GUYANESE academic Dr. Mark Kirton has called for the Guiana Shield to become a zone of peace with the countries of the region committing themselves to the sanctity and inviolability of borders and the de-escalation of controversies, as well as the establishment of higher levels of economic, technical and social collaboration.
Dr. Kirton gave the keynote presentation at the opening of the first International Seminar on Border Studies of the Guianas hosted by the Federal University of Amapa (UNIFAP) in Macapa, Brazil, on Thursday last. At the seminar organised by Professor Paulo Gustavo Correa, Vice Rector of UNIFAP. Dr. Kirton presented on the theme, “Integration in the Guianas as a tool for development.”
Dr. Kirton indicated that for too long, a sense of separateness had characterised relations among the Guiana Shield states and has constrained the emergence of strong linkages. He also posited that colonial bilateralism, differences in culture and language, as well as differing levels of economic development and resource endowment had combined to limit collaboration. Further, Dr. Kirton presented the view that the common economic and security challenges being faced by the Guiana Shield states must bring about a unified approach as the states grapple with issues, including drug trafficking, transnational crime networks, and frequent and intense climate change events.
He also indicated that given the porous borders, limited human and financial resources and increasing trans-border criminal networks, consideration must be given to the widening of the Amazonian Surveillance System (SIVAM) currently operating in Brazil to include the smaller states of the Guiana Shield such as Guyana and Suriname, in a unified effort to facilitate greater security in those countries.
Dr. Kirton also recommended the establishment of a Business Forum of the Guiana Shield to spearhead the development of higher levels of trade and commercial activities among the countries. The session was attended by academics, Brazilian Federal and State officials including the Secretary of the State of Amapa, for Science and Technology, and several officials of the Federal University of Amapa.
As part of the seminar’s programme, Dr. Ruben Martoredjo from Suriname delivered a presentation on Suriname’s Social Policy Discourse, highlighting the challenges of small countries in addressing social security policy, and proposed actions and strategies which could be adopted, taking into account the opportunities which regional and bilateral cooperation among the Guiana Shield countries could provide.
He added that through the years, the government of Suriname had encountered challenges in the implementation of social security and social protection, which included marked geographical differences between the coastal region and the interior districts, population density, limitations to infrastructure and linguistic differences.
Further, Dr. Martoredjo posited that there is a critical need to create employment opportunities for the growing working-age population in the current phase of a significant demographic shift in Suriname.
Dr. Martoredjo also proposed an increase in Suriname’s engagement with regional organisations such as UNASUR, which can provide knowledge and support on social development issues.
Dr. Martoredjo also recommended that Suriname develop stronger efforts at cooperation in social development with countries such as Brazil, which is internationally recognised for its social programmes, including the Bolsa Familia Programme.
Dr. Martoredjo also participated in a panel which discussed Suriname’s integration in South America. During his presentation Dr. Martoredjo drew attention to the position of Suriname as a small state and recommended that due to its limitations of financial and human resources, the country should prioritise its engagement in the regionalisation process and he proposed joint representation by small states in the activities of regional organisations.