By: John Quelch
at the Opening of the Civil Society Public Policy Advocacy Training
|John Quelch, Projects Coordinator|
Head of Bilateral Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union to Guyana, Mr. Benedikt Madl, other members of the head table, members of the media, colleagues, good morning to you all. It’s my distinct honour to share with you a brief overview of the Guyana Vulnerable Capacities Strengthening Project.
The EU-funded Guyanese Vulnerable Communities Capacities Strengthening Project was designed to contribute towards the equitable treatment of all peoples in Guyana by supporting efforts to strengthen the participation of vulnerable persons and their representative organisations in decision-making processes of the state. This is continuously being achieved through strengthening the capacities of marginalized groups in Guyana, with the strong alliances of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF), and other Civil Society Organisations and partners, to effect key social, legal and policy changes in the country which advance full equality and citizenship for the vulnerable people in Guyana.
The project is designed and structured in three (3) key phases. The first phase culminated in the Civil Society Stakeholders Consultation which was held in April this year and convened various representatives of civil society from both rural and urban Guyana to review the analyses and findings of the draft Baseline and Mapping Studies conducted under the project. The Baseline Study measured the current level of capacity among Guyanese civil society to engage in public policy advocacy on behalf of their constituents. The Mapping Study described the process of how policy decisions are made in the Guyanese context and highlights key opportunities for civil society intervention and participation. These in-depth reports, which form the evidence base of the project, are the outputs after many months of research, analysis and writing by our consulting team.
This training programme we are opening today marks a substantial part of the training phase, and is intended to bring together a wide cross-section of civil society stakeholders from the length and breadth of Guyana and to provide them with a thorough and focused introduction to and appreciation of the principles and practices of effective public-policy advocacy and to prepare them for successful involvement in Guyanese public-policy consultations and decision-making which affect their lives and the communities they represent.
These phases are being implemented through the hard work of our Public Policy Commonwealth Consultant, Mr. Gordon Floyd, Public Policy Caribbean Consultant, Ms. Deborah Nurse, and Governance Consultant, Ms. Kesaundra Alves.
The upcoming re-training and community engagement phase will be, in part, a response to the participant assessments following this first session, covering themes and skills deemed important by participants; the second part of the session will focus on the collaborative development of the first draft of an advocacy strategy and plan. This round of training will also be focused on the training of civil society organisations trainers and mentors that will in effect and in-turn, train fellow members of their organisations and constituencies to engage the public policy process.
There will also be a final evaluation that will be fashioned as a follow up to the evaluations conducted at the end of the each training programme; the particular focus of this final evaluation will be an assessment of the behavioural changes amongst the target audiences of the programme and an assessment of the behavioural changes amongst the ultimate beneficiaries – Guyanese vulnerable communities.
Given the change in government after the May 2015 elections, we also recognized that this process would better inform the APNU-AFC administration how to address the issues affecting vulnerable groups, and to charge civil society to take pro-active measures to have these issues addressed. SASOD and the GEF very much welcome the APNU-AFC’s promise in its 2015 elections manifesto which states: "We commit to putting in place measures which will ensure that all vulnerable groups in our society, including women, children, persons with disabilities, rural and Indigenous women, youth, the elderly and the sick and pregnant and those marginalised because of sexual orientation are protected and not discriminated against." It is time to turn rhetoric into action through legislative and other policy measures which secure the legal protection of the human rights of marginalized groups. We look forward to working with the new government to make these commitments a reality, benefiting the communities we represent and serve.