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Social Cohesion Minister, with responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. George Norton (at left), with Chairperson of the ERC, Dr. John Smith THE Ministry of the Presidency, through its Department of Social Cohesion, Culture, Youth and Sport, wants the various ‘rights’ commissions across the country to help it implement policies that would foster a more unified society.

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Technical Officer, Department of Social Cohesion, Mahendra Boodram As such, the Department has hosted its first engagement with one such agency, the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC). A sensitization session with the chairman, deputy chairman, commissioners and senior staff of the ERC was opened Monday morning at the Racquet Centre, Woolford Avenue, in Georgetown.

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As the ministry continues to disseminate information on its work, it wants to be able to provide a clear understanding of just what social cohesion is, and to establish a partnership with the agencies to see how they can better collaborate. Policy areas have been under discussion for the past three years and according to Acting Programme Coordinator, Natasha Singh Lewis, the Department has already completed drafting its strategic plan.

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Programme Coordinator (ag), Department of Social Cohesion, Natasha Singh Lewis “We have an implementation plan on which we have done two years of work. The strength of social cohesion is networking. We have sought to work with all the ministries because we recognized that social cohesion is not about any individual or [one] organization.” Minister of Social Cohesion, with responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. George Norton, assured the ERC that the Department stands ready to lend whatever support is needed towards building the partnership.

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“As we all know, the ERC is a constitutional body meticulously designed and established to address the very damaging issues relating to ethnic tension and disharmony in our country. Your role as the ERC is critical to national development, and as a government agency, the Department of Social Cohesion is here to lend support to your efforts,” Norton expressed. He noted that while the ERC is constitutionally mandated and fully capable of dealing with matters of race and ethnicity, the Department is working to address division in all areas of society

“Admittedly, our history would outline that ethnic and race-related issues are seen as the most prominent in our society. Our mission is to build partnerships that aid in the promotion of a harmonious nation where equality prevails – where diversities are embraced and where individuality is nurtured and accepted at all levels.”

A sensitization session with senior staff and commissioners of the ERC was opened Monday morning (Adrian Narine photo) He said the Department does not plan on taking away from the ERC’s role as a constitutionally mandated agency. “We respect your functions and we are here to not only lend support, but to also seek assistance where needed. It is my genuine hope that today’s session will solidify our partnership with the ERC so that we can all continue to work in the best interest of our country.”

Technical Officer from the Department of Social Cohesion, Mahendra Boodram, expressed hope that the two agencies can form common grounds on which to work. “We’re here looking at collaboration and not competition. This is stated in the strategic plan; that we are not here to compete with anyone for any area. We are here to work in a collaborative manner so that we can assist you and you can assist us in getting the information necessary for us to achieve our programmes,” he said. “If the statutory commissions have their mandates met, and persons feel that they are not working in a discriminatory environment, then they can contribute to nation-building and help us achieve our goals of implementing policies that will benefit all,” he added

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