I’m pleased to be present today to acknowledge the outstanding work of the United States Government’s Youth and Citizens’ Participation project over the past 12 months. As a friend of Guyana, the U.S. Government is pleased to support citizens’ education for Guyana’s first local government elections in 22 years and the efforts to build stronger communities by fostering partnerships between citizens and their elected representatives.
In a February 2016 letter to President Granger, congratulating Guyana on its 46th Republic Anniversary, President Obama expressed the view that “local elections are essential to bolstering good governance, development, and respect for the rule of law.” Consistent with this view, the U.S. Government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), provided funding for a network of non-governmental organizations to disseminate mass media messages to communities across Guyana to educate citizens about local elections and local government. These efforts focused on young Guyanese, many of whom were electing local representatives for the first time.
The project implementation schedule of twelve months was relatively short, but did not diminish the importance of what was accomplished. The U.S. Government’s support complemented the efforts of the Guyana Elections Commission, the Ministry of Communities, and other organizations, which together contributed to a successful local government election.
Data suggests that many of the councilors elected as local representatives, including mayors and deputies in the nine municipalities, are from a younger demographic. This is encouraging as statistics from the 2012 census show that approximately 50% of Guyanese are under the age of 24. In the words of Ms. Elsie Harry, a community organizer who worked with the Youth and Citizens’ Participation project, “Younger people face specific challenges that older generations may not understand. If they cannot be understood, they cannot be addressed.” Greater involvement of young Guyanese in the decision making process and the governance of their communities is essential for progressive human and social development.
Our project partners worked tirelessly in communities and faced many challenges. I commend your efforts. Through social interaction, public education, sports, and the media, you brought communities together to identify and develop solutions. While several gains have been made, you recognize the additional work to be done. Training and capacity building activities supported through the project, will contribute to future efforts in this respect. The Ministries present today have a critical role to play, but most importantly, community residents have the greatest stake. Improved responsiveness of elected officials and better delivery of services within your communities is the goal. Remember, as the “Vote Like a Boss” slogan goes, You’re Still A Boss!!
In closing, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to our many partners – the Guyana National Youth Council, Help and Shelter, Youth Challenge Guyana, and the private sector – who made resources available for citizen education and other efforts. Thank you to the Ministry of Communities, the Ministry of Social Cohesion, and the community members that represent the driving force behind every activity. And finally, my sincere thanks to Counterpart International, the project’s prime implementing partner, for its dedicated work in collaborating with local partners to achieve project objectives.
Once again, congratulations to the Government and people of Guyana as you continue to promote good governance. The U.S. Government is fully supportive of efforts that foster democracy and civic participation.