Our world faces many grave challenges.
Widening conflicts and inequality.
Extreme weather and deadly intolerance.
Security threats – including nuclear weapons.
We have the tools and wealth to overcome these challenges. All we need is the will.
The world’s problems transcend borders.
We have to transcend our differences to transform our future.
When we achieve human rights and human dignity for all people – they will build a peaceful, sustainable and just world.
On United Nations Day, let us, ‘We the Peoples’, make this vision a reality.
Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary General
Guyana may not be as gloomy as what we see in the world, but there are many development challenges. The road to the Sustainable Development Goals is long and bumpy but we have to take the journey from where we stand.
Agenda 2030 and the SDGs are very ambitious. We are working towards no poverty, totally eliminating extreme poverty measured as people living on less than US$1.25 a day. We are striving for no hunger, every child having quality education, everyone accessing quality essential health care, everyone having clean drinking water and sanitation, every man and woman having decent work to do. The SDGs apply to every human being, leaving no one behind.
Capacities, time and resources are finite and need to be used smartly to implement such a tall agenda. For this reason, we have to tackle multi-dimensional developmental issues together. The 17 SDGs are not silos, they are very interconnected. Poverty, hunger, inequality, insecurity, unemployment, educational underperformance have deep and interconnected root causes. Climate change and demographic and economic pressures on natural resources add further uncertainties on people’s lives. Resolving these issues requires coordinated actions between line ministries and other institutions nationally, regionally and locally.
To leave no one behind, we need to look out for the most disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalised persons in society. They may include families in poverty, adolescent and single mothers, most disadvantaged children and youth, LGBT, persons living with HIV, people with disabilities, elderlies, victims of discrimination, abuse, violence and trafficking. We must be mindful not to label people and add stigma and discrimination, but we need to understand their particular issues to enable and empower them to access opportunities and services, to expand and fulfill their life potentials, and to lead a life of dignity. Inclusive state policies, laws, resource allocations, services and programmes are important, but empowerment and the community spirit of non-discrimination are also critical.
What is the UN doing in Guyana? The UN Country Team in Guyana is comprised of 12 agencies – FAO, ILO, IOM, PAHO/WHO, UNAIDS, UNDP, UN Environment, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNODC, UN WOMEN. Each agency provides assistance to Guyana in its respective mandated area that together cut across the spectrum of SDGs. We all work under a common development assistance framework called the UN Multi-country Sustainable Development Framework in the Caribbean. The exhibition here shows some of the work of the UN agencies and partner institutions so I encourage you to have a look. I would like to highlight some joint actions that the UN Country Team has been working on this year to address multiple SDGs and reach out to vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of society.
Suicide is a disproportionately high phenomenon in Guyana in comparison with the world. In July, the UN Country Team held a dialogue at Parliament with Members of Parliament across parties on suicide prevention. We recognised the need for a coordinated, multi-sectoral response to improve mental health outcomes and reduce the risk of suicide. The response includes legal revisions around suicide and mental health, stopping discrimination and stigma in communities and in public services, stopping domestic and other forms of violence and abuse, addressing substance abuse, and reducing poverty.
HIV/AIDS also requires multi-dimensional actions to prevent and to care continuously. About 8500 people are living with HIV in Guyana and prevalence is not dropping while donor funding for HIV/AIDS have decreased significantly over recent years. The UN Country Team continues to support public education campaigns for prevention, support testing and care including in mining camps, ensure adhesion to treatment protocol and advocate for non-discrimination of persons living with HIV and high-risk groups.
Food and nutrition security is high priority for Guyana. The UN Country Team is embarking on support to an inter-ministerial sustainable school feeding initiative spearheaded by the First Lady. Building on existing school feeding programmes, schools, communities and farmers will be empowered with the management of local procurement of other agricultural products and processing and cooking of nutritional meals. This approach aims to tackle food and nutrition security, enhanced children’s learning capacities, local economic development and community empowerment.
Decentralisation is a means of bringing services, resources and decision-making closer to the people, where multi-sectoral solutions need to be found and acted on. The UN Country Team is supporting Region 9’s development plan under the Regional Democratic Council in collaboration with Conservation International. We are discussing with Ministries of Communities and Finance to expand this regional support to other regions.
Data is essential to accurately understand issues facing people, to formulate appropriate development policies and interventions, to target allocation of resources and to monitor the results of interventions. The UN Country Team is helping line ministries to collect and analyse data for evidence-based planning and monitoring. UNICEF with the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs recently completed a study on the situation of women and children in indigenous communities. UNDP with USAID is developing a data system on citizen security in the Ministry of Public Security. FAO with IDB is starting the Agricultural Census with the Ministry of Agriculture.
The UN Country Team works with the Government, state institutions, local democratic institutions, civil society, private sector and communities to embed SDGs in development policies such as the Green State Development Strategy and to find solutions on the ground. We have been fortunate to work with many committed persons in Government, Opposition, state institutions, civil society, private sector, academia, media, international partners, communities and citizens. I take this opportunity to appreciate their contributions and their collaboration with us. I would like to acknowledge the UN Association in Guyana, a group of passionate volunteers who want to offer their skills and knowledge to give back to society and are collaborating with the UN Country Team. Let us continue our work together and mobilise more people to join this effort. Two years have already passed since the adoption of the SDGs and there is still a lot to do for “We the Peoples” to make the vision of sustainable development into reality.