Press Release – May 28, 2014 – Amerindian Peoples Association Sets Record Straight on EU FLEGT Project Finances

Amerindian Peoples Association Sets Record Straight on EU FLEGT Project Finances

 

The Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) wishes to set the record straight regarding its project, “Promoting the effective participation of indigenous peoples in the FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement process in Guyana” being funded by the European Union (EU).

 

It has recently come to the notice of the APA that the facts of this project was misrepresented by a senior government official  during various forums including public meetings held in Amerindian villages in Region 1 and 9. It first came to our notice that during a meeting near Georgetown this official was reported as saying to people who were brought to take part in a protest action, “Recently they had a big project. I think they got 150,000 Euros which is nearly 40 million Guyana dollars, APA, claiming they represent Amerindian people. The European Union gave that to them … and that’s why I want to tell all of you as well, the LCDS is government of Guyana.” It has been reported that this official also made similar statements in recent meetings in Santa Rosa Village, Moruca, Region 1 and in other communities in the Rupununi, Region 9. Additionally this person has also been attempting to discourage people from cooperating with the organisation. In the meeting near Georgetown the people were told that they must not support the organisation as the “APA is in bed with the opposition” and that what the APNU and AFC are doing in parliament, “the APA is doing the same thing outside in the field.”

The APA wishes to clarify that the organisation is a non-profit non-governmental organization that is registered under the laws of Guyana and is not affiliated to any political party. That this government official feels entitled to tell hundreds of Amerindians which organizations they can and cannot freely associate with or misrepresent how the organisation operates belies a deeply disturbing measure of how far an official of the government is from respecting the rights of the indigenous peoples to make their own decisions.

With regards to the project, in December 2013 the APA and the EU signed a two-year agreement for the above mentioned project which officially began in March 2014. The agreement is for a grant of EUR150000 or approximately GY$36 million to carry out activities described in the project proposal submitted to the EU. These include a series of community workshops on the FLEGT – Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade and FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT VPA) primarily for Regions 1 and 2, development of materials for the workshops and for wider distribution, and participation of community representatives at local and national forums where FLEGT VPA is being discussed, among other activities.  This project comes at a time when Guyana and the European Union (EU) are currently in negotiations over the terms of a FLEGT VPA, an initiative that aims to stop the sale of illegally and non-sustainably harvested timber within the EU and to reduce deforestation in timber producing nations, including Guyana. The objective of this project is to ensure that Amerindian communities have the information, capacity and opportunity to make their own choices about related development and since the FLEGT VPA has implications for indigenous communities, it is important that their leaders are empowered to make informed decisions regarding the various aspects of these negotiations.  Therefore while the FLEGT VPA may be a government led initiative, indigenous peoples have a huge stake in determining how these negotiations go.

 

The funding for this project was awarded to the APA through a completely transparent and formal application process and the APA will have to rigorously account to the EU for the monies spent. Spending can only be done according to what was agreed in the project document.  Monies will not be paid in one lump sum but instead in parts during the two years period as the APA satisfies project requirements.  Any intimation that the grant funds for this project are being misused by the APA has no basis in fact.

 

Prior to receiving this grant the APA had been involved in discussions on the subject at the central level and had been making strenuous representation for wider indigenous participation at the national level and for direct input from the communities into these discussions. Among other recommendations, the APA had stressed the need for funding for more outreach and consultations as the organization had noted that enough was not being done to highlight and address indigenous concerns.