Guyana returns to UN Rights Committee after 20 years

Georgetown, Guyana – (October 6, 2015) After 20 years, Guyana has demonstrated its commitment to the preservation of the rights of all citizens by appearing at the 56th Working Session of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, held on September 28-29, 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland, with the commitment of presenting its next periodic report in five years.

The Review was hosted to examine Guyana’s Human Rights Report, which was submitted in 2012 and the administration’s treatment of Guyana’s Indigenous peoples, particularly their levels of access to social services; the steps being taken to respect the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-sexual and Intersex (LGBTI) community in Guyana; the dearth of good quality statistical information; and the reported high levels of corruption in the country.

According to the rules of the Convention, each member state is required to submit five-year periodic written reports on implementation and observance of the Convention for review and comment by a Committee established by the Convention for this purpose.  Guyana’s written submission, made in 2012, covered a period of 17 years from 1995 to 2012 with Guyana’s last appearance before the Committee being in 1995.

The Committee Chairman said that he was satisfied not only with Guyana’s appearance after twenty years, but the delegation’s frankness, and willingness to address the concerns, which arose out of the Report.

Members of the delegation, which included Minister of Governance -Raphael Trotman, Technical Officer – Governance, Teresa Gaime, and First Secretary of the Guyana Embassy, Belgium – Ms. Bevon McDonald, were able to respond to all questions posed by the Committee, highlighting the efforts and commitments being made by the new government to address the gaps, which had existed in the fulfillment rights.

The 18 member UN Committee was particularly pleased with the steps that are being taken by the David Granger administration to tackle Human Rights issues.

Of particular interest to the Committee, was the renaming of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs to the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs as well as the President Granger’s recent announcement of a plan to preserve Amerindian languages and culture.

In response to the continuous stream of concerns raised with regard to statistical misrepresentations within the report, the Guyanese delegation was able to identify the steps the Ministry of Finance has begun to take to enhance the capacity and credibility of the previously neglected Statistical Bureau through a 2015 budgetary allocation.

The Committee’s concerns on corruption afforded the delegation the opportunity to share updates on the establishment of the State Asset Recovery Unit and the engagement of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which can possibly lead to the setting up of an office here.

Civil society shadow reports were also submitted to the Committee months prior to the country review.  These included reports from the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and three international Non-Governmental Organisations examining Guyana’s current status in addressing indigenous peoples’ rights, LGBTI community rights and corporal punishment.

The Guyanese delegation reiterated the new Government’s efforts to ensure that the rights of all Guyanese are respected; noting that the upcoming Constitutional reform process will inevitably examine the laws that are considered discriminatory to the LGBTI community.

The Committee expressed the hope that this would be the new pattern with respect to all of the United Nations’ and other international organisations obligations.

The concluding observations, prepared by the Committee following the review of Guyana’s Human Rights Report and contribution at the meeting, is expected to be released on Friday by the United Nations. It will be shared with and reviewed by Guyana for acceptance and will thereafter pave the way for the implementation of measures to address issues coming out of that report.

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