The Catholic Church in Guyana is one of a coalition of organisations which have come together to form the Civil Society Forum (CSF).
The new grouping was formally launched Saturday, January 16 at a meeting held at the Catholic Life Centre, when six organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that articulates the purpose, objectives, structure, and modus operandi of the CSF. The other five members are: Electoral Reform Guyana (ERG), Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Heal Guyana, Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) and Transparency Institute Guyana Inc (TIGI).
The opportunity for other organisations to join the CSF remains open after the launch, according to a Catholic Standard report.
The diocesan weekly explained that the CSF was set up to work towards realising Article 13 of the Constitution of Guyana which states that “The principal objective of the political system of the State is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being.”
Bishop Francis Alleyne OSB, who signed the MOU on behalf of the Catholic Church, told the Catholic Standard that during the long impasse between the no-confidence vote in December 2018 and the declaration of election results in August 2020, several conversations took place among many persons and groups in civil society.
“From these groups came the perspective of faith bodies, NGOs, the business sector, associations of professionals, trade unions and others. In these conversations, questions were raised about the political reality in Guyana, the effect of the impasse on civil society, the image and place of Guyana in the wider world and also the voice and role of civil society in governance and in shaping the life of the Nation,” the report stated.
Bishop Alleyne commented, “What I heard, in the conversations of which I was part, was sincere concern for the country, a sense that as a people we could do so much better and an exchange of ideas on the specific input to Guyana’s well-being that should come from Civil Society.”
Out of these exchanges and conversations, the CSF emerged with some specifics on whom should comprise such a Forum, how such a group could best function and what would be its mandate. At the launch on Saturday, various groups signed on to the effort.
Bishop Alleyne asserted that every citizen ought to be part of such an initiative and particularly the Church has an important role in bringing the faith perspective to the conversations, the exchanges, and the mandate.
A press statement issued on the launch stated, “In keeping with Article 13, the CSF will focus primarily on creating a truly inclusionary democracy that serves as a vehicle for citizens to participate in the decision-making process of the State. This overarching focus will lead the CSF to work on civic empowerment and participation, constitutional and legal reform, and with state institutions.”
The release further mentioned that civil society groups have tirelessly and voluntarily been giving back to Guyana.
“The CSF does not aim to replace these groups, compete with them, or represent them. Rather, the CSF seeks to reinforce their efforts by providing a Forum whereby groups can coordinate, collaborate, cooperate, and reinforce each other’s efforts through shared priorities that are identified through consensus, all with a view to enhancing the participation of citizens in the decision-making processes of the State,” the statement said.
The CSF can be contacted at email@example.com.