Foundation. iLEAP is now accepting applications for participation in a three-month intensive training in leadership and social innovation for up to FIVE (5) Central American, female, community leaders. The leadership training will take place in Seattle, Washington from September 13, 2010 to November 20, 2010. All expenses are covered. English fluency is not required-more important are conversational skills and the strong willingness to communicate with others.

Application deadline is May 1, 2010. Completed applications must be emailed to You may get an application by sending an email inquiry to

For questions about the iLEAP CAWL program, please email

Program Overview:

  • Program Administrator: iLEAP: The Center for Critical Service (
  • Location: Seattle, Washington, USA
  • Dates of Fellowship: Monday, September 13th, 2010 to Sunday, November 20th, 2010.
  • Length of Fellowship: 10 weeks
  • Number of Fellowships: up to five (5)
  • Cost: None to Fellows, this is a Full Fellowship--All costs associated with program participation are covered (airfare, visa/immigration, lodging and food in Seattle, health insurance, living stipend, books/supplies, study tours, etc.)

Application Eligibility Guidelines:

  • Demonstrated long term commitment to the community or the population with whom you are working
  • Central American citizenship: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua
  • Female
  • 25 years and older
  • In a current leadership position and able to articulate the need for this fellowship opportunity as well as their ability to be away from their family and organization for the complete duration of the fellowship.
  • Approval from their organization's board may be necessary.
  • Conversant in English
  • Junior leadership may be preferable in some cases.
  • English Language: As necessary, English communication classes will be incorporated into the curriculum. Fellows may expect to take English classes for up to 2-3 hours daily, three times a week.

Program Details:

  • Program Intent: To strengthen and expand the leadership capacities of female social change leaders in Central America and forge and deepen relationships between program participants and the global development sector in Washington state.
  • Program Themes: The program is organized around the central themes of:
  • Social Innovation and Enterprise
  • Collaborative Leadership
  • Digital Literacy
  • Social and Environmental Sustainability
  • Curriculum Structure: Program participants explore these themes through three modes of learning: skills-based seminars, field application and experiential learning, and social networking and partnership building.
  1. Skills-Based Seminars: Each week, Fellows engage in seminar courses led by experts in the four central themes of the program and designed around the Fellows' interests. These range in length from 90 minutes to multi-day and occur 2 to 4 times each week. Of the dozens of seminars that Fellows take, topics can include: principles of social innovation, group dialogue and facilitation, building a movement, modes of leadership, trends in philanthropy and giving, using social media for strategic communication, digital storytelling, etc.
  2. Field Application and Experiential Learning: Each week, Fellows work in a professional placement with a Seattle-based social enterprise, institution, agency or organization working in a field relevant to the Fellow's interest. Fellows also participate in regular public speaking opportunities. These include guest speaking in collegiate courses and events, radio and television spots, and also participating in panels and/or keynotes to the greater Seattle community.
  3. Social Networking and Partnership Building: Each week, Fellows go on site visits to local organizations and businesses. Over the course of the program Fellows visit dozens and dozens of places and meet with leadership to share ideas and learn. Past visits have included: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World Vision, Northwest Center, Herbfarm, Farm Tour of King County, Microsoft, Farestart, Washington Cash, Goodwill, et al. Each Fellow becomes familiar with various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as learns how to write weblogs and use the internet for strategic communications.

After program completion, Fellows become a part of iLEAP's International Faculty. This distinction allows them to receive and host international visitors through iLEAP's Taking the LEAP program and also entitles them to a life-long partnership with iLEAP.

This program overlaps with the 'standard' iLEAP International Fellowship-with participants from Asia and Africa-so Fellows from Central America will also have the opportunity to learn from these experienced leaders.

Program Logistics:

  • Airfare: Logistics will be arranged by iLEAP's travel agent, full cost covered.
  • Visa/Immigration: Upon acceptance, Fellows will be guided through the J1 trainee application process by iLEAP.
  • Health Insurance: All Fellows will receive basic health coverage during their stay in the United States.
  • Transportation: All public transportation fees are covered.
  • Stipend: Fellows are provided $100/week
  • Books/Supplies/Mobile Phone: All books and supplies directly relevant to the training will be provided to the Fellow. Each Fellow will be provided with a pre-paid mobile phone and a monthly allotment.
  • Lodging/Accommodations: Fellows will be placed in a homestay with an American family. These families will provide the Fellow with room and board.


  • Open Application Period Present - May 1, 2010
  • Application Deadline May 1, 2010
  • Application Review and Notifications May 2010
  • For Successful Candidates:
    • Initial screening interview with iLEAP staff May 2010
    • Visa application and interview with 3rd party representative June 2010
    • Schedule/complete immigration interview w/Embassy June-July 2010
    • Upon receipt of J1 visa, book plane ticket to Seattle July-August 2010
    • Fellows arrive in Seattle Week of September 13, 2010

International Fellowship Program Application 2010 CAWL.