Norway’s Minister Solheim to commence two-day visit today

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…will make announcement on GRIF tonight
Today, Norwegian Minister of Environment and International Development Erik Solheim comes to Guyana to further the discussions around the Guyana REDD Investment Fund (GRIF), financed by the funding that Norway has provided through the Memorandum of Understanding between
the two nations. Further, Solheim, together with President Bharrat Jagdeo, will make an announcement on the GRIF at a dinner tonight, to be held in honour of the visiting Minister.
In November 2009, in a landmark signing between Solheim and President Jagdeo, Guyana and Norway concretised the agreement which aims to see funding in the amount of US$250 million in REDD funding up to 2015 for the protection of Guyana’s vast tropical rainforest and the ecosystem services they provide, including carbon sequestration. However, the funding is contingent on strict monitoring, reporting and verification to ensure that Guyana does what is expected of it in terms of forest preservation.

Guyana Chronicle contacted the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment and received from the Communications Office Solheim’s itinerary for his visit to Guyana.
According to the itinerary, Solheim arrives at 18:00 hours today at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, and then he proceeds to the State House for dinner hosted by President Jagdeo at 20:00 hours. After dinner, at about 20:30 hours, there will be an announcement by President Jagdeo and Minister Solheim followed by a press briefing.
On Friday, there will be a series of breakfast meetings at Solheim’s hotel. The first meeting will be with the Ministry of Finance, where there will be presentations by the Government. This will be followed by a meeting between Solheim and leaders of Opposition parties in Parliament. Solheim will then be the key participant in a meeting with Civil Society and NGOs. Following this meeting, Solheim will have lunch with representatives of the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) among others.
For 2010, the contribution from Norway is slated to be in the amount of US$30M while for 2011, the amount is said to be US$40M. The money is earmarked for spending in a number of areas, including equity financing for the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project, the provision of solar panels for Amerindian communities and for the demarcation of Amerindian lands.
On March 10, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, said that the main projects that the GRIF is to finance are closer to being approved. He noted that the GRIF Steering Committee had been working to ensure that the projects were perfect in terms of project design.
The HPS, speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing, said that at least three main projects identified for access to the first annual tranche would have to be cleared, submitted and adopted by the Steering Committee.
“When those three projects would have been completed in their entirety for presentation to the Steering Committee, at that point in time they would deliberate, and once the approval is given, then it goes over for access to funding from the first annual tranche,” he said during the press conference.
Dr. Luncheon acknowledged that there is some sloth in the processing of the projects; and that while some of it is unavoidable, some of it Government has been moving to correct in terms of procurement and engagement with third parties in terms of project design and identification of the tenderers who would be procuring goods and services.
Recently, the Office of Climate Change, headed by Shyam Nokta had cause to defend the Norway agreement and the process to set up and access funding through the GRIF.

OCC issued a statement on Saturday debunking statements made and analyses given in an open letter addressed to the government of Norway that a Civil Society group sent beforehand to Solheim. The letter by the Civil Society group sought to persuade the Norwegian Government to withhold the funding to Guyana until shortcomings that they have identified with the GRIF deal had been overcome.
The OCC said that the letter was “woefully short on facts and long on political rhetoric” and revealed a “fundamental ignorance” of the REDD+ model and its mechanisms.
The body noted that the letter attempted to question the qualifications of the International Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Development Programme in serving as partner entities for the supervision of the implementation of the projects.