Arriving on an Air Force Brasilia flight from neighbouring Brazil today President Bharrat Jagdeo, recipient of the United Nations Environmental Programme Champion of the Earth award returned to a ‘red carpet,’ ceremonial welcome at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).
Receiving the President with warm embraces and words of congratulations at the arrival lounge of the CJIA were Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and other Cabinet colleagues.
The Guyana Police Force band serenaded the air with patriotic songs while the sound of tassa and African drums reverberated as the President and team proceeded into the VIP section of the arrival lounge.
President Bharrat Jagdeo arrives at the CJIA to the greeting of Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and other cabinet Ministers
A large welcoming banner captioned ‘Champion of the Earth’ and an excerpt from his acceptance speech in Seoul, Korea which reads “I interpret it as an endorsement of the people of Guyana’s long-standing efforts to help change the way the world values sacred natural resources.”
As the President reached the parking lot, a much bigger crowd that was part of the surprise ceremonial welcome awaited with loud cheers waving the Guyana flag proudly.
The event climaxed at the end with a motorcade procession from the CJIA to Georgetown. Along the way children from various schools along the East Bank of Demerara came out waving in a show of gratitude.
During the ceremony an official welcome congratulations was mere by the Prime Minister who said that the award is an achievement which follows in the footsteps of former President Cheddi Jagan’s visionary New Human Global Order and the late President Desmond Hoyte who granted Iwokrama as a place for study of commonwealth forests.
President Bharrat Jagdeo speaking at a welcome home ceremony at the CJIA after achieving the Champion of the Earth award
The recognition which Times Magazine gave him as a ‘Hero of the Environment’ was also expressed by those who paid tribute.
The Head of State in his remarks however, reiterated the point which he made during his acceptance speech, that the award is not a personal achievement rather it is an award in recognition of the efforts of all Guyanese.
“This is an award in recognition of all of our people to be bold enough to lead the way in this very groundbreaking manner to a solution for a world that could be environmentally sound,” President Jagdeo said.
School children waving in show of appreciation as a motorcade for President Bharrat Jagdeo pass along the East Bank of Demerara
Guyana’s effort is compiled in a model called the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) which the President said was built on several years of hard work, not by any single individual but by all Guyanese.
A significant degree of the President’s credit went to Guyana’s indigenous people who have been the gatekeepers of the country’s forests and have a special role to play in resource management.
“What we are talking about here is essentially how we manage natural resources and for centuries indigenous people have been the guardians of the forest and the tremendous biodiversity not just here in Guyana but right across Latin America and the Caribbean,” President Jagdeo said.
While in many other countries the role of the indigenous people as keepers of the forests has been taken away by those who uncaringly encroach on their lands, the President said that the Guyana Government since its ascension into Office in 1992 has resolved that Amerindians will have a special place in the nation, their rights will be protected and they will continue to be an integral part of policy formulation and leadership in nation-building.
Guyana’s LCDS has gained worldwide attention and has placed the country on a pedestal, rising far above some of the most developed countries which the President said is doing the least to alter climate change.
President Bharrat Jagdeo speaking to a section of the gathering during a welcome home ceremony at the CJIA
Natural resources that provide valuable services to the rest of the world and according to President Jagdeo, Government has been pursuing efforts to change the way the rest of the world views these resources, particularly the acceptance by the developed countries that financial credits must be awarded to countries with such resources.
Guyana made the dream a reality for developed and developing countries to work together to implement a national scale model of how forests can be deployed to address climate change and national development.
This reality came in November 2009 with the signing of the Guyana/Norway agreement which caters for up to US$250M by 2015 for avoided deforestation but the President said today that if Guyana’s advocacy is successful, the country could get as much as US$500M for the preservation of forests and its biodiversity.
“That’s more in a net sense than we earn in rice, sugar, bauxite, gold and forest exports,” President Jagdeo said.
Such financial resources, the President said, could be dedicated to investments in education, hydro-electricity and Information Communication Technology (ICT) related services that have the potential to generate about 25,000 jobs this year.