H.E. Neville Totaram, Chargé d’Affaires a.i.,
Permanent Mission of Guyana
During the Adoption of the UPR Outcome of Guyana
October 5, 2020
Thank you very much Madam Vice President,
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am honoured to be here today at the consideration of Guyana’s UPR outcome, to present to the Council Guyana’s response to the recommendations received.
Madam Vice President,
Guyana is appreciative of the constructive engagement of all delegations engaged in its 3rd cycle UPR.
Guyana wishes to reiterate its recognition of the importance of, and, remains fully supportive of the UPR process. The recently installed Government wishes to record its profound apologies for Guyana’s tardiness in responding to the Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (A/HRC/WG.6/35/L/13 dated January 31 2020 and A/HRC/44/16 of 20 March 2020).
Guyana extends its appreciation to the OHCHR and delegations for their understanding and support.
Guyana remains firmly committed to the Universal Periodic Review process as it affords us an opportunity to evaluate our progress, identify gaps and disparities with a view to addressing them, strengthen engagements with our citizens and civil society organizations in the promotion and protection of Human Rights and make incremental progress in compliance with our treaty obligations.
After the 2nd March 2020 elections, a new dispensation of unconstitutionality, illegality, abuse of power, derailing of democracy and perversion of the will of the people were all unleashed by a group of persons who lost those elections.
The new Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana came into office on August 2nd, 2020, after what are considered historic and unprecedented circumstances, even at the global level, following the March 2nd General and Regional Elections.
Repeated, and documented, efforts by officials in the Guyana Elections Commission and the members of the former Government on March 5th and 13th 2020 to derail the will of the electorate to choose their representatives in accordance with the Guyana Constitution contributed to this five (5) months delay.
These elections were observed by the Commonwealth, the Organization of American States, the European Union, the CARICOM and the Carter Centre and all concluded that March 2nd Elections Day had been conducted in a free, transparent and fair manner. During the 5 months following these elections, 100 countries represented in the UN, the Commonwealth, the OAS, the European Union and the CARICOM, all supported the Guyanese people’s efforts to peacefully defend their right to choose their government and to ensure that the legitimate government of Guyana was installed after the recount of all the ballot papers and several court cases to thwart the will of the people.
Guyana wishes to record its deepest appreciation for the support rendered by the UN Secretary General and members of the UN family.
Simultaneously, Guyana recorded its first Covid-19 case on March 11, 2020 and the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic within its borders continues across the country.
A wonderful example of people’s involvement was the sewing and distribution of 200,000 cloth masks by volunteers across the country in the month of April and the collection and distribution of thousands of food hampers by volunteers to poor and vulnerable communities while the status of the results of the elections hung in the air.
Bringing the spread of Covid-19 under control -ensure there are adequate supplies of test kits, equipment, pharmaceutical and medical supplies, and human resources distributed throughout the country and prevent deaths- is now the number one priority.
Guyana wishes to recognize and thank a number of member states that have come forward to assist our people and health system in the last 2 months to have greater capacity and capabilities to fight the pandemic and save lives.The President of Guyana, His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, during his inaugural address to the nation on 8th August alluded to advancing a more robust human rights agenda in Guyana. He outlined a development pathway defined by inclusionary governance and respect for human rights, pursuing constitutional reform, creating better conditions for employment and development, promoting social harmony and reducing inequality for all. He also reiterated this in his address to the 75th Session of the UN-GA on September 23rd and specifically committed his government to “greater political inclusion and to enacting institutional reforms to ensure that democracy, the rule of law and constitutional rights are respected”.
I can report today, that many of the initiatives announced by the President of Guyana are already on stream or about to be implemented with budgetary allocations approved by the new Parliament, that will also address many of the recommendations put forward during Guyana’s UPR.
Noteworthy is that the budgetary allocations for health, education, housing and water account for thirty-three (33) per cent of the GY$ 329 Billion Budget. Furthermore, tax measures introduced in 2016 which had increased poverty, led to thousands of jobs lost, and a decline of the productive sector, have all been removed as of October 1st.
The budgetary allocations that we have introduced in the last quarter of the year bring Guyana more in line with the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals as advocated at the recently held UN Sustainable Goals Moment.
In 2021, Guyana’s emerging transformative developmental projects will put the country on a more secure path towards reaching these goals over the coming years.
Between June 2015 and July 2020, there was no land titling of Amerindian/ indigenous lands. However, the new government is committed to urgently addressing pending and new applications for communal land titles and budgetary support has been provided. Improving the quality of lives of our indigenous peoples and reducing the disparities that exist are priorities; programmes which have been in abeyance in the last 5 years have been restored such as the Hinterland Electrification programme, the Hinterland Education Improvement Programme, connectivity and provision of ICT facilities at the community levels, access to water, transportation and road networks, and community development programmes have all been restored with a view to ensuring these communities have equal access to goods and services and integrate these communities into mainstream Guyana.
Response to the Recommendations
Madam Vice President,
I am pleased to present the Addendum to the Working Group Report and to provide an overview of Guyana’s response to the Recommendations received during its UPR. Guyana has confirmed support for 140 of the 199 Recommendations received while noting the remaining 59.
The mandate of the new Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance states: To manage the diverse affairs of Government in the Parliament of Guyana by undertaking the administration planning, coordination and monitoring of Government’s parliamentary business; promoting effective, accountable and transparent institutions; promoting responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels; and coordinate the Constitutional and Electoral Reform processes. Of special interest to the Council is that this Ministry is tasked with the national mechanism for reporting and follow-up of its human rights treaty obligations and to work towards Guyana’s compliance with its international reporting obligations.
Labour now has its own Ministry, thereby enhancing the inclusion and responsiveness of government to workers’ rights and issues.
Of the 59 recommendations noted by Guyana, a large percentage advocated ratification of optional protocols to international instruments as well as cooperation with Special Procedures.
Ratification of International Instruments
With regard to the Special Procedures, Guyana reiterates its readiness to continue to respond to invitations and to offer full collaboration with mandate holders as it has over the many years.
However, a commitment for a standing invitation to all special procedures may not be within the capacity of the government at this time. This is an issue that will continue to be open for consideration.
Guyana shall continue to give consideration to the recommendations regarding various Protocols and Conventions, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Despite not being a party, Guyana remains firmly committed to the Pledges made during the Global High-Level Segment on Statelessness convened by UNHCR as part of its Executive Committee meeting in October 2019. Guyana will continue to engage nationally, guided by its Constitution, national laws and policies and in partnership with international organisations, to end Statelessness.
Although Guyana has not acceded to the American Convention on Human Rights to date, Guyana is and remains committed to the observance and promulgation of the Principles of the Charter of the Organization of American states. It has advocated and complied as a member country of the OAS with its principles of the protection and preservation of democracy and human rights.
The five constitutional rights commissions form a critical component of the constitutional architecture for the protection of human rights. These are the Ethnic Relations Commission, the Commission on the Rights of the Child, Women and Gender equality Commission, the Indigenous Peoples’ Commission and the Human Rights Commission. In 2015 the financial laws were amended to ensure that these Commissions, as all other constitutional bodies, are to be funded by a direct charge upon the Consolidated Fund, which is in compliance with the Paris Principles. In September 2020 Budget debates, this is the first time that the budgets for these agencies were not reduced by the Government.
However, Guyana is of the view that these Commissions still need to be more active in implementing their constitutional mandates and protecting people’s rights. As such, Guyana would be unable at this time to establish a national institution fully compliant with the Paris Principles. This matter has been raised in recent discussions with UN agencies and possible collaboration and technical assistance for strengthening these rights bodies to carry out their mandates has been identified.
In its 2015 report to the UPR, Guyana reported that the Criminal Law Offences (Amendment) Act 21 of 2010 removed the mandatory death penalty for persons convicted of murders and made provisions for life imprisonment and imprisonment with the possibility of parole. The death penalty was retained in limited cases such as murder of a police officer on duty, a judicial officer or treason. Since 1997, no prisoner has been executed.
In the 2015 2nd cycle review, Guyana noted the Low Carbon Development Strategy and the Guyana-Norway partnership indicating that under this partnership, Guyana was targeted to earn up to US$250 Million for its forest climate services. Of special note was that the Guyana-Norway partnership was the second largest interim REDD+ partnership in the world and the first national scale model.
These funds were being channelled through the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) for the implementation of projects and initiatives identified in Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy. A significant portion of the funds disbursed had been ear-marked to interventions that focus on the indigenous population; the US$8.2M Amerindian Development Fund project provided funding to enhance the socio-economic development of Amerindian communities and US$10.8M allocated funding to the Amerindian Land Titling Project. The GRIF portfolio also focused on mitigating the impacts of climate change through various adaptation projects and providing clean and affordable energy solutions for the country
In the last 5 years, regrettably this opportunity was squandered and USD $80 M set aside for an alternative renewal energy project was shelved. However, the Government has re-instated the Low Carbon Development Strategy as its national development agenda with a pro-poor pro-growth approach in compliance with reducing the impact of climate change on our vulnerable low-lying nation and protecting our rainforest and eco-systems.
The focus is on reducing poverty and disparities within the country between geographic areas and communities and developing a modern democratic nation based on a diversified sustainable economic foundation.
On strengthening the legislative framework and institutions, Guyana reiterates its commitment to implementing another round of constitutional reform and to strengthening legislation to enhance protection for all human rights as well as electoral reform resulting from the experience of the March 2020 General and Regional Elections. Both reform processes will be subject to broad-based nation- wide consultations. It is anticipated that the national consultative constitutional reform process will commence in 2021 which will examine all areas of the Constitution including human rights.
Of note, is that recommendations related to women’s rights, discrimination, children, Indigenous Peoples, and Persons with Disabilities etc, were supported.
Madam Vice President,
As stated and reiterated in all of our country’s reports, Guyana remains open to officials from the UN system visiting the country and working with them.
Guyana indicated it had made significant efforts to meet most of the commitments it had made in 2010 despite the many challenges. Such challenges include, and, no doubt will continue, such as unpredictable weather patterns mainly caused by climate change, new and re-emerging diseases that threaten, in particular small developing countries’ health systems such as ours, the imposition of the “graduation” policy using the narrow measure of GDP per capita which will see countries like Guyana losing concessionary financing, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy and countries throughout the world for several years to come.
The Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana remains firmly committed to the Universal Periodic Review process and will continue to review and upgrade the legal architecture, strengthen national institutions, respect and uphold constitutional rule, and implement policies that promote good governance and provide a more secure future for all Guyanese.
Finally, my Delegation extends gratitude to Madam Vice President, the Working Group, the UPR Secretariat and the delegations which participated in our UPR. Your inputs will contribute to our efforts at building a participatory and inclusive nation, respecting our citizens’ human rights, and implementing policies to enhance sustainable economic and social development.
I Thank you.