President Dr Irfaan Ali said the introduction of the new Master’s Degree in Strategic Development Studies at the University of Guyana is one of the most transformative aspects of the institution.
The Head of State made this assertion on Monday during his keynote address at the launch of the programme at the George Walcott Lecture Theatre, at the Turkeyen Campus.
“This programme is geared towards the development of the minds in a policy framework, in an analytical framework; bringing the output to a level in which they (the graduates) can apply themselves to very complex problems and complex issues.”
The President pointed to the significance of holistic development and the way the programme unearths a strategic level of thinking.
“This programme is about aligning theory with practice, with real-life problems and developing the capability of each individual to strategically deal with those challenges and prepare you to understand future challenges by appreciating the evolution of such challenges.”
On this note, President Ali emphasised that national development cannot be contextualised in isolation from regional or international development, as illustrated by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and its implications regionally and internationally.
“We cannot build resilient, sustainable, strong, national development programme or a national development agenda without understanding and contextualising it in the wider global environment.”
This course, he added, allows us to take a deep dive into what shapes us as a region along with the threats as well as the opportunities that exist.
The programme will also cater for all CARICOM nations since, according to the Head of State, it is imperative to have regional integration and a structural regional agenda.
The programme, he stressed, is integral to understanding the relationships that exist at a country-to-country level within the region and under the broad umbrella of CARICOM.
He called these components “critical” to enable future leaders to have a realistic overview of the current environment and its dynamics.
The President also underscored the importance of strategic development with issues like food security, climate change and water scarcity.
He acknowledged the importance of the partnerships created by the programme, not only between UG, the security apparatus and the National Development apparatus, but the partnership with Guyana’s international partners.
“The partnership that this programme has already created is worth celebrating, but there are a lot of opportunities down the road for an even greater and stronger partnership. This programme will look at national development in the context of globalisation—national development cannot be isolated from globalisation.”
The policymakers of the future, the President said, must be able to understand the way in which international organisations operate and how the institutions themselves are governed and their importance to the framework of global development.
He also pointed to the flexibility of the course and its ability to analyse current events. This “practical nature”, he said, must lead to strategic thinking, critical analysis, policy formulation, shared responsibility and threats, challenges and opportunities.
“This is important, understanding our shared responsibility in dealing with threats, challenges and opportunities. More importantly, it should allow us to understand threats to development…it must equip us with the knowledge and the analytical capability to strategically align policies, national policies to meet those threats, to mitigate against those strengths and challenges.”
President Ali emphasised that we cannot take our country to greater heights if we don’t have a vision, and the creation of something different requires a vision, which requires ideas which in turn require people.
“If we’re static in our thinking, we will not be able to develop ideas. If we cannot develop ideas, we cannot create a vision, and after you create that vision, it is important that we communicate that vision and bring everyone along with that vision. That is what brings success, and it’s not a top-down approach or a bottom-up approach. It is a circular approach, and the only thing that unifies the circle is the vision.”
Government ministers, Members of the Diplomatic Corps and high-level security officials were also at the launch.