Background

Situated on the north-eastern corner of South America, Guyana is the only English-speaking country on the continent. It is bordered by Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname, and blessed with an overabundance of natural resources - gold, diamonds, bauxite, rice, sugar and rare metals. Some 80% of its landmass is blanketed by pristine tropical rainforest, where hundreds of the 6,500 species of plants that flourish are sought after in faraway places for food, medicine and other uses.

Kaieteur, one of the largest and most powerful waterfalls in the world, cascades into a gorge that is resplendent with the rare harpy eagles soaring high above the forest canopy, under which dwell scarlet macaws, parrots and birds of every description, rare monkeys and frogs, river otters, tapir, peccary, capybara, deer, sloths and jaguars. It is the kingdom of nature.

Yet our greatest wealth lies in our people and our diverse cultures. Our first peoples consist of nine native Amerindian tribes – the Akawaios, Arawaks, Arecunas, Caribs, Macushis, Patomonas, Wai Wais, Wapishana, and Warraus – who inhabit the hinterland of the country. The coast is populated by people of African, Indian, Chinese, Portuguese and European descent, brought to the shores of South America under colonial rule.

Tragically, decades of political and ethnic division, dating back to the country’s independence in 1966, have left serious economic, cultural and social challenges in its wake. Poverty, with all its social and psychological dislocations has inhibited development, while an epidemic of domestic abuse, alarming suicide rates, illiteracy, outward migration and hopelessness among the youth are just some of the ills that stalk the idyllic landscape of Guyana.

The existing challenges require a concerted effort by the private and public sector to work together to secure the human and natural capital of the country for future generations. Every opportunity must be urgently seized to ensure that Guyanese are able to achieve their potential, to cope with the normal stresses of life, to work productively and fruitfully, and to be able to make a contribution to their community.