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Iwokrama review committee convenes first meeting

Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman chairing the first meeting of the Iwokrama Review Committee.

-Sub-committees established to address priority areas

Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman on Friday convened the first meeting with the review committee that has been established to examine the operations of the cash-strapped Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation, the Ministry of the Presidency said in a statement.

The Centre has been experiencing severe financial constraints to meet its operational expenses including the payment of staff.

The committee’s central focus is to devise a renewed mandate for the Centre which will enable it to be self-sufficient, as was the initial aim of the project. Sub-committees were established based on the priority areas that were identified. These include: budget and financing, research and training, governance, and management.

The budget and financing committee will be spearheaded by Professor Hamley Case, Permanent Secretary of the Indigenous Affairs Ministry, Vibert Welch, Vice-President of Conservation International, Dr. David Singh, CEO of the Iwokrama Centre, Dane Gobin and a representative from the Tourism Ministry.

The governance aspect will be addressed by Dr. David Singh, Commissioner, Protected Areas Commission, Damian Fernandes, and Vibert Welch; while the management structure will be addressed by Dane Gobin, Director of Resource Management at Iwokrama, Dr. Raquel Thomas and Advisor in the Ministry of Governance, Clayton Hall. Research and training will be addressed by Dr. Raquel Thomas and Dr. Allyson Stoll from the University of Guyana.

Over the years, it has been depended heavily on the Commonwealth, but recently, Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma made it clear that funding will no longer be made available for operational costs of the Centre but will provide technical and financial support to support the development of a self-sustainable model. Iwokrama has been the longest and most expensive project that the Commonwealth has embarked on.  He noted that, Iwokrama was supposed to be self-sustaining and has instead cost the organization £3.5 million.

However, Minister Trotman said that at the end of the Iwokrama belongs to Guyana and the time has come for Guyanese to take ownership, rather than it been seen merely as a Commonwealth project that is located in Guyana.

Two weeks ago, Cabinet approved a grant of US$100,000 to assist the Centre until September; however, the Centre might still need another tranche of financing to carry it through to the end of the year. As such, the Minister said that the Committee needs to come up with both immediate solutions as well as a more long-term, sustainable vision going forward.

The review committee will submit its final report outlining the findings and recommendations To Cabinet by August 17. Once finalised, the new plan will be presented by President David Granger at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta in November.