Perry Center Honors University of Guyana with Excellence in Security and Defense Education Award
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18 Apr 2024


The 2023 William J. Perry Award for Excellence in Security and Defense Education was awarded to the University of Guyana’s (UG) Institute for Human Resilience, Strategic Security, and the Future (IHRSSF). The award, bestowed each year upon individuals or institutions in recognition of their significant contributions in the fields of security and defense education, honored UG’s effort to develop future leaders equipped to address critical security and defense challenges within Guyana and the Americas.

UG’s Vice Chancellor Dr. Paloma Mohamed Martin received the award during a March 13 ceremony at the George Walcott Lecture Theatre of UG’s Turkeyen Campus. Dr. Martin, who recognized the importance of the award, emphasized her institution’s commitment to advance security and defense education. “This is not a slight moment, it is a highly significant moment […]. Everything that we do in this University is for this country and now with our regional and hemispheric focus we do it in the best interest of those who are friends of this country and who support this country,” Martin stated.

The UG Master of Science in Strategic Development Studies was launched in 2022 and is aimed at equipping students with a comprehensive understanding of contemporary security threats, defense planning, and strategic analysis. The program was developed through collaboration among the UG, Guyanese government agencies, and the United States government, with the Perry Center, among others.

Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali, who attended the ceremony, also recognized the importance of the award, and highlighted the relevance of this partnership to build a more secure environment. “It is a tremendous honor to achieve this accolade, this award, and we must not take it lightly at all […]. We take this [award] as one small step in the journey ahead of building out an ecosystem that would be second to none […]. This partnership is about positioning us as a country and as a university, and we want to position Guyana, the University of Guyana and the National Defense Institute as the premier regional security institutions,” Ali said.

President Ali also noted that this is only the beginning of more partnerships and collaborations with Guyana and the Perry Center, highlighting the importance of this type of academic program in stemming the root cause of authoritarian regimes threatening today’s society. “To deal with this we need to deal with security as a lifelong investment and not just an opportunistic investment […]. The fundamentals of international security and hemispheric security form the foundational pillars on which the principle of leadership and principle of security and democracy is built.”

U.S. Ambassador to Guyana Nicole D. Theriot, congratulated the UG as she recognized the importance of this cooperation. “[This award] is another demonstration of the excellent collaboration between the United States and Guyana for the advancement of both our nations and our shared values in support of a prosperous, peaceful region.”

Dr. Paul J. Angelo, director of the Perry Center, not only praised the UG for its academic performance, but also for its effort and engagement in achieving a more secure and peaceful society. “We are not just celebrating an academic achievement, but recognizing a partner in peace, a leader in education, and a pivotal player in resolving the most pressing regional issues of our times,” Dr. Angelo stated.

“Challenges for Defense Governance in a Turbulent World”

The panel discussion, “Challenges for Defense Governance in a Turbulent World,” followed the award ceremony. The panel, hosted by the UG’s IHRSSF and moderated by Dr. Norwell Hinds, director of the Institute for Energy Diplomacy at the UG, included several experts who discussed security and defense challenges in a rapidly changing world.

“Things are changing very fast, and things are changing for Guyana faster […]. I have a sensation that Guyana is becoming from a ruler taker into a ruler maker,” said panelist Dr. Luis Bitencourt, expert in business strategy, innovation, and leadership and professor of International Security and Governance at the Perry Center. Bitencourt called for investing in education to nurture a skilled and innovative future generation that can successfully face the evolving security challenges and threats of the world today.

Another key point discussed was the importance of strengthening institutions, especially now as the region is facing a serious institutional crisis. “The largest crisis that we have in the America’s is an institutional crisis,” said Dr. Mark Hamilton, professor at the Inter-American Defense College, as he released the results from an annual survey conducted by a private non-profit organization on the development of democracies, economies, and societies in the region. “According to Latinobarometro, 80 percent of the population out of the 18 countries where they surveyed said that the government does nothing or very little, we should be concerned about that […] and become architects to rebuild our foundation stronger and to build institutions that are more inclusive,” Hamilton said.

For his part, panelist Dr. Wilbert Lee, a former lecturer at the UG and retired colonel for the Guyana Defense Force, called on strengthening civilian and military cooperation to face new types of turbulence in an unpredictable world. “We are now confronted by asymmetric warfare that makes prediction of what will happen next seemingly or almost impossible now […]. We need to find the way to bring both military and civilian enterprises to really strengthen institutions so that the liberal democracy that we all talk about, and we would like to see faster can be a reality,” Dr. Lee said.

Award Ceremony
Panel Discussion: Challenges for Defense Governance in a Turbulent World