Guyana sees hope for sustainable development
When Guyana's first democratically elected government in 28 years took power
in 1992, it faced daunting challenges to reverse the nation's grinding poverty
and sustain faith that democracy would improve citizens' lives. Major goals
included swiftly privatizing state-owned industry, balancing foreign mining
and forestry investments with the need to protect the country's extensive
rain forests, and curtailing one of the developing world's largest foreign
Within a year, with assistance from The Carter Center, the government began
drafting a comprehensive development strategy--the first of its kind--intended
to provide a blueprint for long-term economic growth and social development.
After 18 months of research, including input from more than 200 of its local
interest groups, the Guyanese government is nearing the release of its "National
"The government is trying to chart a path for development in Guyana
that is sustainable fiscally, environmentally and institutionally,"
said Gordon Streeb, director of The Carter Center's Global Development Initiative
"The drafting process for the strategy has been one of the most participatory
exercises anywhere, involving all sectors of society with an interest in
the process. It is an unprecedented approach to forming national development
The Guyana project is the first of its kind for the GDI, which was launched
in 1993 to promote more effective use of development aid by improving partnerships
between developing nations and international donors. GDI proposed the formulation
of a long-term strategy to give developing nations more control in the aid
process, better matching donor interests with national needs.
Guyana's draft document is both "broad and deep," examining development
options at the macroeconomic and sectoral levels, including mining, environmental
regulation, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and other industry, establishing
policies and setting priorities among them. It also gives prominence to
critical social issues, such as health care, education and gender equity.
In all areas, it outlines legislative reforms necessary for implementation.
The draft strategy will be disseminated throughout the country in December
to allow additional interest groups to comment before it is finalized and
implemented. GDI will continue to provide support through these various
"The strategy takes a long-term view of our country's growth prospects
and requirements and the special needs of less-favored groups in society,"
said Guyana President Cheddi Jagan during a meeting with international donor
organizations at The Carter Center in June. "On that basis, it establishes
firm foundations for continuing improvements in the standard of living of
all Guyanese. This is the first time that Guyanese of all races, religions
and political persuasions have come together to draft a blueprint for our
The Carter Center meeting also was attended by former Guyana President Desmond
Hoyte, leader of the major opposition political party, and representatives
of the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the
United States Agency for International Development (USAID). These and other
agencies contributed to the drafting process, and former President Hoyte
is expected to review the draft as well.
"We hope that international organizations will learn from this experiment
that it is possible to have a development strategy driven by the people
who will benefit from it," said former President Jimmy Carter. "The
people of Guyana have come together to decide what their future strategy
for development should comprise. There could hardly be a more diverse nation,
yet they are finding a way to build consensus, which is the basis for consolidating
and strengthening their new democracy."
Ann Carney is communications associate at The Carter Center.
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