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Outgoing Board Report October 2018

Fellow Members, Colleagues, members of the officiating team

It is my privilege as the outgoing president of Environment Tobago to address you all with a report on our activities for the past year - As if it is possible to squeeze 12 months of work into just 12 minutes. However I shall try. High on our focus list this year, as it is every year, is to ensure ET's environmental education programme is funded and consequently, implemented. This is something we've placed in the capable hands of our Education sub-committee along with education coordinator Mr Barry Lovelace. Barry shall in due course expand how he achieved soome of his magics. So let me limit this report therefore, to the bigger picture.

ET's environmental education programme has evolved as the easiest, a relative term mind because nothing's easy - as the easiest approach to achieve part of our mission: The part that speaks to “advancement of knowledge and understanding of such resources ”. ET's environmental education drive has always targeted the Tobago school community. Aand this year, as Barry shall report, we regained buy-in, let's say regained, the interest of at least 98% of the local school community - via the Keep A Clean School Awards Programme. If in hindsight that project was, is a success - who really can tell what kids will retain when they hit the world of work? let's not forget then to applaud the main sponsors bhpBilliton Trinidad and Tobago, who, along with the Tobago House of Assembly, contribute greatly each year.

ET's education arm was, is, also busy with what I've heard Barry refer to as the tangential project: The Tobago Ridge to Reef Education Project (TRREP). This was conceived as a - and I'll probably say as its the kids saw it, a less boring approach to environmental education. This project augments the Keep A Clean School by providing the 'why' to the protection of the natural environment. In this it hopes to stimulate a greater sense of “wise and sustainable use, and their essential relationship to human health and quality of life”. There again, I refer to the relevance of this effort to the ET mission. And once more I'll leave it to Barry to really describe those green days by the river.

The Tobago Ridge to Reef Education Project was funded by the JB Fernandes Memorial Trust in partnership with bhpBilliton and also the Tobago House of Assembly.
Barry is assisted in that work by our latest addition to Environment Tobago; Dr Kerton Job. Dr Jobe is no newcomer though. He's been here what, a year already? Further: We also need to thank the ET Education sub-committee led by Patricia (Turpin). All together they've created a formidable team.

Environment Tobago also spent time this year in an aspect of work that kind of hard to report upon but I'll try. But first a bit of history on what will follow: The Global Environment Fund - the GEF, is a mechanism designed to fuel initiatives coming out of the Convention of Parties, 'parties' being countries who have taken up the challenge to find ways for the world to achieve sustainability. It's a big task, balancing what people need, want, against what the Earth can supply and yet remain the way we like it. So the Global Environment Fund has over the course of its work, divvied up the world into segments - purely for management purposes. And they've enlisted, among the many sectors that make up those regions, the civil sector. We sometimes use the term civil society to 'place' groups like ET these days.

The civil society voice in each of those regions is presented to the GEF to aid in their planning and for the prioritisation of funds they get from the 'parties'. We are proud to report that for another four years running, ET has been selected by the Caribbean region to pilot its environmental priorities to the GEF. To say all of it in short; ET is the focal point for the GEF Civil Society Network. This however I need to say quickly, does not generate funds directly to ET, though it does allow for an amazing birds eye view of the goings-on in the biggest pro-sustainable development platform there is. At this point I do need to ask for a round of applause for the engine behind our presence in the GEF CSO Network, Ms Patricia Turpin. Hey hey Pat.

Another part of our work over the past year and again probably invisible - as these things do not really make news, is ET's participation in a joint project which is now in its second year. And I'll provide the background for this: The CSOs4Good Gov project is an effort to strengthen the civil society voice in the halls of local authority using the implement of advocacy. But since the funding is in fact limited - is it ever different? we are really looking at achieving that traction by chipping away or building up (all depends on how one looks at it really) the legal and fiscal framework. CSOs4GoodGov therefore is not a purely environment target initiative. It is a series of enabling activities - advocacy based, that will improve ET's lot and for now - specifically, through the legal platform. Needless to say, it helps to leverage the image and power as well, of civil society organisations throughout Trinidad and Tobago. The CSOs4GoodGov project has other deliverables, all of which we will be glad to share with anyone regardless of affiliation.

The CSOs4GoodGov project was funded by the European Commission. The award went to a coalition of seven NGOs; United Way, Caribbean Natural Resources Institute, Veni Apwaan, UWI's Institute for Gender and Development Studies, the Women's Institute for Alternative Development and us, Environment Tobago. The take-home here to reiterate, Tobago-based NGOs such as we are, has had historical challenges making our cases heard. And we feel that participation in a joint venture like CSOs4GoodGov is extremely relevant. CSOs4GoodGov is the hashtag if you want to check it out on the Web.

Another venture we have only just started to roll out and again its a coalition project. This time ET is working with Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS), the Oilfield Workers Trade Union, The Network of Rural Women Producers and the Cropper Foundation. The project is also European Commission funded and it hopes to augment work already achieved by the Trinidad and Tobago Extractives Initiative Transparency Institute. The project hopes to enable, through the provisions of toolboxes and advocacy training, the empowerment of fenceline communities adversely affected by the extractive industry. There are other deliverables, such as providing the relevant ministry with help to manage those, well 'our' resources, but again we will be glad to share all the work with this project as the year goes on. Along those lines I do wish to mention that project steering team for that project - we are calling it for short CSOs4EcoOversight. The project steering team here comprises of one key person sent from each of the five partner NGOS. Our representative there is Dr Ryan Allard. Please cheer him for the task he's about to take on.

As we know, in the last year ET has of course participated in many other conversations; our end game is always stewardship of the Tobago natural environment remember. To that end the biggest achievement probably is the revival of the national umbrella of environment focussed groups - the Council of the Presidents of the Environment, its COPE for short. COPE has now confirmed its legal standing and concentrates the voices of, at last count about 12 non-profits. Groups like the UWI BIO Sci, the Field Naturalist Club, the Zoological Society among others. As it stands there are two things to note here. COPE achieved its new lease on life because - and the only way ET can bask in the credit is because he's a member - because of Aljoscha Wothke. Aljoscha our great expatriate hope literally ran over every hurdle the Companies Registrar came up with. But the result was good. Big cheer for Aljosha yah?.

The other thing I want to report and its connected to COPE. ET has held for the better part of this year, and will hold for the next 12 months - the position as head of the COPE. Its a rotating thing and we hope we can use the time there to make something happen for environment somewhere in T&T. The entry will in all likelihood be via the CSOs4EcoOversight project. But we'll see.

Is there anything more? Of course, ET has a list of issues 13 miles long and 7 miles wide but there is that one thing - Thanks. I want to thank everyone for helping ET. I thank the membership for the faith in our mission, I thank the staff for the dedication they've given and I want to thank the outgoing board for serving and so well, our very noble cause. Thank you - And no I did not not forget the sponsors and all our other partners. We thank them every day.

Outgoing ET president Bertrand Bhikarry made this speech at the 23rd AGM, October 3rd 2018.He was unanimously voted back to the position for period 2018 2020 later in the day

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