Guyanese in the Essequibo region were on Friday July 26 given an opportunity to join in the creation of a process which would allow citizens to exercise influence over the ways in which Guyana’s oil and gas sector would impact society.
This opportunity was made possible through a public consultation referred to as an Open Space hosted by Policy Forum Guyana (PFG), in collaboration with Guyana Human Rights Association and Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. The ‘Open Space’ initiative, held at the Essequibo Technical Institute, Anna Regina, aims at generating the national consensus among ordinary Guyanese on how the “mega-revenues” expected from the country’s oil and gas sector can best deliver to the future of all Guyanese.
According to a PFG press release, the public consultation was the fifth in a series of eight initiatives which are set to be conducted in Corentyne, Lethem and Upper Mazaruni in the coming months.
The PFG team to Essequibo was spearheaded by Benita Davis on behalf of the three sponsoring organizations. A supporting team of twelve volunteers comprised of members from the University of Guyana Geographical Society, staff from E.T.I and youths from Anna Regina.
According to Davis, the Open Space method is an excellent way to engage all citizens in a discussion on a complex issue like oil and gas. Apart from the ordinary people educating themselves about the consequences of oil and gas, Davis said, the event is also a valuable learning opportunity for many of the volunteers from Anna Regina who were experiencing the Open Space technique for the first time.
The longer-term aim of the initiative, she explained, is to revive a collective belief among Guyanese that things could be different. “Rather than resigning ourselves to each one striving as individuals to better their own position within the existing society, if citizens act together, they can renovate society as a whole,” she explained.
The groups engaged in discussions that were centred on developments they would like to see in the community and across the country coming from oil and gas revenues. This included the future development of Essequibo’s economy and job availability for graduates, among other things. They also embraced the opportunity to share issues and recommendations. The top three priorities for Anna Regina generated by the event are:
- Development of technical and agricultural training
- Improved Healthcare system
- Creation of laws and policies specific to the Oil and Gas sector
Among those present at the activity were representatives the Essequibo Technical Institute, Board of Industrial Training, Essequibo Chamber of Commerce, New Opportunity Corps, Church of Christ, Guyana Forestry Commission, Al Madinah Islamic School and Suddie hospital along with a range of interested citizens.
The First Phase of this the project will close with the final Open Space event scheduled for Berbice in late August. The Second Phase consists of compiling the main conclusions into a consensus document that enjoys the demographic legitimacy of having emerged from the widespread discussion, as a tool for strengthening the oil and gas dialogue.