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US project seeks to break gridlock, build consensus

The United States (US) is injecting US$1.5 million into a project aimed at breaking gridlock between Guyana’s opposition-controlled House and the minority Executive.

American Ambassador to Guyana, Brendt Hardt told a welcome reception for the Chief of Party for the Leadership and Democracy Project (LEAD), Glenn Bradbury that building bridges between the two sides would be a key objective.

He recalled that the 2011 general election had created a possible win-win opportunity for all parties to shape governance out of compromise and a focus on national interest rather than a situation that leads to “stalemate and frustration.”

“That’s why we asked the State Department and USAID (United States Agency for International Development) in Washington to support a specially tailored democracy and governance programme here, to enhance the National Assembly’s functioning and encourage consensus building,” said Hardt.

He pinpointed several areas of gridlock over the past several months including local governance; reliable, environmentally friendly power; a fiscally sustainable debt burden; deterring crime and violence; prevention of financial crimes that distort economic development, and eliminating discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, developing modern air, sea and road transportation links, among others.

Funded by USAID, the project would be executed by the International Republican Institute (IRI) which works in countries important to U.S. interests, where it can make a difference. IRI says it also focuses on three tasks: helping political parties broaden their appeal, ensuring that they rule justly once elected and aiding civil society in guaranteeing good governance.

Hardt said the programme would engage with all actors across the political spectrum in a way that supports the interests of Guyanese in effective and responsive democratic institutions. The project will seek to strengthen parliamentary democracy, local governance, and youth and women’s engagement.

The top American envoy here said LEAD was designed after consultations with political stakeholders, civil society. “Your perspectives and feedback have been invaluable as we identify priorities for advancing democracy and strengthening political processes to achieve consensus and constructive political engagement,” he said.

The US hopes that LEAD will strengthen the functioning of the National Assembly by encouraging consensus building to work with civil society and the public to boost citizens’ engagement with the National Assembly and to work with all parties to support the legislature’s role as an effective deliberative body.

Hardt says when the four Local Government bills are approved by the National Assembly; the US will “immediately support citizen education efforts in preparation for local government elections and renewed local governance.”

“For our part, we stand poised through this USAID programme to work with the Guyana Elections Commission and other partners to boost public knowledge of the election process, the role of local government, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens and elected officials,” he said.

In brief remarks, the LEAD Chief of Party said he and his team would shortly be meeting with stakeholders to begin executing the project. “In the coming weeks, we will be conferring with you, and other partners, as we embark on our program activities – activities that will, to a large extent, be formulated from out of our consultations and  interactions with all interested parties, groups, and individuals,” he said.

Bradbury is an expert in governance, parliamentary and committee procedure, legislative analysis and public policy. He worked for more than 20 years at the House of Commons in Canada as a senior parliamentary advisor and senior policy advisor to several members of the Canadian parliament.