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Earth Today | CSOs want say in forest sector spending

Published:Thursday | September 22, 2022 | 12:07 AM

THE JAMAICA Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT) is among a group of civil society organisations (CSOs) calling for a seat at the table of decision-making on budgeting for the forest sector.

“We are really doing quite a lot in terms of actually helping to manage forests, and we think that we should have a voice in terms of helping to make decisions. People are doing work needed to conserve and manage our forest, and so we would really like to be involved,” said Susan Otuokon, executive director of JCDT.

“You just see the regulatory agency doing things, or you hear about the projects. In some cases, we have been involved in the strategic planning, gone to meetings, etc, but after that we don't hear anything and the fact is, government alone cannot take care of the forests, so we need to work together. We need to be brought into the process, so that we can better understand, see where the gaps are, and help to identify priorities,” she added.

Otuokon's comments come in the wake of a meeting of the CSO Coalition for Forests, held in Kingston earlier this month, as part of the European Union-funded project 'Participatory budgeting and financial management for the forest sector in Jamaica'.

Under the project, 25 CSOs in the coalition are working together to enhance their capacity to engage in strategic budget formulation, budget analysis and debate, budget execution and reporting, and evaluation for accountability in the forest sector.

Ainsley Henry, conservator of forests and chief executive officer of the Forestry Department, said while the current budgeting process does not readily lend itself to CSO participation, it is something that can be looked at.

“The process to develop government budget is that the different MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies of government) take the time to sit down and deliberate on the course of action they wish to take in the medium and long term, based on a business or corporate plan. That plan is submitted to the Ministry of Finance, along with the budgetary request for a decision,” he told The Gleaner.

“Consequently, the best way to prepare to be involved is through dialogue with the MDAs from before to have the things they believe are urgent and necessary, and which we may not have thought of, form part of the corporate or business plan,” Henry added.

For the upcoming Budget next year, he said the time is now.

“The period for the planning for next year starts in September this year through to November. If there is something urgent or that they believe is critical at this time, now is the time to tell us so that, if possible, we can include it,” Henry noted.