Guyana Resource Center
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Friday, May 26, 2006

GUYANA has embarked on its 41st year as an independent nation.
At midnight yesterday, the Golden Arrowhead was hoisted at the National Park, as the curtains came down on the 40th Independence Anniversary celebrations.

Fireworks flared in the night sky, and most reflected on what those four decades had brought their way, and on what the future holds.

Of course the upcoming general elections were uppermost in mind as the fireworks fell apart and died.

And all probably said a silent prayer that this time around the election period would be peaceful and that all would accept the polling results; and if there is disaffection, that this be dealt with through legal and other democratic channels, and not through street demonstrations that so easily turn violent, and other frightening and lawless exercises.

This is the very essence of conflict resolution, of course, the engine of peace in which the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), and its patron, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have so much faith.

The ERC, assisted by the United Nations agency, has used ‘National Conversation’ at 143 communities around the country, getting people from all strata of society to talk to each other, and not so much looking at problems, but coming up with development strategies to solve the problems.

The ERC speaks of its job as creating a safe space where Guyanese can agree.

In this safe space, conflict can be transformed into energy-filled ideas for development.

In its conversations across the country, the ERC found that people who live in the same street yet never spoke to one another suddenly relate to each other, expressing their needs and disappointments and coming up with ideas to have these resolved.

And so people are talking to people, and communities are being put on the alert to tell politicians what they want to see happen when they (the politicians) come around at elections time, as is their wont.

Those who monitor conflict resolution exercises around the world find that it builds stronger and more cohesive organisations and communities, and more rewarding relationships.

Come Tuesday of next week, the ERC will host a consultation of Region Four representatives drawn from conversations in the region at the Ocean View International Hotel at Liliendaal on the East Coast Demerara. Here, reports from all the community conversations in the region will be brought together and discussed.

Eventually, the reports from all the conversations in all the regions will be presented to the government, allowing the administration a good idea of how the people feel and what they want.

This is what makes the ERC programmes not just a ‘talk shop’, but a mechanism for bringing to the attention of those in the government the feelings of the people, from the grassroots up, as articulated in a safe space, and therefore free of any inhibitions.

We echo the sentiments of those involved in the conversations who are optimistic about the whole exercise, and are prepared to give it a try.
We hope it works.

Guyana Chronicle
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