in Guyana, Norway

Memo to Rainforest Alliance: If REDD is supposed to reduce deforestation, why is Norway giving REDD money to Guyana?

Amaila Falls

Norway has agreed to fund the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund to the tune of US$250 million. Obviously, the Norwegian government isn’t just going to hand over the money. Under the agreement between the two countries, an independent organisation will conduct an assessment of whether the “REDD+ enablers” have been met.

Rainforest Alliance, a US-based non-profit organisation, has been contracted by the Norwegian government to “to conduct an independent verification of the cumulative accuracy of two Annual Progress Reports on REDD-plus Enabling Indicators.”

Guyana’s Office of Climate Change has so far produced two “Annual Progress Report on REDD-plus enablers” – one for 2009 released in March 2010 and one for 2010 released in October 2010. (The reports are available on the LCDS website.)

Janette Bulkan produced detailed notes on the March 2010 report, published in the Guyana newspaper, Stabroek News. Yesterday, Stabroek News published notes on the October 2010 report, written by John Palmer, Senior Associate of Forest Management Trust, USA. Palmer’s notes are reproduced in full below. The notes give a detailed critique of what Guyana has achieved so far under REDD.

REDD-Monitor looks forward to seeing Rainforest Alliance’s response to the two reports and in particular to its response to Bulkan’s and Palmer’s notes on the reports. Rainforest Alliance has no excuse for ignoring these issues when it carries out its verification of the two reports for the Norwegian government.[**] REDD-Monitor also looks forward to reporting how the Guyana REDD+ Initiative Fund will contribute to reducing deforestation, improving transparency and governance, and achieving genuine low-carbon development in Guyana – something that so far none of its proponents seem able to do.

Annual Progress Report on REDD-plus enablers – 2010 – for the Norway-Guyana MoU

Notes by John Palmer, 24, October 2010

John Palmer is a consultant to the UK Government on planning of global forest research[*] and former manager of the UK Government’s tropical forestry research programme. He works on control of illegal logging and trade in illegally harvested timber, and standard setting for forest certification schemes.

The report on the Norway-Guyana MoU from the President’s Office of Climate Change, dated this month of October, is an update from the interim report issued in March and which was commented on in Stabroek News on 04 May. Like the first version in March, this October report concentrates on process, on the numbers of meetings held and the repetitive lists of mostly the same Government agencies which are present. However, in the continued absence of the legally required audited accounts and annual reports from these agencies, the terse summaries are almost the only insights which the public has into the secretive machinery of the Guyana political administration.

The October report, the interim March report and some supporting documents are accessible on the LCDS website. Rainforest Alliance, a US-based NGO which develops standards for and audits the environmentally-friendly or organic production of bananas, coffee, cacao, oil palm, timber, tropical livestock, etc., was selected by the Government of Norway to verify the claims made in this October report. The terms of reference for this verification were set in the Joint Concept Note (JCN) attached to the MoU in November 2009:

“Annual independent overall assessments will be conducted by one or more neutral expert organizations, to be appointed jointly by the Participants in consultation with the international financial institution managing the GRIF [Guyana REDD-plus Investment Fund], on whether the REDD-plus enablers [progress indicators] have been met; and what results Guyana has delivered according to the established indicators for REDD-plus performance. A neutral expert organization will also provide an annual status report for the Governments of Norway and Guyana. In this status report, the organization will outline its independent assessment of all Participants in the REDD+ process, and make recommendations for process and capability improvements. This will include an assessment of whoever is selected as the administrator of GRIF.”

The World Bank was selected as that administrator in early October, although the details of the arrangement were not available to the OCC when it prepared its report.

The Rainforest Alliance mission in October should not be confused with the September mission by LTS International which was part of the rolling review of the Norwegian International Forest and Climate Initiative.

The OCC report follows faithfully the structure of the JCN, with seven components. My numbering follows that used in the OCC report. I have suggested a tick for welcome progress, a half-tick for some signs of positive movement, and a cross for unsatisfactory or no progress.

Section 3.1 – Strategic framework

The JCN requires that “All aspects of Guyana’s planned efforts to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, including forest conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (“REDD-plus”), are being developed in a consistent manner …” Here we arrive quickly at the paradox. Guyana has made no explicit commitments to reduce deforestation or forest degradation, either through the several versions of the REDD Readiness Proposals (R-PPs) prepared by the Guyana Forestry Commission or through the three versions of the President’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

Both the GFC and the OCC are soliciting donor funds but making no commitments in return which are compatible with the reductions in forest carbon emissions in Guyana. Yes, there is mention of reductions especially in the May 2010 version of the LCDS, but they are in the form of lectures by the President to the outside world about what other countries should do.

While the R-PPs from the GFC are increasingly conforming to the template supplied by the World Bank-coordinated Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, the President’s LCDS continues to be a shopping list of development projects not sited within a strategic framework such as the National Development Strategy 1995-6 or the National Competitiveness Strategy 2006. In the 16 months since the June 2009 launch of the first draft of the LCDS, this document has failed to harmonise with either national planning policy or “an internationally recognized framework for developing a REDD-plus programme” (as required by the JCN). The President has not yet supplied the comparative studies to justify his project preferences. So a tick for the GFC and a cross for the OCC.

Section 3.2 – Continuous Multi-Stakeholder Consultation Process

The LCDS is associated with a Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee (MSSC). Composition of this Committee as listed on the LCDS website shows 11 Government representatives, 5 Amerindians, 3 private sector, 2 trades unions, 2 international environmental NGOs, 2 individuals, 2 said to be still representing the International Institute for Environment and Development, 1 civil society. The MSSC is chaired and, as shown by the minutes, dominated by the President. In no sense could the MSSC be said to be a body discussing national development strategy, options are not provided, and “cussing out” of even questions about process shows the futility of this body. Although it is still claimed to meet weekly, the record of minutes shows that it has met only 11 times in 2010, the last recorded being 10 August.

However, the MSSC has been shown a number of documents about management of natural resources which otherwise have not been seen officially in Guyana. These are listed in section 3.2.1 of the report but have not been placed on the LCDS or other Government websites, although some can be found on foreign websites, of Norway and EU/EFI/FLEGT.

The October report claims other consultations, without listing them. References are made by Ministers during hinterland and urban political presentations (and reported in Guyana’s daily newspapers), but there is no evidence that these are strategic debates. Nor is there yet any evidence that the hundreds of unanswered questions raised during the first round of LCDS consultations have been addressed. Certainly they are not addressed in the successive versions of the draft LCDS.

Why there should need to be so many overlapping committees on climate change, dominated as they are by the same group of Government agencies, is unclear. Why a REDD Secretariat in the GFC as well as an Office of Climate Change under the President? Why also a National Climate Committee? Why a Special Land Use Committee (under the Prime Minister) in addition to the Natural Resources and Environment Advisory Committee?

Guyana does not appear to have had a neutral, non-partisan, independently chaired forum on its options for strategic development since the mid-1990s. Journalists are not invited to the MSSC.

Half a tick would be generous for this section.

Section 3.3 – Governance Plan (see also section 5.11 and annex 1)

The JCN lists 11 points to be addressed in the REDD-plus governance development plan (RGDP). This report mentions 23 activities which do not necessarily address the 11 points. The JCN states that “Transparency and accountability are key to success in any REDD-plus effort. REDD-plus-relevant decisions and data should be publicly available”. The report shows no progress on these fronts. No data have been made available, not even the data to support the fantastical deforestation scenario developed by McKinsey & Company for the President in 2008. Instead, there is a long list of steps to revise GFC policies and procedures, overlooking the almost complete failures by the GFC to implement either the National Forest Policy 1997 or the National Forest Plan 2001. Thirteen consultation sessions are claimed to have been held, but no word of these sessions has been reported as such in the daily Press or recorded on the GFC website. Why revise these policies and plans and procedures instead of implementing them? – it looks like fiddling while Rome burns – and clearly this part scores a cross for transparency.

The JCN requires “development of a system for reporting on the multiple benefits of REDD-plus, including on measures to protect biological diversity, improved livelihoods, good, governance, and Constitutional rights”. Section 19 of the annex on the RGDP in the October report says that a specific report on the benefits of REDD+ is “to be prepared”. For biodiversity, section 20 of the annex mentions a workshop on criteria for priority biodiversity areas held in June, although such workshops have been held before during the attempts to create a project for a Guyana Protected Areas System and then a National Protected Areas System, both of which failed. “Good governance” is conspicuously not mentioned in the annex.

The JCN requires “development of a national, inter-sectoral, land use planning system”. The October report does not mention this directly but Section 15 of the annex says that “there has been efforts towards improved coordination of land use”.

That presumably does not include the street protests in Bartica earlier this year about new regulations on small-scale mining and implementation of neglected existing regulations, nor about the shady deals in mining licences involving government officials, and the continued failure to coordinate logging and mining concessions in spite of having a common GIS platform (GINRIS) in the four relevant Government agencies.

The JCN requires “development of valuation systems for determining the costs and benefits of different alternatives and courses of action on the forest resources”. No mention in the October report on the RGDP.

The continued evasion of governance issues means that this section deserves a cross.

Section 3.4 – Financial Mechanism

It is understandable that the October report had little to say about the mechanism because this was just approaching finalization and has been announced only this month. The report does say that “The Government intends to comply with REDD funding safeguards which are currently being discussed in the UNFCCC negotiations” but says nothing about the safeguards in the FCPF in which the GFC is involved, nor about the environmental and social safeguards and due diligence procedures of the Partner Entities which may actually manage the Norwegian funds after they have been passed through the World Bank. By no means do the potential Partner Entities (PEs) all have the same stringency as those of the World Bank, as the correspondence on the Amaila Falls access road construction is showing, nor do all PEs apply their safeguards in the same way.

The high level and high volume of allegations of corruption and financial mal-practice in Guyana should be a warning to the Norwegian donor and to the potential PEs about management of donor money. And note also the repeated failures of Government offices to respond effectively to the annual annotations in the Auditor General’s report. The President’s opposition to the application of well-established World Bank safeguards and due diligence, as recorded in the MSSC minutes, scores a cross for this section.

Section 3.5 – Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV)

This is where the GFC has been the most active, in creating committees, devising terms of reference and arranging consultancies. Much of the October report and the GFC’s April 2010 version of its R-PP deal with these matters. However, the GFC (and the President) have failed to respond to questions about the need for such large internal and external effort. In 2007-8, the GFC detected deforestation due to mining (24428 ha), agriculture (21903ha) and forest roads (2626 km) to the exact number of hectares, a claim not made in any other country, so why the need for such tremendous effort to increase yet further the accuracy and precision of these estimates?

Also, given such capability, it is odd that there have been no prosecutions at all for alleged forest offences including illegal logging.

Unlike past years, since mid-2009, the GFC has placed several reports and consultancy presentations on its website, as well as the terms of reference for MRV-related consultancies. Other documents can be found on the Guyana page of the FCPF website, but are not referenced in the October report. Five sets of action points for the MRV System steer six meetings of the MRVS technical committee. What is discussed at these meetings, or what data are on the table, is not mentioned.

The R-PP explains that the GFC is preparing to be able to meet the as-yet undetermined UNFCCC standards for assessment of standing stock of forest carbon, and changes in those stocks but in the meantime is progressing towards IPCC/GOFC-GOLD standards. It is unclear why this effort is needed if the GFC is unable to carry out normal monitoring of logging operations or to make effective use of its increased number of field stations. Why such efforts with remote sensing if no practical use is made of the data and when Guyana makes no commitment to reduce deforestation or forest degradation (11.4 million tonnes of forest carbon per year)?

Item 5 under section 3.5 deals with the development of the forest carbon reference scenario, arbitrarily set in the Norway-Guyana MoU for the period until October 2010 at 50 per cent above the estimated annual deforestation rate of 0.29 per cent. By now, according to the MoU, the Government should have proposed a new figure but is only just beginning to do so through an external consultancy by Poyry of New Zealand. Again it is unclear why the GFC is engaging external support when its R-PIN in 2008 listed some of the available remote sensing data going back to 1950, and the R-PPs have added to that list. The positive efforts of the GFC in this section deserve a tick but the contextual paradox scores a cross.

Section 3.6 – The rights of indigenous peoples and other local forest communities as regards REDD-plus

As in many other Government statements, the October report fails to appreciate that the partial rights in the Amerindian Act 2006 do not compensate for failure to uphold the National Constitution, Article 154A and Schedule 4 which deal with human rights. The Government’s failure to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which is listed in Schedule 4 and Guyana ratified in 1977, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for which it voted in 2007, make a nonsense of its claims to be at the forefront of indigenous rights.

The Government fails to state in section 3.6 that Amerindian rights are not as recognized in international law, are only partial, are granted in a patronal ex gratia manner through a non-transparent process and are subject to revocation without defined criteria.

The Government claim that the statutory National Toshaos Council is the only body of its kind in the world is just wrong; think of the Sami Parliament for the reindeer-herding people of the tundra, to give just one example.

This section also claims that “mechanisms have been put in place to enable the effective participation of all indigenous peoples and other local forest communities”. Just what are these mechanisms? The MSSC, as indicated above, is simply a theatre for the President’s ever-changing ideas. He decides how much and where Norwegian money is going to be spent on Amerindians.

While there are brief mentions of other forest-dependent communities in the 2010 versions of both the R-PP and the LCDS, no formal provision has been made for them to consider their ideas and options.

The “opting into LCDS” document, which is to explain to the Amerindian communities what would be their rights and responsibilities if a Village Council should choose to associate with the LCDS, has been in draft since March 2010 but it is not yet a public document. There is no document about benefit-sharing or replacement livelihoods for other forest-dependent communities.

The Government’s foot-dragging in the face of the clear legal situation and abundant advice scores a cross in this section.

Section 5.4 Annual verification by neutral experts that the REDD-plus enabling activities have been completed as appropriate

Curiously, the October report inserts here a mention of two background reports commissioned by Norway in advance of the MoU and delivered in July and August 2009. As noted in the May 4 commentary in SN on the interim OCC report, the authors of these two reports seemed not to have had full access to GFC files, data, databases or remotely sensed imagery, so they are extremely tentative. Even so, the GFC contested the draft reports, as recorded in the MSSC minutes, and perhaps that is why the reports have not been put into the public domain in Guyana, although they have been seen by the MMSC. So zero for transparency. Other work has been delayed, so score a cross.

Section 5.6 The establishment of a system for Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM)

It was entirely predictable that the Government in general and the GFC in particular would drag out the establishment of IFM. The GFC is publicly opposed to the application of quality assurance scrutiny by the Forest Stewardship Council (see minutes of the MSSC), and was unenthusiastic about the report score card system for forest governance devised by Global Witness. However, the GFC has put the full terms of reference on its website, and these have been circulated internationally, so score a half-tick.

Sections 5.9 on EU-FLEGT and 5.10 on EITI

Norway wanted clear evidence that Guyana would begin to engage with the European Union’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) scheme and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative for reporting of payments to government by the private sector and reports of official receipts of income by the government agencies. Unsurprisingly in view of the many allegations of corruption the October report shows little progress in respect of either process. The LCDS website is silent on both processes but the GFC website shows seven FLEGT documents including its work on a national legality assurance system which it has previously circulated for public comment. Yes, there are big gaps between the GFC position and what are likely to be “red-line” issues for EU-FLEGT, but it is a start and the GFC has been more open than usual on what must be a really tricky issue, given the level of regulatory capture. So score a full tick for the GFC and half a tick for the rest of government.

So how does this October report score in general? A fairly full record of committees established and meetings held is not the same as a transparent public record of what is debated. This report gives almost no details on the contents of the debates. On what is Guyana making real progress against the MoU indicators, and what are the perceived difficulties and obstacles?

Why do the GFC and the OCC not invite the independent journalists to record the debates and publish accounts? Instead of the technical language in nearly all the documents on the GFC and LCDS websites, including the series on climate change begun by the OCC but abandoned in mid-June 2010, why not get professional journalists to interpret and relay progress on the R-PP and LCDS?

Why not more efforts to make REDD intelligible to the man in Morawhanna or the woman in Kanashen, the families dependent on small-scale gold mining of chainsaw-milling? These are the people whose livelihoods are most likely to be affected negatively if Guyana did begin to control its emission of forest carbon.

If the President feels that the LCDS is so central to his last couple of years in office, why be so secretive? It is such a contrast to the openness of the process in the National Development Strategy of 15 years ago. So score zero for transparency, a great opportunity for multi-way communication and national debate is being missed.

The paradox remains of the President claiming to be fully involved in the global REDD – Reduction in Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (and certainly clocking up impressive carbon-emitting air-miles in his global travels) while opposing any such reductions for Guyana. The undoubted efforts being made by some stakeholders in Guyana are undermined by the appearance of a Presidential shadow play.

This play is expressed most clearly in the 32 sets of minutes of the MSSC, where the target is the pot of barely accountable Norwegian money to be paid in effect for Guyana to do nothing, as the President has agreed.

This sets a terrible example to other countries engaged in the REDD preparation process. If Guyana gets so much money, and can even expand deforestation without penalty, why should other countries be more honest? Is this what Guyana wants to be known for?

[*] ^^ John Palmer points out that he is an independent, occasional consultant and is not in any sense employed by the UK Government.

[**] ^^ UPDATE: 6 November 2010: The words “when it carries out its verification of the two reports for the Norwegian government,” were added to this sentence – to clarify that Rainforest Alliance has not yet ignored these issues. See the comment from David Diaz, below and my reply to him.

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  1. unfortunately that is exactly what the ruling clique of Guyana wants to be known for, getting money for doing nothing then doing whatever they feel like doing
    the Amerindian Act of 2006 the govt of Guyana been fooling the world with for so long has NEVER been brought into force. yes it passed parliament but was never signed by this same man who is president today [bharrat jagdeo] you can read it here
    the world will learn a hard lesson dealing with the govt of Guyana if they don’t do their homework
    these guys have a long track record of illegal activities

  2. Last week during the NTC conference some of the participants were ordered not to speak to the media since it has been made clear that the Amerindians have been duped by Jagdeo regarding the demarcation of their ancestral lands among other factors. Here is what one of the participants at the meeting had to say regarding the resolution that they were forced to sign at the conclusion of the conference.

    Eight Upper Mazaruni toshaos reject conference pact – say were not consulted
    By Stabroek staff | Published November 3, 2010

    Several Toshaos from the Upper Mazaruni have said that the resolution on the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) coming out of the recently concluded National Toshaos Conference (NTC) was drafted without their knowledge and are objecting to its contents. At their request, Stabroek News recently spoke with the leaders of Chinoweing, Jawalla, Kako, Phillipai, Kamarang/Warawatta, Kaikan, Arau, Paruima, who said that they refused to sign the document since they were not in agreement with its contents.

    The resolution also affirmed support from the Amerindian communities for the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) initiative and said that the NTC is the sole authority to represent Amerindian interests to the Government of Guyana.

    The leaders said that on the final day of the conference, copies of the resolution were passed around for their signatures while it was being read by Yvonne Pearson, Chairperson of the National Toshaos Council (NTC). They said that was the first time they saw the document. One Toshao among them said regrettably he signed it because he saw the other leaders doing that.

    The group opined that Toshaos present at the conference affixed their signatures without fully understanding what they were signing. They believe that they should have been consulted in the drafting process so that their views could have been accurately reflected. This action, they opined, was a contravention of their rights to free, prior and informed consent.

    Mario Hastings, Kako Toshao, said that when he asked a senior official about the lack of consultation, she said that “there wasn’t enough time since everyone was busy” and therefore she typed it. “That wasn’t a good excuse,” he said, adding that even an Executive Member of the NTC did not even know what the contents of the document were until it was given to him at the conference.

    He also said that one of the clauses of the resolution, which states that the NTC is the sole authority to represent their interests to the government, is unfair. He believes that this stipulation was a deliberate move to deter engagement with NGOs. “We have freedom to associate with whom we want to, you must not tell us how we must associate with,” he added. “Consultation is not giving information, you need to listen to us,” Hastings advised. The leaders held that although the NTC represents Amerindian interests, they do not have the right to make decisions without informing them.

    On the LCDS AND REDD+, they said that they do not understand the conditions of the agreement entered into between Guyana and Norway. “If people who close to TV, internet and newspapers don’t know, what about us? We far away,” Hastings added. The Toshaos said that they would like more details on the agreement between the governments so that they can fully assess the likely impact on their way of life. One of the affirmations of the document is “full support for the reduced emissions for deforestation and degradation (REDD+) initiative.” The leaders strongly disagree with this. They contend that they were not adequately consulted therefore it is erroneous to say that “everybody is informed.”

    “Consultation is a long process,” said John Andries of Paruima, “it is not dissemination of information, rather engaging the other party.” He added that the practice has been one where when persons visit the communities, they term it consulting. While some persons have remained silent on issues which affect them, Andries said that this did not necessarily show their consent rather their lack of information.

    One Toshao opined that the conference was simply a political campaign and a way of trying to project an image to the World Bank that Amerindians are knowledgeable and in full agreement with the LCDS. This is the crux of the matter all along, at least the natives have seen the light , I hope its not too late for their case

    Others indicated that while some leaders were able to speak about their problems, others were not given an opportunity, while others had their presentation time cut short. Norma Thomas of Kamarang/Warawatta said that when she raised the issue of a new secondary school to help with the overcrowding at the Waramadong Secondary School, she was given no reply. She said she saw a similar occurrence with other leaders whose issues were not addressed. Meanwhile Andries said that the Toshaos from the Upper Mazaruni have been labelled as problematic. He said this is not the case, since Guyanese have different problems and they refuse to sit by and not do anything about the issues which affect them. “If they are content, that’s their problem. If we are not, then that’s our problem.” He said the conference was held to ventilate issues and all should have been listened to, regardless of issues.

    Andries, who is also an Executive Member of the NTC, said that if the leaders were consulted on the drafting of the document then the ensuing confusion and opposition could have been avoided. Andries said not knowing about the resolution put him in a tough position since his fellow Toshaos expected him to have knowledge of what was going on with the NTC. The Government Information Agency said that out of the 171 Amerindian representatives at the meeting, 166 signed the resolution.

    On the issue of demarcation, he said that persons involved in the process do know or understand the geography of Amerindian land. “They are drawing lines from their desks.” He gave the example of Jawalla, whose line of demarcation left their land sliced. From his observations, he said that the demarcation process has been accommodating of mining concessions while it is the communities which ultimately suffer. “We will demarcate our land regardless of the challenges,” the Toshao vowed.

    Thomas added that Amerindians should be the ones involved in the demarcation process since they know their lands the best. “Imagine when they get it wrong they want us to apply for extension to our own land,” Andries said. He said that over the years, the number of cutter-head dredges in the Upper Mazaruni has increased. While communities have been involved in mining as well, he said that the difference was that they were not encroaching on anyone else’s land in the process. The leaders felt that the issues which affect them differ by community and location.

    There are some communities which have been paid greater attention by the government and therefore their lives are better than those who receive less. “If you want to see the situation of the communities, then you have to visit,” one leader said. Another said that while the President has often said that the situation of Amerindians here is better than in other countries, he does not believe that it should be boasted about and used to make Amerindians feel obligated. “This is what they should be doing; it is their obligation to the indigenous peoples,” he said.

    The leaders contended that they should be fully informed and consulted about issues which will affect their communities. “You can’t take two communities and use it as a model for the whole country.”

  3. Chris, when you say “Rainforest Alliance has no excuse for ignoring these issues” it sounds like you are arguing Rainforest Alliance has already ignored these issues, implying they are violating some terms of their contract with Norway.

    Are you intending to make this accusation? If so, do you have any evidence to support it?

    Or are you simply encouraging Rainforest Alliance to consider these issues in their evaluation (in which case a different choice of words might have been more appropriate)?

  4. @David Diaz – Thanks for this comment. As far as I am aware, Rainforest Alliance has not yet produced any verification reports on Guyana’s Annual Progress Reports for the Norwegian government. In view of this fact, it is clear that I am not accusing Rainforest Alliance of having already ignored these issues.

    If you read the previous sentence with the one you’re quoting, it seems obvious to me that I am encouraging Rainforest Alliance to consider these issues in their forthcoming evaluation:

    “REDD-Monitor looks forward to seeing Rainforest Alliance’s response to the two reports and in particular to its response to Bulkan’s and Palmer’s notes on the reports. Rainforest Alliance has no excuse for ignoring these issues.”

    However, to make this absolutely clear, I’ve added the words “when it carries out its verification of the two reports for the Norwegian government.”

  5. I recently met someone from Norway who told me that Janette Bulkan and John Palmer are husband and wife in Miami. Does this explain their combined attacks ?

    Somebody else at the conference said that her family are big timber business owners in Guyana, and they tried to sell their business to Barama.

    If people are connected to big timber business interests in Guyana and / or are speaking as a couple, surely transparency demands that this is made clear.

    [R-M, 8 November 2010: Please see the response to this comment from John Palmer, below.]

  6. Chris – what is your position on the “+” of REDD+ because I thought that is what Norway was trying to work out with Guyana ? It was never about stopping existing deforestation – because there is very little. It was about providing ways to prevent it from starting on any scale. I am a student in Norway, and when we asked the Minister Solheim about this earlier this year, they pointed us to the statement on this from Guyana and Norway. Why don’t you ever refer to that ? I saw from previous conversations accusations that you only carry generalised opinion from Bulkan/Palmer. They seem to be seeking to stop REDD, rather than make it work ? See

    Why don’t you put forward this side of the debate, even if you disagree with it ? Are you against the concept of REDD+ going to countries with standing forest ? In other words, going back to a pre-Bali position on REDD ? So only rewarding the bad guys, and giving no recognition to the good guys who kept most of their forests intact. OK if that is true, but I think you should say that clearly. Is that why you always say REDD, not REDD+ ?

  7. Here is the text I found from Norway and Guyana, an explanation of what they are trying to do, which you all seem to ignore.

    Norway and Guyana – a partnership for reduced forest carbon emission

    If global warming is to be contained below two degrees Celsius, a goal which all countries now seem to share, deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries must be significantly and rapidly reduced. For this to happen, developing countries must be given adequate and predictable economic incentives to protect their tropical forests.

    The Governments of Guyana and Norway strongly endorse the establishment of such an incentive structure under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). To help facilitate such an agreement, the Governments have decided to pilot such an incentive structure on a national scale and in a pragmatic, workable and hopefully replicable manner. Once an international regime is in place, the Guyana-Norway partnership will be adjusted accordingly.

    Payment for performance is the main pillar of our partnership. Guyana will be paid for its performance in keeping deforestation below an agreed reference level, as well as avoiding any measurable increase in forest degradation. Performance on a set of other indicators will have to be demonstrated as well, as spelt out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Joint Concept Note constituting the basis for our partnership.

    For a global mechanism to be effective it must incentivize both reductions in deforestation and maintenance of low deforestation rates. If only countries with high deforestation rates, like Brazil and Indonesia, are compensated for improving their forest protection under an international climate regime, deforestation pressures will move to countries with currently low deforestation, like Guyana, and the overall emissions reduction effect will be diluted or lost.

    There is general agreement in the UNFCCC negotiations that this has to be avoided by giving genuine incentives for forest conservation in low deforestation countries.

    Therefore, Norway and Guyana have – pending the determination of a UNFCCC reference level methodology – decided to set a provisional reference level based on an equal weighting of Guyana’s low deforestation rate and the mean deforestation rate in tropical forested developing countries. The combined reference level methodology is internationally accepted because it in addition to providing incentives for all categories of forest countries, is also designed to ensure that emissions from deforestation and forest degradation are reduced cumulatively at a global level. Based on best available data – which will be systematically improved over the next years – the Guyana rate is set to 0.3% with the mean rate for tropical forested developing countries estimated at 0.6%. The reference level for Guyana is the average of these two measures, that is, 0.45%. The level of payments will be determined by the gap between this reference level and actual deforestation in any given year, to be paid out post facto. These numbers will be revised as knowledge is improved over the next year.

    This approach alone would imply that Guyana would be eligible for payments even if it were to increase its deforestation towards 0.45%, though of course at decreasing levels as rates approached 0.45%. However, as neither Norway nor Guyana wishes to see such an increase in deforestation, our agreement clearly spells out that,

    “(…) the Participants agree that Norwegian financial support from 2011 onwards is also dependent on no national-level increase in deforestation over an agreed level that should be as close to historical levels as is reasonable in light of expanded knowledge of these historical rates and the quality of that knowledge. Such a level can only be set when more robust data is available concerning current and historic deforestation. This level will be set through a mutually agreed process by no later than October 2010.”

    In other words, Norway will only provide financial support to Guyana’s REDD-plus efforts if the country does not exceed historical deforestation levels. The only exception, and a minor one, to this would be if research and analysis over the next year strongly indicate that deforestation rates in Guyana are extremely low – in the order of magnitude of 0.05% or the like. In that case, minor upward
    variations would probably have to be accepted to allow for uncertainties in measurements and enforcement opportunities.

    The Governments of Guyana and Norway are the very first to embark on country-wide, systematic, transparent efforts to limit emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

    We firmly believe the partnership between our two countries can become a model for how a global incentive structure for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation can be set up. We do not believe the model is flawless. On the contrary, we believe we can only succeed if we learn from mistakes, and have included provisions for gradual improvements. Being open to criticism is key to this learning. The more informed the criticism we receive, the more it can help us drive our efforts in the right direction. To facilitate this, we encourage all stakeholders to review the documents describing our collaboration, which are all available at: and

    Shyam Nokta, Head, Office of Climate Change, Guyana Hans Brattskar, Ambassador, Director, The Government of Norway’s International Forest and Climate Initiative, The Norwegian Ministry of Environment

  8. @Erik

    You should perhaps be more concerned about what the ‘R’ stands for rather than the ‘+’. It stands for REDUCED. The fiction about the Norway-Guyana arrangement is that there is no reductions of forest carbon emissions involved. Agencies like the World Bank have added the ‘+’ on REDD to embrace afforestation and ‘sustainable forest management’. The agreement with Guyana involves neither of these either, so this is not really a ‘REDD’ deal of any description, with or without the ‘+’.

    In fact what a recently produced report commissioned by the government of Guyana suggests is that during the first year of the Norway-Guyana agreement, deforestation was three times higher than the historical 1990-2009 reference level of 0.02% deforestation per year – but because the ‘baseline’ rate for the purposes of the Norway-Guyana agreement and ‘performance and payment’ mechanism has been set at an artificially high level – much higher than the actual rate, Guyana will still be paid generously by Norway. Perhaps you could ask your minister why Norway is paying Guyana for Increasing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (IEDD)?

  9. Toshaos who refused to sign a document supporting REDD+…have earned the ire of the head of the [Guyana] National Toshaos Council (NTC), Yvonne Pearson.
    In an interview with this newspaper several Toshaos from the Pakaraimas in Region Eight expressed a lack of understanding of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which the government is using to seek international partnerships and incentives to protect 15 million hectares (37 million acres) of forest under REDD+.
    Regis Cyprian, the Toshao of Kopinang, also in Region Eight, was frank about how he felt about the resolution. He said he signed the resolution because he understood that “the money” will help the village. But he certainly does not understand REDD.
    He said: “That is one thing I don’t understand – the REDD; I would like to understand it.”
    The Toshao of Waipa, also in Region Eight, said he signed the resolution because he was told to sign it.
    being very isolated from the rest of the country, communities that don’t go along with the govt are often punished by the govt withholding essentials like food, medicine, denial of scholarships, educational assistance etc.

  10. @Erik

    Yes, you will notice the wording “The Governments of Guyana and Norway are the very first to embark on country-wide, systematic, transparent efforts to limit emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.”. This is an outright lie.

    As noted in the agreement, the ‘interim baseline’ against which Guyana’s performance in ‘reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation” was set at 0.45% per year, even though it was known that the actual deforestation rate has historically been much lower than that. Now that the actual historical deforestation rate has been found to be a mere 0.02%, Guyana will be paid for the *notional* reduction in deforestation of 0.45% (or possibly 0.30%) minus the actual deforestation rate, which was found to be 0.06% in 2009-10. This means that the actual deforestation rate has trebled, but Norway is still paying for these notional ‘reductions’ in deforestation, though it is only a ‘reduction’ against the completely aribtrary and highly inflated ‘baseline’. This may be quite hard to understand, because it seems so implausible, but this is exactly what has happened.

    Moreover, President Jagdeo has made it clear that the two main causes of real carbon emissions from the forest sector -forest destruction from gold mining and degradation from the numerous Asian loggers wrecking the forest – will *not* be effected by the Norway-Guyana agreement, and indeed there is nothing in the agreement that commits Guyana to reducing these emissions.

  11. I don’t know much about the Government of Guyana, but I think the baseline can be easily inflated by modifying the definition of forest allowed under the UNFCCC. For example choosing “30%” of canopy cover “instead of 10%” will likely increase the rate of deforestation.

  12. it would be good for all concerned to get a full understanding of how the Guyana govt operates. nothing is free from distortion. the Office of the President has for years been lying about monies spent. this is just the tip of the iceberg but this is from the govt appointed auditor general
    …billions, yes BILLIONS in funds from various ‘projects’ and ‘funds’ disappear in thin air
    the Guyana govt is not to be trusted. we in Guyana don’t why should anyone else?

  13. @Tom Williamson – John Palmer sent the following clarification by email on 7 November 2010:

    Re question by blogger Tom Williamson, for your information –

    1. Yes, Janette Bulkan and John Palmer are partners but that does not mean that we have identical views.

    2. No, we do not live in Miami.

    3. Yes, some members of Janette Bulkan’s family are partners in a small-scale forest harvesting operation with mobile in-forest sawmills, with a State Forest Permission issued by the Guyana Forestry Commission, and a wood processing facility for roofing shingles and dimensioned, profiled and kiln-dried sawnwood sold on the local and Caribbean Island markets. This facility won an open competition in 2009 as a “Pioneer for Prosperity” in the Caribbean. A facility for outdoor/garden furniture is just being sold by some members of the family, but so far as we know not now to Barama. Janette never has had any business or share-based involvement with any of these enterprises.

    4. I hope that readers understand that we analyse some of the differences between government statements and actions, and the national policies, strategies, laws, regulations and administrative procedures which exist on paper. This is hardly an attack on the principle of REDD, an open bargain between emitter and buyer, with reductions in forest carbon emissions transparently verified. For Guyana, the government agencies have still not put into the public domain the evidence about the nature and scale and timing of future threats of deforestation.

  14. Guyana govt cant account for billions owed to Indigenous people
    this may be of interest to those not too familiar with Guyana

    Government was yesterday unable to provide details on a fund which was to be set up since 2006 for royalties accruing to indigenous peoples from mining activities on their lands.

    The absence of the fund came to light after it was discovered that the revised Amerindian Act had not bee brought into force four years after it had been passed. The government hurriedly tried to remedy this by tabling a commencement bill. [this is the same Amerindian Act they’v been boasting about for the past four years!]

    Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, in pointing this out, said he was “astonished” at the interpretation reported in the press but did not address the whereabouts of the money. [Minister of Amerindian Affairs]Sukhai also ignored the issue in her two contributions to the debate despite calls from opposition members for the government to account for the money. When approached by this newspaper at the break for a comment she told the reporter to listen to the debate.

  15. Was it ever written down anywhere what the Amerindian Fund was going to be spent on? It wouldn’t have been the same kinds of projects that are now to be supported with the Norwegian ‘REDD’ funds, by any chance, would it?

    I wonder how the taxpayers of Norway would feel about their money being used to replace funds which had simply ‘disappeared’ from the government’s coffers?

    Presumably, the intention of REDD is not to subsidise state larceny…

  16. The Guyana Chronicle has published a fascinating response from Peter Persaud, president of TAAMOG – The Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture:

    UK consultant notes are irresponsible and unprofessional

    Written by PETER PERSAUD

    Wednesday, 10 November 2010 02:33

    I wish to refer to an article in the Stabroek News under the caption “Annual Progress Report on REDD-Plus enablers – 2010 – for the Norway-Guyana MOU” by John Palmer in its issue of Thursday November 4, 2010. Allow me to raise the following points:

    (1) The notes of John Palmer are similar to the views of a group of unpatriotic Guyanese opposed to Guyana’s LCDS despite his consultancy status with the UK government. This is rather disappointing.

    (2) It is known that a Guyanese cabal opposed to Guyana’s LCDS is linked to an overseas-based ring providing misleading information about Guyana’s LCDS. This overseas based ring then writes what is told to them by the Guyanese cabal who are political power seekers masquerading as nature conservationist and concerned citizens. No doubt John Palmer feel prey to the Guyanese cabal and penned his notes on Guyana’s LCDS which are only good for the garbage bin.

    (3) John Palmer needs to recheck the MSSC minutes to determine the number of Amerindians who are members of the MSSC. There are nine Amerindians on the MSSC and not five as wrongly stated by John Palmer. He has scored a zero here.

    (4) John Palmer in his notes’ stated that there are a number of unanswered questions from the first round of the LCDS consultations but failed to state what are these questions. He questions why the REDD secretariat is in the GFC and the office of Climate Change is under the President. Other countries that are pursuing the REDD + strategy have government agencies managing their climate change activities. But John Palmer is not questioning those countries, but chooses to question Guyana. President Jagdeo blazed the trial for the fight against global climate change and was suitably honoured with the Champion of the Earth Award by the United Nations. The President of Guyana is therefore most qualified to chair the MSSC of the LCDS. And the office of Climate change is suitably placed under the President. Another zero for John Palmer.

    (5) The Government of Guyana is at the forefront of indigenous peoples’ rights in our country. The Amerindian Act 2006 gives indigenous villages and communities the right to self-determination to manage their communities and to pursue their development options within the interference by Government. The Amerindian Act 2006 is the best in comparison to other countries that have indigenous populations. The Rights of Indigenous peoples will be fully respected where the REDD + Strategy is concerned and their participation or ‘opting in’ the strategy will be guided by the International Indigenous Rights principle of free, prior and informed consent (epic) another zero for John Palmer.

    (6) The government of Guyana claims that the Statutory National Toshao Council (NTC) is the only body of its kind in the world is right since the indigenous leaders have face to face discussions with the President in addressing village problems and concerns. He interacts with them positively and this was vividly seen at the recently concluded National Toshaos Conference held at the International Convention Centre in Georgetown. John Palmer failed miserably to provide adequate information to the Sami Council of the Tundra. Another zero for him.

    (7) John Palmer stated in his ‘notes’ that there is a high level of corruption and financial malpractice in Guyana without providing evidence. He is simply parroting what the political opposition is saying and fails to conduct research. He is therefore mischievous and misleading. He is contending that the Norwegian funds will be subjected to corruption when such funds will be placed in the Guyana REDD-Plus Investment Fund (GRIF) run by a reputable international organisation to channel results-based REDD-Plus funds from Norway and other potential contributors for the implementation of Guyana’s LCDS. Safeguards as well as fiduciary and operational policies of the organisation selected will apply. This financial mechanism will also ensure full national and international oversight of financial flows. Another zero for John Palmer.

    (8) The MSSC is never subjected to the ever-changing ideas of the President. John Palmer is again misleading here. He made contentions in his ‘notes’ but failed to provide evidence which is totally irresponsible. Guyana received US$30 million as the first tranche from Norway. US$8 million will go to the Amerindian communities for land titling and demarcation as well as for community development projects. The President knows the needs of the Amerindian communities and rightfully directs what the US$8 million should be spent on. REDD+ money going to Amerindian communities if they decide to ‘opt in’ in the strategy will be utilised by them without no one directing them how to spend their money. John Palmer is again misleading and another zero for him.

    (9) John Palmer, a ‘consultant’ to the UK government on forest research as claimed by Stabroek News was never in Guyana to conduct research and interviews in relation to Guyana’s preparations for the implementation of its REDD+ strategy. His ‘notes’ are therefore totally irresponsible and unprofessional.

  17. With regards to timber businesses owned by the Bulkan family.

    Bulkan Timber Works/Superior Shingles and Wood Products – manufactures lumber/shingles for export. Materials are purchased from small loggers and community associations with questionable logging practices.

    Puruni Wood Products – this business venture is not working out well for the Bulkans. Production is low and they do not have the right type of equipment to operate in the area. It is RUMOURED that they approached Barama to have the latter operate in the area. However, this would be against the guidelines set up by the Guyana Forestry Commission. It is said that Barama refused as it was penalised for similar activities previously.

    Precision Woodworking – this business was closed during the Global Financial Crisis and has recently opened with a small staff. It used to purchase lumber (locust) for its operations from all available sources (some legal, some illigal). Barama was/is a supplier of locust lumber to the company. If Barama’s operations were considered questionable, then PW’s purchasing of such lumber should also be questionable.

    I have no issues with the Bulkans businesses, nor with Janette, however, she should also comment on her family’s business ethics if she wants to attack Barama or any other foreign company.

    There is an amerindian village named Akawinni, which Barama was operating in. Pressure from Janette and the residents caused Barama to abandon its operations with all infrastructural works in place. Residents afterwards stated that the Bulkans offered to pay them a better price for their locust and purpleheart lumber, however, this never materialized and the residents were left to fend for themselves.

    Chris you need to know about the persons who are giving you information and the motives for volunteering such information to you. I’m an employee of Barama and had many reservations about joining the company based on the information in the media and the commentaries from Janette. However, I can assure you that for the past 2 years that I’m employed by the company, Janette was way off in her assessment of Barama.

  18. Update
    Precision Woodworking is the company that is being sold.

  19. first i heard of janet bulkan was in the begining for the lcds debate in Guyana when she wrote something in the paper

    but the lady has stated publicly that she does not have any financial interest in Precision Woodworking which is owned by her brother [i think it´s her brother]

    i don´t know about their dealings, legal or illegal