Background and Rationale:
Guyana’s November 2011 polls were the second instance of violence-free elections in Guyana’s history after those of 2006. The peaceful conduct of the last two elections underpins a growing hope that a democratic culture is gaining roots in Guyana. The 2011 elections are also remarkable for another reason: For the first time in the country’s history the elections resulted in a new balance of power in which the ruling party won the presidency on a plurality of votes, while the combined opposition won a one-seat majority in the 65-seat parliament. This unprecedented situation presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the country.
The last two elections notwithstanding, Guyana has had a chequered, tension-laden political history. The persistent tensions are attributable to the racial/ethnic divide and the organization of politics and access to state power along these lines. The leading two political parties have traditionally drawn most of their support from their respective racial/ethnic camps with each of the two holding onto power for extended periods at a time. Irrespective of the camp in power, claims and counter-claims of discrimination and exclusion have persisted. Elections campaigns and other politically significant events provide the site for the recounting of the contested narratives of historical injustices and exclusion.
With the outcome of the 2011 elections ordaining a new political order, hope was heightened for a positive change in the politics of Guyana. Ideally, the fact that the ruling party now does not have a controlling presence in parliament would suggest, at a minimum, the necessity for engaging with the opposition for the sake of successfully transacting business in the House. In turn, the opposition has only a precarious majority of one seat in parliament, a situation that makes dialogue with the ruling party ideal, if not unavoidable.
The reality has however been different, with the relations between the ruling party and opposition parties tending more towards acrimony than cooperation, while some of the matters of disagreement (such as the sharing of crucial parliamentary committee seats, and the national budget) have been referred to local and regional courts. The fall-out in parliament has tended to consume national energies, polarize society and obscure other positive developments. The kind of bipartisan engagement that appears to be necessary in the current dispensation is therefore not a natural inclination but one that needs to be cultivated.
More recently, a protest by residents of the opposition-stronghold of Linden in Region 10 against the increase of electricity tariffs turned into a drawn-out national crisis after three of the protestors were shot dead and more than twenty seriously injured. In the ensuing month-long crisis, the mining town was virtually shut down, while traffic flow to the interior of the country and on to Brazil was completely blocked. Protracted negotiations led to the signing of an agreement between the government and the leadership of Region 10 on August 22. The crisis not only demonstrated the volatility of the relationship between the political parties, but also the need for skilled, impartial institutions and leaders who can lead protagonists away from wasteful confrontation and towards dialogue and collaboration.
UNDP has in the past implemented innovative projects aimed at responding to tensions and promoting national unity and social cohesion. The peaceful elections of 2006 were preceded by concerted dialogue, political and legislative reforms, and social cohesion interventions led by national and international actors. UNDP’s Social Cohesion Programme (SCP, 2003-2006) has been credited with the promotion of political dialogue on necessary reforms and advancing social cohesion and reconciliation, thereby playing a significant role in ensuring the violence-free elections of 2006. In 2008, the UNDP launched the Enhanced Public Trust, Security and Inclusion (EPTSI) Project in partnership with the ministries of Youth, Culture and Sports (MYCS) and Local Government and Regional Development (MLGRD). EPTSI focused on youth-related interventions at regional levels and addressed some of the underlying long-term obstacles to peace and development as they relate to young people.
More recently in 2011, UNDP launched its Parliamentary Support Project (PSP). Among other things, the PSP seeks to build the capacity of parliament through the strengthening of the committee system, provision of ICT infrastructure, training of staff, strengthening of the Hansard division, and improving the interaction between parliament and the public. And in 2012, in partnership with the MLGRD, UNDP launched the Youth Empowerment, Inclusion and Reconciliation Project (YEIRP) that aims to train youth in 6 regions in various skills including project development and implementation, leadership, human rights and conflict transformation.
As part of the EU-funded global project on Equipping National and Local Actors in Internal Conflict Management Processes with skills for Dialogue and Constructive Negotiation, and in line with its Country Programme Action Plan (CPAP) for 2012-2016, UNDP Guyana is seeking the services of an International Consultant to develop and deliver a multi-audience training programme to bolster the country’s capacity for consensus building and mediation and collaborative leadership for social cohesion. This leadership capacity building programme will aim to strengthen trust and communication; develop negotiation, mediation, communication and conflict transformation skills; and crisis response strategies in Guyana. The programme will also help stimulate discussion and analysis of ways to achieve more effective and holistic strategies for national consensus building, sustainable capacity for managing and resolving differences, and building inclusive processes that advance good governance and social cohesion in the country.
In particular, the Consultant will develop a training manual and deliver an initial two training workshops based on the manual, one for Members of Parliament (MPs) from the three parliamentary political parties in Guyana and one for a corps of strategic non-state actors.
The International Consultant will function as a Team Leader and work with the National Consultant in the development of the training manual and in the planning and delivery of the training workshops. The National Consultant will be the expert on matters content specific to Guyana. The International Consultant will have the final responsibility for the completion and delivery of the complete manual, the conduct of the two workshops and the preparation of a report.
Follow-up training workshops may be carried out in 2013 and may require the services of the International Consultant.
The main objective of the consultancy is to lead in the preparation of a Guyana-specific multi-audience training manual on building leadership capacity for consensus-building, mediation, conflict management and national cohesion, and to subsequently conduct training according to an agreed training schedule.