Notice & Comment (N&C) Period for Model Petroleum Agreement

Dear Editor,
It is commendable that Government has released the draft Model Petroleum Agreement for comments. However, a Notice and Comment (N&C) period of only 14 days undermines the purpose of releasing the information for comments from the citizenry.
Unlike Government officials, citizens are not paid employees of the state, and can only read such documents during their after-work hours. Fourteen days is also prohibitive when it comes to procuring qualified specialists to provide advice, so that citizens and civil society organisations can make informed representation to the Government.
Certainly, 14 days cannot possibly allow the Government to fulfill Guyana’s commitments under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and the International Labour Organisation Convention 69 (ILO69) for Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples.
An effective N&C effort would: (1) Provide reasonable time for the public to engage with the material, and for appropriate levels of participation; (2) Outline a clear procedure for how feedback would be received and made transparently available for all to see; and (3) Outline the mechanism that would be used to report on how public feedback was addressed in the development of the final model agreement.
The current 14-day N&C period does not meet the requirements for an effective public consultation process. The Government may wish to: extend this period to 45 days; engage and prepare the National Toshaos Council to actively review the draft and provide feedback from their communities; and identify the mechanism for receiving public feedback, making comments publicly available, and reporting on how these comments were addressed in arriving at the final model agreement.
Making use of digital platforms would enhance access for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across the country, and participation of the diaspora community, whom the Government has repeatedly asked to participate in building Guyana into a more prosperous country.
The diaspora is a critical stakeholder, that plays a pivotal role in financing social development and social safety nets through family remittances, and has carried a major burden of compensating for lackluster development policies and poor distribution of economic gains for decades.
Government should make good on its stated interest in engaging the diaspora.

Yours sincerely,
Simone Mangal-Joly