9 November 1995
The President of Guyana, Dr Cheddi Jagan, and Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku signed in Auckland, New Zealand, today an international agreement establishing the Iwokrama Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development with the Government of Guyana.
The Centre will play a pivotal role in the implementation of the Iwokrama Rain Forest Programme, a unique multilateral initiative launched under Commonwealth auspices in 1990. Under the Programme, the Government of Guyana has set aside some 360,000 hectares of pristine tropical rain forest for an international research project to demonstrate how forests can both be conserved and sustainably developed.
"There has been much theory and rhetoric about how forests should be managed," Chief Anyaoku said. "More action on the ground is critically needed. The Iwokrama Programme will deliver practical results which will help Guyana as well as other countries around the world to manage their forest resources for the maximum human and environmental benefit".
The Centre, which will be located in Georgetown, Guyana's capital, will be at the heart of the research project, involving Commonwealth and other international scientists and local Amerindian communities. The Commonwealth Secretariat has helped in the establishment of the Centre and will help with the establishment of a donor support group to mobilise funding for the Centre from various international organisations and institutions with interests in forestry conservation matters, with scope for private sector support.
Today's Agreement establishes the framework for the Centre's operations. It will form part of legislation shortly to go before Guyana's Parliament which will enshrine the Government of Guyana's commitment to the project, demarcate the site into areas for conservation and sustainable use and ensure the protection of Amerindian rights, as well as setting out the method of management and control of the site.
Unlike many environmental programmes which are strictly conservation-oriented, the Iwokrama site is divided equally into two areas. In the designated Wilderness Reserve, the forest will be conserved in its natural state for scientific research, environmental monitoring and education. In areas set aside for Sustainable Utilisation, projects will be undertaken to establish how resources of the rain forest can be harvested sustainably for economic and social benefit. The income generated from this area will help fund the Iwokrama Programme's core activities in the longer term as well as benefit the people of Guyana.
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The Iwokrama Programme was launched under Commonwealth auspices in 1990 following Guyana's generous offer at the 1989 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to set aside some 360,000 hectares of tropical rain forest for research to demonstrate methods for conservation and sustainable use of tropical forest resources.
In addition to providing long-term experts for the Programme's interim management, the Commonwealth Secretariat initiated collaborative efforts to:
- develop an overall concept for the Programme;
- constitute an interim Board of Trustees chaired by the eminent Indian scientist
Dr M S Swaminathan;
- undertake preliminary site and resource surveys;
- formulate a medium term plan; and
- establish appropriate institutional arrangements for implementing the Programme.
The Commonwealth Secretariat's partners in implementing the Programme include: the Global Environment Facility (GEF); the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC); and Britain's Overseas Development Administration (ODA).
Several features of the Iwokrama Programme are noteworthy:
• Half of the Programme Site is being conserved in its pristine state for scientific research which will increase knowledge of the benefits provided by the forest.
• After further resource surveys and the development of proper methodologies, the other half will be harnessed to yield economic returns on an environmentally sustainable basis. This will cover wood and non-wood forest products (for example bio-prospecting for pharmaceutical products), as well as activities like ecotourism.
• Amerindian communities living near the forest will be contributing to, and benefiting from, the Programme.
• The Programme is being developed in ways which will complement the implementation of Guyana's National Forestry Action Plan.
95/48 9 November 1995