April 3, 2016Although in my ongoing presentation of these articles on Guyana’s forests it has not been so far singled out for attention, it should be clear from last week’s contribution that the international forest agenda is directly driving much of the agenda items framing Guyana’s forests and land use policies, as the country goes forward. This situation is readily recognized, especially when one considers that several of the indicators, which I have introduced in recent weeks, focus on the central roles of 1) the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 2) the United Nations Convention on Bio-diversity (UNCBD) 3) the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) and 4) the policy “alignment” of Guyana’s National Action Plan (NAP) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) 10-Year Strategy (2008-2018), in Guyana’s forest policies. To assist readers in understanding this phenomenon and the Vision behind some of the global agenda initiatives, these matters will be briefly addressed in the next Section.
Before turning to that task, I bring to readers’ attention that the principal outcome of the 1992 Earth Summit held in Brazil was to identify 1) biodiversity reduction/loss, 2) desertification, and 3) climate change as the greatest challenges to the sustainable development of global society.
The Aichi biodiversity targets
The 1992 Earth Summit has spawned the establishment of the UNCBD, whose global vision is to secure: “By 2050 biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefit for all people”. To achieve this vision the UNCBD has established five strategic goals as listed in Schedule I below.
The ‘aligned’ National Action Plan
Similarly, the UNCCD has emerged out of the 1992 Earth Summit. Its current 10-Year Strategy for 2008-2018 is the framework to which Guyana’s National Action Plan (NAP) is explicitly aligned. The overall goal of the UNCCD is a global compact to combat reduction or loss to the productivity, stability and quality of all land-based resources. As expressed, this goal clearly encompasses almost all economic and social activity in Guyana today. The NAP is therefore, very comprehensive, if not also complex, in its scope and coverage of Guyana’s forest concerns.
Specifically, it also includes, at the very minimum 1) the mainstreaming of this overarching goal in all national actions; 2) the monitoring of its execution over time; 3) developing the training, skills, and technologies, which are required to monitor this process in a transparent and accountable manner; 4) building the capacity of public, private, and social institutions in order to drive the processes, thereby ensuring that the required outcomes are attained; and finally, 5) the generation of the necessary awareness and knowledge among the population (as well as the research and development (R&D)) which are required to inform policies, programmes and projects in these areas. It goes without saying that these also entail regional and international cooperation, if only because this goal is being driven as a global endeavour. Further, as readers would readily accept, such activities can only occur, if the needed funding/resources are provided.
The FAO is also a major international driver of Guyana’s forest policies. The FAO however, specializes in the generation of reliable information on global trends in the forest area and the provision of technical assistance. It correctly recognizes that “this is in fact the best basis for ensuring rational and reasoned responses by governments to the future of global forests, and consequently planet Earth”. In its Forest Resources Assessment for 2015, the FAO boasts of “the great help [it provides] to international agencies, governments, non-governmental organisations, and the commercial sector when they make decision on policies and investment, and to scientists whose research also informs these decisions” (FAO, 2015). Further, the FAO goes on to point out that the statistics contained in its periodic FRAs have supported decision-making by various international bodies (including the FAO itself, the UNCBD, and the UNCCD, among others).
The LCDS and climate change
The LCDS has emerged out of global concerns about climate change as expressed at the 1992 Earth Summit. Specifically though, it is an agreement between the Kingdom of Norway and the Government of Guyana, which aims to achieve two declared basic goals. One is to transform Guyana’s economy by following a low carbon development strategy (LCDS). And, the other is to provide globally verified ecosystems services through Guyana keeping its forests intact, in exchange for financial payments from Norway for these services under the enhanced United Nations Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) scheme.
Guyana is undoubtedly deeply embedded in global forest initiatives. Although one might have hoped for an autochthonous evolution of its forest policy, this has not happened. The present outcome is, however, far better than an outright disconnect from the global movement and the Vision of the Earth Summit. As a small country however, in a hugely “self-interest driven, and unequal international environment of haves and haves not”, Guyana cannot afford to be either naïve, ill-informed, or non-creative/innovative, in its expectations as regards the global outcomes of the Earth Summit. It is self-evident the country must endeavour to find allies among other relatively small, poor, and powerless nations, both in the Region, and the wider world. These, like us, are confronting similar environmental and ecosystems threats, as well as worsening global inequalities among nations.