Guyana

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Persistent violations
  • Corporal punishment[1]
  • Violence against children[2]
  • Use of, and conditions in, detention for children, including pre-trial detention and detention of children with adults[3]
  • Low minimum age of criminal responsibility[4]
  • Discrimination against children from indigenous backgrounds, particularly with regards to education[5]
  • Sexual abuse and exploitation of children[6]
  • Inadequate protection of child victims of trafficking[7]

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Footnotes
  1. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, Universal Periodic Review
  2. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Independent Expert on minority issues, Universal Periodic Review
  3. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Committee against Torture, Universal Periodic Review
  4. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee against Torture, Universal Periodic Review
  5. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Independent Expert on minority issues, Universal Periodic Review
  6. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,Universal Periodic Review
  7. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review



Introduction

One of the few non-insular Caribbean countries, Guyana is located on the northern coast of South America, bordering Suriname, Venezuela and Brazil. Since the first free and fair elections in 1992, the authoritarian legacy of the previous decades has largely receded, though the ethnic polarisation of Guyanese politics and political tensions has led to some violence and instability, particularly during transitions of power. Police abuses, indigenous rights, widespread discrimination and detention of children all remain key issues.


Geography

The Cooperative Republic of Guyana, located on the northern coast of South America, shares borders with Brazil to the south west, Venezuela to the west and Suriname to the east. Tropical rainforests cover 80 per cent of the country's territory, but 90 per cent of the population lives on a thin strip of coastal plain, accounting for just 10 per cent of the country's territory.[1] The capital of Guyana is Georgetown.

Population and language

Guyana is home to 756,000 inhabitants.[2] The population is made up of Amerindians (9.2 per cent), people of African and East Indian descent (30 and 48 per cent respectively), with the rest an amalgam of other groups, including those of Portuguese and Chinese origin.[3] Many among the country's African population are descendants of slaves imported by the Dutch to work on sugar plantations, while much of the East Indian community is descended from agricultural workers held in indentured labour by the British, following the abolition of slavery. Tensions run deep between these two groups, a division which is reflected in the country's politics.

Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America; other languages in use include indigenous languages, Creole, Hindi and Urdu.

History and politics

Guyana was settled by the Dutch in the 16th century, before being transferred to French hands, then, in 1814 to British administration. The country achieved independence in 1969, and the Cooperative Republic was formed in 1970.

Relations have at times soured between Guyana and its neighbours as a result of border disputes: wrangling over an oil-rich offshore area with Suriname was concluded with the decision of a UN tribunal in 2000 with the outcome that both countries now share the territory. The border between Guyana and Venezuela is also disputed.

The current political landscape is dominated by two parties: the People's Progressive Party and the Partnership for National Unity. In the 2011 elections, the People's Progressive party scored a fifth successive victory at the polls, but lost its majority in parliamentary elections for the first time in 19 years.

Economy

Guyana is one of the poorest countries in South America. Until the 1990s, 80 per cent of industries were State owned and, as a result of mismanagement and other external factors such as fluctuations in commodity prices, Guyana became heavily indebted. However, the country's entrance into CARICOM has expanded its market for exports, and the Inter-American Development Bank cancelled its $470 million debt in 2007, easing the country's financial burden considerably. Today, the country faces different threats, including environmental degradation, poverty and violent crime linked to the drugs trade. However it fared relatively well in the financial crisis, and achieved 4.8 per cent growth in 2011 - a rate forecast by the World Bank to increase in 2012, as a result of higher commodity prices and investment in infrastructure, among other factors.[4]

Agriculture, fishing, forestry and mining are important industries in Guyana. Sugar is the country's main employer, but has suffered in recent times because of the loss of preferential access to EU markets. The main exports are bauxite, aluminia, caused, sugar and rice.

Media and civil society

The media operate freely in Guyana, although the State retains a monopoly on radio stations. In addition, former president Bharrat Jagdeo who left office in December 2011 maintained a stormy relationship with the press, on one occasion denying official advertising to the nation's leading daily newspaper for 18 months for its critical stance on his leadership.[5] Guyana ranks 58 out of 179 in Reporters without Borders' Press Freedom Index 2011/2012.[6]

Human rights and children's rights

Acts of police violence have been frequently reported, and in some cases have resulted in unlawful killings. Certain groups of people face pervasive discrimination, including women, gay people and indigenous peoples.[7]

In terms of children's rights, various forms of violence are widespread, such as corporal punishment in all spheres of children's lives, including the judicial system. Other violations of the rights of children in conflict with the law include being held in detention with adults and the possibility of life imprisonment.[8]

  1. World Bank, "Guyana Country Brief"
  2. UNDP, "Guyana Human Development Indicators" 2011
  3. Guyana Bureau of Statistics, "Population and Housing Census 2002"
  4. World Bank, "Guyana Country Brief"
  5. Reporters Without Borders, "World Report 2011: Guyana"
  6. Reporters Without Borders, "Press Freedom Index 2011/12"
  7. Amnesty International, "Annual Report: State of the World's Human Rights- Guyana" 2011
  8. Child Rights International Network, "Guyana: Inhuman Sentencing of Children" November 2010

Sources:

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