Facts on Consultations and Land Tenure, Guyana’s ART TREES Programme

Over the last few weeks, the Amerindian Peoples Association and one former Toshao, issued several Op Eds and Statements, many of which were carried in the local and international media, which have misrepresented the process and outputs of Guyana’s engagement in forest carbon markets.

Current elected representatives of indigenous peoples have clarified the various inaccuracies in these Op Eds and Statements, including in a statement made by the current Chair of the National Toshaos’ Council https://epaper.stabroeknews.com/article/281633899307455.

The Department also wishes to put certain facts on record on these matters:

Misrepresentation: Consultations were not extensively done on the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) 2030, ART TREES; and on the benefits sharing mechanism for carbon credit revenues.

Fact: A Fact Sheet published in December 2022 and available at https://lcds.gov.gy/fact-sheet-on-guyanas-engagement-in-art-trees/ pointed to a 315 Page Report – https://lcds.gov.gy/summary-of-feedback/ providing records showing extensive consultations were conducted on the LCDS 2030 and showing names of persons consulted, dates and minutes of discussions, including with the persons who are now putting forward inaccurate information.

Several thousand persons were consulted, staring with four hour cluster sessions, which covered in excess of 200 Indigenous Communities over a period of seven months (December 2021 to June 2022). During these sessions, Guyana’s jurisdictional approach to ART TREES was consulted on and the benefits sharing mechanism was a main part of each session. The sessions led to suggestions which in turn led to the evolution of the benefits sharing mechanism that was documented in the July 2022 version of the LCDS, which was then reviewed by the National Toshaos’ Council.

Guyana’s ART TREES engagement was also (i) consulted on at the National Toshaos’ Conference in July 2022 and a resolution passed supporting this engagement: https://lcds.gov.gy/endorsement-of-lcds-2030-by-the-national-toshaos-council/; (ii) approved by a Multi stakeholder body overseeing the LCDS: https://lcds.gov.gy/mssc-approves-finalisation-of-ldcs-2030/ ; and (iii) tabled and debated in the Parliament of Guyana with a resolution passed in August 2022: https://lcds.gov.gy/parliamentary-resolution-lcds-2030/. The Endorsement, Approval and Resolution each outline the focus of the LCDS, Guyana’s Jurisdictional ART TREES engagement, and the proposed benefits sharing mechanism.

This is not a one-off process of engagement. As the LCDS 2030 moves into implementation, and revenues are available through the benefit sharing mechanism, individual villages will have the opportunity to continuously deepen their engagement as set out in the LCDS 2030, which emphasises the ongoing nature of village-led village sustainability plans which must be approved following the engagement of villagers. Each year, opportunities will be provided for input.

Misrepresentation: the National Toshaos’ Council should not have a leading role in the LCDS or ART TREES Programme and represent Indigenous Villages and Communities on matters such as carbon markets.

Fact: The NTC is the national body that represents all Indigenous Villages in Guyana, as

set out in the legislation that governs Indigenous Peoples matters in Guyana: the Amerindian Act 2006. Part IV, Sections 38-43 of the Act outline the Role and Functions of the National Toshaos’ Council. Toshaos and Village Councils (the wider body elected to manage the affairs of the village which is headed by the village Toshao) are elected at the village level in keeping with Part III of the Amerindian Act. Toshaos then represent their villages at meetings of the NTC.

Among the functions of the NTC as detailed in Part IV of the Amerindian Act, is to: “coordinate and integrate the activities of the villages on a national basis” as stated in Section 41 (h), and “to prepare strategies and plans for the protection, conservation and sustainable management of village lands and natural resources” as stated in Section 41 (e). By virtue of the provisions of Part IV of the Act including Section 41 (h), collectively these legislatively enshrine the powers of the NTC, to lead on, guide and endorse the LCDS and approach to carbon financing in Guyana.

At the annual NTC Conference in July 2022, all elected Toshaos present (over 170 leaders in attendance) engaged with the LCDS team who joined discussions on the Strategy and plans for the next phase. These discussions included reviewing the output of the consultations and the process for, and progress on, issuing and marketing carbon credits.

A resolution was passed, with no objection, endorsing the LCDS 2030 inclusive of all its elements while both the Government and the Chair of the NTC emphasized the need for Toshaos to stay involved as implementation of the LCDS moves ahead, village plans are prepared or updated, and new opportunities arise.

Misrepresentation: Engagement in ART TREES affects Land Ownership, Land Management and Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Fact: Guyana’s engagement in ART TREES maintains all existing tenure status of Indigenous Peoples lands.

This engagement has been clear from the inception that the LCDS 2030 continues to boost all efforts to advance and support land ownership, status, and rights of Indigenous Peoples. In response to input from elected leaders of indigenous communities, both titled and untitled communities are included in revenue sharing – and all villages and communities can be part of the programme, as is defining for jurisdictional scale engagement. In parallel, the Amerindian Land Titling (ALT) programme is continuing to address all outstanding titling and related issues. This programme is being conducted in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and adheres both to Guyana’s laws and the procedures and safeguards of UNDP. This programme has its genesis in the LCDS of 2009 and continues under LCDS 2030.

The benefits sharing mechanism that has been developed and endorsed through consultations over the period 2021 and 2022, sets out how:

  • 85% of revenues from carbon credits will be invested in national and multi-community programmes as set out in LCDS 2030 (for example on energy or adaptation where national or multi-community approaches deliver maximum benefit)
  • 15% of revenues will be transferred directly to those communities who wish to engage and produce village plans in accordance with village processes, including the holding of village meetings and securing approval from two thirds of adults present at these meetings. These revenues will be invested by communities and villages in accordance with their own priorities.

Current percentage of forest area covered by Indigenous Villages in Guyana is 12.7%. The ALT has its own dispute resolution mechanism, and as a final resort, access to legal proceedings is an option for those who disagree with titling and related decisions that emerge. Currently, there are no cases before the courts which impact on ALT or LCDS 2030 implementation.

Misrepresentation: Amerindian Villages will not be leading the process in determining how revenues from the benefits sharing mechanism will be used.

Fact: This is not the case, as the LCDS (Chapter 2), and every consultations session held on the LCDS, emphasized.

Amerindian and Titled Lands and Extensions represent 12.7% of forested area in Guyana. In line with the revenue sharing mechanism designed during the seven-month national consultation on LCDS 2030, the dedicated 15% of revenues will be available for community/village programmes for indigenous peoples and local communities as set out in Village Sustainability Plans or equivalent.

The Plans are created by villages themselves.

In some cases, they will be new plans, whereas in others they may be updates of pre-existing plans.

The dedicated 15% of revenues will be supplemental to investments received under national and multiple-community programmes.

Village Plans must be produced in accordance with existing village-led decision making processes and principles of FPIC (free, prior and informed consent), as set out LCDS 2030.

Support will be provided by Government as requested for capacity building to prepare Plans or any other area. Because they will be led by villages, Village Plans will vary, and feedback from the national consultations suggests that villages will likely prioritise areas such as community infrastructure and communications; livelihood opportunities; nature and environment; education and health.

Village will manage, make decisions and steer this process allowing for local ownership and empowerment of Amerindian Villages.

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