OPINION: President Ali’s One Guyana is about human security

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 September 2023, 6:38 by Denis Chabrol

By Dr. Randolph Persaud, Professor Emeritus

Dr. Randolph Persaud

In 1994 the UNDP for the first time introduced the concept of Human Security. An overarching concept, human security has revolutionized how policy makers, scholars, NGOs and INGOs think about both domestic and global governance. Human security is built around three major shift, namely (1) that mitigating threats to human life and well-being should be the first priority in conduct of public policy; (2) that the sources of threats to human well-being are found inside, as well as outside the territorial borders of a country; and (3) that the security of individuals and communities cannot rely only on the use of arms, and especially not military power.

President Ali’s One Guyana strategy, combined with the economic and social policies embedded in the LCDS 2030, are clearly dedicated to achieving the objectives first articulated three decades ago at the UNDP.

The UNDP measures the quality of life based on a few key indicators including but not limited to health, education, and income. A perfect score is 1 (one), and total failure is 0 (zero). We have moved quite handsomely from the dreary days of 1980 when our score was 0.516. In 1980 the quality of life in Guyana was lower than where Haiti is today (0.535). Today (2021-2022) our quality of life (0.714) is like what obtains in St. Lucia. The graph below shows a steady climb since the late 1980s, and then a step-level upward shift since 2020.

President Ali human security agenda is built around three principal streams of policies and practices. The first, and overarching one is conjured up in the symbol One Guyana. While cynics do not find much in it, One Guyana is constructed around the notion that unless we develop a culture of mutual respect, the economic gains that are afoot now, will not be enough to allow the consolidation of a Good Society. President Ali is working with the assumption that economic prosperity needs an infrastructure of multiethnic and multicultural understanding and cooperation for it be meaningful.

Secondly, President Ali is adamant that the take-off (W.W. Rostow) afforded by oil & gas aren’t enough to maintain a sustainable development path for the next several generations. The president’s signature antidote to the long-term obsolescence of a hydrocarbon-based economy is food security. Those familiar with the human security approach will know that food security has been particularly singled out for sustained attention. Millions of people still go hungry world-wide, including in the most developed economies. These pressures will increase with population growth. And while new GMO technologies in agriculture (products with greater yield, pest resistance, weather resistance and so on) will no doubt contribute to greater productivity, it is the case that food security could be significantly threatened by the dynamics of Intellectual Property Rights and complex speculative instruments such as derivatives. The Guyana-led 25 by 25 is indicative of Dr. Ali’s commitment to national and regional human security.

The third plank of President Ali’s human security commitment can be found in the deepening of our carbon sequestration, mitigation, and adaptation model. The ART-TREES deal which has yielded US$ 750, 000,000 to date, clearly demonstrates that Dr Ali has what might be described as a ‘Universal Hydrocarbon Model’. This means that oil and & gas must be situated in a larger global ecology of resource management. The carbon sequestration that is derived through our Avoided Deforestation is as important as our oil & gas exploration and development. Put differently, President Ali’s economic model is simultaneously addressing our national development needs, while also contributing to the global efforts to combat the worst effects associated with climate change.

President Irfaan Ali is taking Guyana to new heights. The policies he and his administration are pursuing are grounded in solid macro-economic fundamentals. In many ways, Dr. Ali’s general strategy is remarkably consistent with the central ideas articulated by Amartya Sen. The Nobel Prize economist has consistently argued that development without freedom is no development at all. This point is made most compellingly in his bestselling book “Development as Freedom.” In this book Sen outlines a “capabilities approach”. The approach notes that development must go beyond per capita GDP and other nominal measures. Instead, real development is about empowering individuals and communities to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. The One Guyana approach built around democratic multiculturalism, food security, and environmental sustainability has at its core, the empowerment of individual and communities. These are also the key variables in human security.

Dr. Persaud is Adviser, Officer of the President, Guyana.