Country report and updates: Guyana

Last revision: 06 May 1998
06 May 1998

1 Conscription

conscription does not exist

Military service in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) may be compulsory only at times of national danger. [1]

Guyana has a 'National Service' programme which apparently neither entails military service nor is a form of conscription. The 1980 constitution defines National Service as "service in any disciplined force, a principal purpose of which is the training of people with a view to advancing the economic development of Guyana". Although in the past National Service was compulsory and involved training in the use of firearms, it is now voluntary. [3]


Enlistment in the armed forces and in the paramilitary forces is voluntary. [3]

The armed forces, military and paramilitary, are mainly staffed by Afro-Guyanese. Recruitment efforts targeted at Indo-Guyanese have generally met with an unenthusiastic response, most qualified Indo-Guyanese candidates opting for a business or professional career. But the Chief of Staff of the GDF is Indo-Guyanese and there are other Indo-Guyanese officers in the armed forces. [4]

2 Conscientious objection

It is believed that the right to conscientious objection is included in the 1980 constitution, but it is not known if the right is implemented by law. [6]

The right to conscientious objection was also enshrined in the previous 1966 constitution. [1]

3 Draft evasion and desertion

No information available.

5 History

In 1973 the Burnham administration introduced National Service for all university students. In early years it was a graduation condition for all students, and from 1982 on it was also a prerequisite of secondary education. National Service was presented as an educational scheme which provided training for unskilled young people working in development projects in the interior. Training was said to be minimal, although it included both firearms training and a considerable amount of political indoctrination.

From 1985 on secondary school pupils performed their compulsory National Service in so-called "Young Brigades". Daily routine included physical exercise, work in the fields, courses on government policy, and weapons training. The consequences of not engaging in National Service ranged from having only restricted access to higher education to denial of a university degree. The National Service programme was not abolished but it became voluntary. [2]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are about 1,600 strong, which is 0.19 percent of the population. There is an approximately 1,500 strong paramilitary peoples' militia. [5]


[1] Eide, A., C. Mubanga-Chipoya 1985. Conscientious objection to military service, report prepared in pursuance of resolutions 14 (XXXIV) and 1982/30 of the Sub-Commission of Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. United Nations, New York. [2] DIRB 1990. DIRB, 3 June 1990. [3] Immigration and Refugee Board Documentation Center 1994. Telephone interviews with a staff member of the Embassy of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Washington, DC, and with the editors of the Guyana Chronicle and the Catholic Standard, Georgetown, 6 September 1994. DIRB, Ottawa, Canada. [4] US State Department 1995. Human rights practices for the year 1994, Country report Guyana. [5] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK. [6] Toney, R.J. 1996. Military Service, Alternative Social Service, and Conscientious Objection in the Americas: A Brief Survey of Selected Countries. NISBCO, Washington DC, USA.