The launch event for the United Nations Joint Programme (JP) Leaving No One Behind, Building Resilience, and Improving Livelihoods of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ITPs) in Suriname took place on April 1st, 2022.
As presented by Mr Ruben Martoredjo, UNDP Programme Officer for Social Development and SDG Integration, the JP was developed in response to a call of the SIDS SDG Joint Fund launched in June 2021. The proposal was prepared through an extensive participatory process of UNDP, UNICEF, FAO, UNWOMEN and UNFPA coordinated by the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office (UNRCO), with the technical lead from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) during the period of June-December 2021. The Government of Suriname, coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Cooperation (BIBIS), was represented by the Ministry of Regional Development and Sport (RO&S) and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Public Housing (SOZAVO).
The target groups were represented by their umbrella organizations namely Vereniging Inheemse Dorpshoofden in Suriname (Association of Indigenous Village Leaders, VIDS), and Samenwerkingsverband van Tribale volken in Suriname (Collaboration of Tribal Peoples in Suriname consisting of the Kwinti, Aluku, Matawai, Paamaka, Okanisi and Saamaka, KAMPOS). The JP aims to develop integrated policy solutions to enable inclusion, build resilience, and improve livelihoods among Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ITPs) in Suriname, in an effort to Leave No One Behind in the 2030 Agenda. The JP aims to strengthen the policy and regulatory framework to improve the inclusion and resilience of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ITPs); improve coverage of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (W.A.S.H.); and improve livelihood, enhanced food security, and establishment of female farmer networks in targeted ITPs communities.
During his welcome remarks, Mr Jairo Valverde Bermudez, UNDP Resident Representative, extended a warm welcome to all participants, in particular to the representatives of the Government of Suriname, and the Indigenous and Tribal Communities. Mr Valverde Bermudez acknowledged the strong partnership with the Government of Suriname, through the coordination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Cooperation (BIBIS) with technical input from the Ministry of Regional Development and Sports (RO&S), and Social Affairs and Public Housing (SOZAVO). Importantly also noted, was the dialogue and the ongoing partnership with the key beneficiary group the Indigenous and Tribal People (ITPS) through the umbrella organizations VIDS and KAMPOS. He underlined that as the key beneficiaries, the ITPs participated in the formulation of the JP and will be instrumental in its implementation. Mr Valverde Bermudez also noted that the JP is relevant and timely as Suriname is in the recovery stage from the pandemic and efforts must continue to reach vulnerable groups including ITPs.
Mr Dennis Zulu, UN Resident Coordinator a.i., in his opening remarks reiterated that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere – including and especially the Indigenous and Tribal people of Suriname. The fact that there are less than nine years left in the Decade of Action marked by the Secretary-General in 2020 is of importance. The urgency of this decade demands that all sectors of society galvanize to address inequalities that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Zulu proudly shared with the audience that this JP marks a historical third Joint SDG Fund grant awarded to Suriname within just eighteen months to close the SDG financing gap.
Ambassador Miriam Mac Intosh, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Cooperation, underlined the relevance of the JP. She confirmed that the elements of the JP are in line with the social agenda of the government and also take into account the Multi-Annual Development Plan and Reform Plan 2020-2022. The JP will contribute to the country’s implementation of the UN MSDCF and the development of the interior. As Suriname is conducting the voluntary review and will be reporting for the first time on the SDGs at the High Political Forum in July 2020, the JP will contribute to the commitment that No One is Left Behind. Ambassador Mac Intosh recognised the strong support received from the UN and its agencies and looks forward to continued collaboration with the UN and other relevant stakeholders in the sprint of 2030 and to ensure that No One is left Behind.
Captain Robertho Joghie, village chief of the Konomerume (Donderskamp) and board member of VIDS, thought it was a special day and appreciate the involvement of VIDS in formulating the JP proposal. He memorated that in 2020, a digital survey was conducted by UNDP in collaboration with VIDS on the impact of COVID-19 among Indigenous Households and several project interventions took place after including the face mask production training. VIDS also has very good contact with UNDP and FPIC is applied in every project and information is exchanged on both sides. He underlined the importance of water supply, especially with COVID-19, to wash hands regularly, but also for safe drinking water which is not available in all villages. Food security is also important, especially at certain times such as during flooding. In line with the slogan of Leave No One Behind, the energy issue is also important, especially to safeguard food security.
Captain Samuel Petrusi, village chief and board member of KAMPOS, made his remarks in Sranan Tongo from his plot in the Interior, underlining the relevance of the JP. He had in his hand a mouth mask, and he wanted to highlight the benefit of the training for the production of face masks. He was also appreciative of the collaboration with UNDP and highlighted the experiences of the Tribal communities during the implementation of the UNDP’s project on Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 among Indigenous and Tribal Communities. He was happy with the approach of UNDP, VIDS and KAMPOS, how to bring development, and indicated that more needed to be done. KAMPOS represents various communities and only in his region, there are 60 villages. More communication and awareness are needed to be related to handwashing and its purpose. Captain Petrusi also underlined the importance of the involvement of the communities and communication through open dialogue. He also pointed out that water provision is very important, and noted that with the flood water sources, including the rivers, are polluted. He seized the opportunity to say thanks and closed his remarks by expressing his agreement that UNDP is not only communicating with the government but also with the communities.
Ms Isiuwa Iyahen of UN Women emphasized that the JP will directly benefit ITPs and their communities, as it will “accelerate SDGs as it addresses poverty and hunger, equity, inclusion, and resilience by reducing the economic and services gaps between ITPs and the rest of Surinamese, as the interior is lagging behind in development compared to Paramaribo and the peripheral districts, mainly caused by a shortage of basic care facilities and adequate infrastructure, and that COVID-19 has further exasperated this predicament.
The JP UN Women reaffirms its dedication to the most vulnerable indigenous and tribal peoples, such as indigenous women, who should have prioritized access to social services and benefits, access to opportunities, livelihood, financing, and even continuing education.
In her closing remarks, Ms Margaret Jones Williams, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, acknowledged the remarks from Amb. Miriam MacIntosh of BIBIS, on the relevance and importance of the JP to Suriname and to the Voluntary National Review to be presented. Ms Jones Williams underscored that the inputs from Capitan Joghie and Capitan for Petrusi on behalf of VIDS and KAMPOS had allowed the audience to hear directly from the beneficiaries on the relevance of the JP to their lives, livelihoods and recovery from the pandemic. She thanked all the participants for their participation, but also for the input over several months, as the launch event is the culmination of several months of data gathering, consultative meetings and project preparation, and looked forward to continued collaboration and partnership.