South Central People’s Development Association Awarded Equator Prize in Shulinab Village, Region #9, Guyana

May 10, 2016

President of the South Central People's Development Association (SCPDA) displaying the Certificate of Award

The South Central People’s Development Association (SCPDA) was celebrated as a winner of the Equator Prize 2015 at a ceremony held in Shulinab Village, Region #9 on 22nd April 2016, in recognition of its outstanding contribution to environmental conservation, poverty reduction and climate action. It is one of twenty-one community initiatives from across the world that were awarded the prize in 2015, selected from 1,461 nominations submitted by communities in 126 countries. The ceremony in Shulinab Amerindian Village followed an event held at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in December in Paris, France.

The Award Ceremony in Guyana was held on International Mother Earth Day (UN Resolution 63/278), and coincided with the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Over two hundred residents from sixteen (16) communities in South Rupununi gathered at Shulinab’s Village Benab for a three-hour event filled cultural presentations and congratulatory messages particularly from the Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and the Regional Chairman.

In his brief welcome and opening remarks, Shulinab’s Toshao, Mr. Nicholas Fredericks emphasized that the occasion was special since it’s not one that was achieved by one or two individuals but by the entire South Rupununi. He applauded UNDP Guyana for taking the initiative to host the Award Ceremony and added that it is hoped that the event will remind of the achievements and where the community intends to go.

President of the SCPDA, Mr. Cedric Buckley, ecstatically emphasized that “Today is a historic day for the Wapichan people!” He said SCPDA had been working with the people of the South Rupununi for the past twenty five (25) years and they have now been recognized internationally with the winning of the 2015 Equator Prize.

Mr. Buckley highlighted that the sustainable use of forest was not documented by their fore-parents but it was handed to them in oral language and practical use. He said since then they have been using, managing and protecting the forest.

He added “The forest is close and dear to us! With the changes in the modern world, we see greater need to protect the forest and SCPDA initiated and developed a management plan to sustain the forest.”

The SCPDA President lamented that the hard work had paid off and now the organisation is a winner of the Equator Prize – 2015. He highlighted that as a result of that achievement the Government of Guyana awarded the organisation with the Medal of Service.

Speaking at the momentous occasion, Honourable Sydney Allicock M.P., vice-President & Minister of Indigenous People’s affairs said the Equator Prize is priceless and the indigenous peoples of Guyana must be proud. He noted that Guyana is once again placed on the global stage and a debt of gratitude is owed to the Wapichan people of the South Rupununi.

The Minister congratulated SCPDA on the achievement and highlighted that there are a number of ‘firsts’ to be celebrated – 1st indigenous Peoples in Guyana to win an Equator Prize, 1st Indigenous People to receive a National Award and 1st to have official talks between Government and the Wapichan people.

Minister Allicock emphasized that Indigenous peoples have first in many areas of life and they must educate others and build on the firsts.

He said “it is old pathways but we now have to find new direction” and urged those gathered to continue to work for sustainable development.

UN Resident Coordinator / UNDP Resident Representative in Guyana, Ms. Khadija Musa, in her remarks also congratulated SCPDA on the work they are doing and for winning the Equator Prize Award. She explained that the 193 countries that agreed on the new climate action at COP 21 in Paris in December 2015 were in New York on April 22, 2016 at the United Nations Headquarters signing on to the Paris Agreement and President David Granger signed on behalf of Guyana.

Quoting from UNDP’s Administrator, Helen Clark Speech at the opening of the signing of the Paris Agreement, Ms. Musa said “the signing of the Paris Agreement paired with the recent agreement of the 2030 Agenda represent a critical milestone of global sustainable development.”

Ms.  Musa reiterated the call by the UNDP Administrator that “Now is the time for action and we must all prove that we are up to the task at hand” and “no conversation about forest is valid without emphasizing the commitment of the indigenous people to keep the forest intact.”

She reminded the residents that eighty percent (80%) of Guyana’s forest is intact and if it is not protected, miners and loggers will come and move in and the forest will be lost.

The UN Representative also encouraged the elders to ensure that the information is passed on to the younger generation so that the forest will remain as a means of livelihood and contribute to sustainable development.

Similar sentiments were also echoed by the Regional Chairman of Region #9, Mr. Bryan Allicock, and the Assistant Regional Executive Officer, Ms. Althea Fitzpatrick. They expressed how proud the regional administration was because of the achievement and pledged support to offering assistance where necessary to ensure the good work continues.

A replica of the Equator Prize Certificate of Award was presented to the President of SCPDA by Ms. Musa. During the presentation, she once again extended congratulations on behalf of the UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark, and encouraged the organisation to continue to do good work.

A federation of Wapichan communities, the South Central People’s Development Association has developed an innovative land use plan and a “living digital map” of their traditional lands to promote secure land rights and socio-ecological resilience. Community mapping teams create territorial maps that are used to make land claims and devise collective land use plans for the forest, mountain, savannah and wetland ecosystems that fall within the territory of the 17 Wapichan communities. More than 100 intercommunity agreements have been reached on the sustainable use of natural resources, the protection of wildlife and the conservation of forests. Field investigations, smart phones, GPS units and a community drone are used to detect deforestation and other environmental damage caused by illegal logging and mining in the Wapichan territory. The land use plan includes a collective vision and agreed priority activities in the fields of health, food security, education, cultural integrity and sustainable livelihoods. A video on the South Central People’s Development Association’s work is available here.

The ceremony in Shulinab Village followed the recognition of South Central People’s Development Association on the global level at a high-level award ceremony on 7 December 2015 in Paris, France, during the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21). Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, said “Climate change affects all of us—rich and poor, developed and developing, urban and local. The people and groups here tonight have shown that action and innovation against climate change can and does happen at all levels, and this should be encouraged, supported and scaled up.”

Each winning organization received USD 10,000 $ and two representatives from each community participated in workshops and events at COP21. In statements delivered at the award ceremony, community representatives stressed the urgent need for better representation of indigenous peoples and local communities in decisions on land tenure and management of natural resources.

The Equator Initiative is a partnership that brings together the UN, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. Since 2002, the partnership has awarded the prestigious Equator Prize to 208 local and indigenous communities around the world.

The Equator Prize, which has been endorsed by former Heads of State Gro Harlem Brundtland and Oscar Arias, philanthropist Ted Turner, a host of Nobel laureates, UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall and celebrities Alec Baldwin and Edward Norton, was held for the eighth time in 2015.

A complete list of Equator Prize 2015 winners can be found here. To access videos on all winners, please click here.

Current partners of the initiative include: Government of Norway; German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development; Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA); United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Conservation International; Convention on Biological Diversity; Ecoagriculture Partners; Fordham University; International Union for Conservation of Nature; The Nature Conservancy; PCI Media Impact; Rare; UNEP; UN Foundation; and UNDP.

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