Dr. Patrick Chesney, GSF Chief Technical Advisor delivering his presentationDr. Patrick Chesney, GSF Chief Technical Advisor delivering his presentationTwenty participants representing the governments of all six countries of the Guiana Shield (GS) and other key partners and stakeholders met at the Herdmanston Lodge in Georgetown from March 11-13, 2015 to draft the GSF post- 2014 programme.

At the opening ceremony, Dr. Patrick Chesney, GSF Chief Technical Advisor presented on the specific workshop objectives. He explained that the drafting of the GSF post-2014 programme document should be based on:

    • The GSF as a multi-partner programme, as a regional flexible delivery mechanism for financial, scientific and technical resources to the development of methods for remuneration of ecosystem services, and transboundary initiatives involving collaborative management of protected areas and conservation-based territorial development;
    • The GSF lines of action agreed to during the Second RAB meeting which took place in Bogota, Colombia, on 13-14 June 2013;
    • The following focal areas: biodiversity, water, biodiversity, agroforestry and other sustainable economic activities, indigenous and tribal community livelihood and stewardship, protected areas;
    • The following design elements: communications, multi-partner approach, coverage of ecological extent of the GS, remuneration for ecosystem services as a central mechanism.

Mr. Ewout Sandker, Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation to Guyana delivering his remarks at the opening of the meeting.Mr. Ewout Sandker, Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation to Guyana delivering his remarks at the opening of the meeting.Mr. Ewout Sandker, Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation to Guyana, in his remarks, said that the "Guiana Shield Facility not only constitutes the single comprehensive regional initiative that recognizes the value of the biodiversity of the GS, but most importantly, seeks to support the development and implementation of conservation and sustainable development strategies across the hosting countries."

Mr. Sandker said that the environmental conservation of the Guiana Shield is seriously threatened by uncontrolled economic development, and posited that the project has made excellent results in positioning the initiative as an environmental point of reference in South America and beyond and garnering political momentum for coordinated actions in this Eco-Zone.

He further emphasized that "GSF delivers scientific-based outputs of good quality in the areas of information relevance, scope, scientific rigor and value for policy-making, and project-based academic use. He noted that of utmost importance is the interdisciplinary database that brings and standardizes into a single platform multidimensional information related to the Guiana Shield.

Mr. Sandker alluded to the fact that there is sound evidence that national projects in the Guiana Shield countries are yielding palpable effects at the policy and community levels particularly as it relates to REDD+ preparations and the Monitoring, Reporting and Verification Systems (MRVS).

Moreover, he noted that "the communication strategy has contributed substantially to positioning GSF as a catalyst initiative in promoting GS conservation and advocating its values at the national and regional level. He added that the user-friendly and content rich website, along with the Facebook and Twitter pages, enables the dissemination of outputs for policy, capacity development and research purposes.

Mr. Sandker concluded on the premise that, "We should not omit to look at a matter of concern, the sustainability of the project. Additional funding is needed to ensure the continued prosperity of this initiative."

Ms. Khadija Musa, UNDP Resident Representative delivering remarks at the opening of the meeting.Ms. Khadija Musa, UNDP Resident Representative delivering remarks at the opening of the meeting.Further, UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Khadija Musa, told the participants that it is important to remember that the third meeting of the GSF Regional Advisory Board (RAB) concluded in Brasilia on September 26, 2014, with one of several key decisions for the GSF Secretariat to convene a meeting of the drafting committee during the first quarter of 2015 to draft the GSF post-2014 programme document. Hence, this follow up action is key to how the future is shaped.

The UNDP Resident Representative echoed that it is her sincere hope that the high government representatives assisted by key non-State actors will charter the right cause. Ms. Musa added that it is important for the meeting to focus on three areas which are prioritizing technical cooperation, targeting resources and increasing national ownership.

Additionally, Ms. Musa said "there is no doubt that the Guiana Shield is worth protecting even as increasing demands are placed on its unique resources to meet development needs".

She told participants that they should all be proud of the work they have done individually and collectively in the past, the work they continue to do now and in the future building on experiences learnt and capacities developed at multiple scale towards sustainable human development in the Guiana Shield.

Ms. Musa explained that "strategic partnerships brought us this far and we ought to continue to build big and better partnerships to secure the future we want."

She called for continued support for the GSF as it looks to continue to safeguard the resources for the present and future generations.

Delivering the feature address and opening the workshop was Mr. Joslyn McKenzie, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. Mr. McKenzie said "the Guiana Shield eco-region plays a critical role in mitigating climate change since it contains both the highest percentage of primary forest cover with over ninety percent (90%) of intact tropical forest, and the lowest population density of any major tropical area.

He pointed out GSF's support to Guyana through the Guyana Forestry Commission to build capacity to manage its forest resources and environmental services through technical work on the development of a national reference level for REDD+ as well as aspects of the MRVS related to payment for ecosystem services.

Mr. Joslyn McKenzie, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment delivering his remarks at the opening of the meeting.Mr. Joslyn McKenzie, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment delivering his remarks at the opening of the meeting.The Permanent Secretary said that "at this junction, it is important that whilst we take stock of what we have achieved that we also look to see how this has set us on the path to confidently take next steps, and in the strategic direction." He added that is all about finding common goals and moving the Guiana Shield eco region as a whole in a direction that assures sustainable development.

The three days of meeting was a tremendous success with active participation and valuable inputs from the stakeholders. Participants deliberated on various thematic areas during the technical sessions to ensure the new programme is well designed for the GSF to continue its quest to contribute to the protection and sustainable development of the eco-region.

Participants at the GSF Post-2014 Programme Planning MeetingParticipants at the GSF Post-2014 Programme Planning MeetingIn addition to high representatives of the governments of the Guiana Shield, participants from Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem (CLME) project, Conservation International (CI), French Forest Service (ONF/ONFI), Institute for Environmental Security (IES), International Society of Biodiversity of the Guiana Shield (IBG), International Union for the Conservation of Nature
(IUCN-Sur), Marine Mammal Conservation Corridor for Northern South America (MAMACOCOSEA), Royal Holloway University (RHU-Project COBRA), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), attended the meeting.

To view the photos of the meeting, click here to visit the GSF Facebook page.