Report on Follow-up and Implementation of the
Mandates of the Summit of the Americas Process
The following report outlines Belize’s efforts to implement its commitments under the Action Plan of the Summit of the Americas.
Electoral Processes and Procedures
In accordance with Article 90 of the Constitution of Belize, the Elections and Boundaries
Department of the Government of Belize has recently completed a redistricting exercise. The
purpose of the exercise was to ensure that as populations grow and shift, each electoral division
has, as nearly as may be, the same number of registered voters. This exercise was undertaken
as a part of the maintenance work that is required to preserve the representativity of each vote. A
similar effort was completed in 2002.
In addition to the redistricting exercise the Elections and Boundaries Department, in collaboration
with the University of Belize continued its voter education campaign by holding the 5th
Conference in the series “National Dialogue for a Culture of Democracy”, under the theme
“Distributed Governance – Widening the Sphere of Accountability”. Over two hundred persons,
comprising of tertiary level students, academics, senior public officers, political agents and
activists, media personnel, civil society representatives, union members and others from the
private sector attended this event.
The general aim of the conference series is to build awareness pertaining to the participation of
the electorate in the registration process, and to remind electors of the importance of people
participation in the electoral process and Belize’s democracy. HUMAN RIGHTS
Human Rights of Women
The Ministry of Human Development through the Women’s Department has commenced a
nationally executed project to create public awareness on the issues of Family Violence and
Gender Inequality. The project coordinated door-to-door campaigns, disseminating information in
local communities with the goal of reducing the instances of violence against women. This
initiative was part of the activities leading up to the Belize’s historical first observance
International Zero Tolerance Day.
Access to Justice
The Attorney General’s Ministry has created the Legal Information Bureau (LIB) and has opened branch offices in three towns as part of a pilot project jointly funded by the United Nations
Development Programme and the Government of Belize. This project was created to improve
access to justice through the ready dissemination of accurate legal information. The bureau will
help to answer legal questions, provide information about legal rights and the justice system.
Information on the proper procedures for legal matters will also be provided, and if necessary, the
bureau will be able to refer the public to the pertinent agencies for further action.
Combating the Drug Problem
Amendments to the Evidence Act:
Government recently amended the Evidence Act legislation to reform the law relating witnesses testifying in criminal cases. The fight against crime may be undermined by witnesses refusing to testify or going into hiding after being intimidated and threatened by persons associated with accused persons. The Act seeks to ensure that the evidence of witnesses, who have a real and genuine fear of testifying, is admissible in evidence.
The overriding interest of the new legislation will be to ensure that justice is served by receiving the evidence of witnesses of crimes against accused persons. The amendment addresses the difficulty arising from an increase in the number of cases discontinued by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions because of witnesses refusing to testify because of fear of reprisals.
Establishment of the National Coast Guard Service:
Belize has authorized the development of a National Coast Guard Service with full responsibility for law enforcement, resource protection and safety at sea. The Belize National Coast Guard will be an integral force in Belize’s efforts to deter narcotics trans-shipments. Belize has joined other
Central American countries participating in the Cooperating Nations Information Exchange System (CNIES), which has resulted in several significant seizures in coordinated interdiction operations, particularly with Guatemala.
Trans-national Organized Crime
Trafficking in Persons:
The National Assembly has passed the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Bill, 2003. The Bill seeks to give effect to and implement the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children.
Belize is a party to the Protocol, which was adopted to supplement the United Nations Convention against Trans-national Organized Crime.
This Act creates, for the first time in Belizean law, the specific offences of trafficking in persons, as well as the offences of unlawfully withholding a person's identification papers in order to exploit the person, and transporting a person for the purpose of exploiting that person. There are also provisions for the court to order a trafficker to pay restitution to the victims and guidelines to be used by the court to determine the quantum of such restitution.
Anti-Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Fraud:
A two-day seminar on the “Combating of Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Fraud” was
hosted in Belize by the Office of the Supervisor of Insurance (OSI), Ministry of Finance, in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Over fifty participants, including law-enforcement, financial sector regulators and other relevant agencies gathered at the Central Bank of Belize, where they focused primarily on anti-money laundering and fraud.
A similar group of participants, representing Belize’s Insurance Sector attended a seminar to gain
understanding of how the insurance agencies can identify money laundering, noting its vulnerability to these criminal activities and how they could prevent or mitigate this problem.
The seminar is a step towards complying with international insurance standards, specifically Insurance Core Principles #27 and #28, which relate specifically to the prevention of fraud, money laundering and financing of terrorism.
The insurance industry was provided with information showing their vulnerabilities to criminal elements, draft suspicious reports, and a draft Anti- Money Laundering/CFT Compliance manual. Much discussion was centred on the prevention of money laundering and financing of terrorism.
The OSI is a founding member of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS), and is required to comply with international standards and works along with the insurance industry to meet these standards and prepare for globalization.
Forensic Unit Formed:
With training and equipment assistance from the United States and Panamanian Governments, Belize established its first police forensic unit called the Scenes of Crime Unit. The Unit is comprised of 25 Scene of Crime Technicians and will be deployed countrywide to support Police investigating officers in the collection of fingerprints and other evidential materials for forensic science examination. There is a subsequent course in the planning stages for the additional training necessary to bring this unit to full operational standard. In a corresponding development, the Forensic Science Laboratory expected to become operational soon.
Belize Attends Central American Regional Security Forum:
For the first time Belize participated in a Central American Meeting of Ministers of Home Affairs and Security.
During their deliberations, the Ministers discussed issues affecting the region including illicit drug trafficking, border security, domestic violence, human trafficking, stolen vehicles, gang violence and terrorism.
The deliberations resulted in a joint declaration which proposes six basic points to create a more integrated framework to effectively combat all manner of illegal activity. The proposals are:
1) Find agile mechanisms to make arrest warrants issued in one country valid in all other Central American countries.
2) Form national commissions through the respective Ministry of Home Affairs, Legislative and Judicial bodies to determine the shortest term and the best way to formulate a legal agreement to benefit law enforcement agencies for the apprehension of fugitives.
3) Strengthen the sub-regional offices of INTERPOL (International Police) for a more effective information exchange on organized crime.
4) Revise, evaluate and put into practice the regional plan against organized crime as approved by the Central American Security Commission.
5) Improve the regional communication system among agencies in order to share security plans against organized crime with the view to creating a safer Central America.
6) Propose to the Presidents of the region consideration for the appointment of police attaches in each country to act as coordinators and liaison officers.
The conference was hosted as part of SICA (Central America Integration System) activities to enhance the security services throughout the region.
Strengthening Mutual Confidence
Delegations from Belize and Guatemala, headed by Assad Shoman, Chief Negotiator with Ministerial Rank of Belize and Jorge Briz Abularach, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, in the presence of Raoúl Lago, attending on behalf of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, met on 25th July, 2005 in Antigua, Guatemala in a new era of Belize-Guatemala relations.
The Ministers had a positive exchange of views on a number of topics including a new Agreement on Confidence Building Measures designed to enhance cooperation and foster good neighbourliness and better understanding between the people of both countries in the Adjacency Zone and on a Framework Agreement for Negotiations to arrive at a solution to the territorial differendum.
It was agreed that delegations from both countries would work to finalise the text of the new Agreement on Confidence Building Measures which is expected to be signed at the Headquarters of the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C. in early September of this year. The Ministers also commended the work of the Organization of American States Office in the Adjacency Zone and expressed interest in strengthening that office.
Likewise, the Ministers agreed on a Framework Agreement for Negotiations that would allow for the identification of a mutual agreement on the relevant issues of fact and law to achieve a definitive solution to the territorial differendum between the two countries through the political and juridical means established in International Law.
Fight Against Terrorism
Minister of Home Affairs and Investment will be implementing a new passport issuance system based on the issuance of machine-readable passports. It is anticipated that the new passport system will assist the fight against terrorism, immigration smuggling and trafficking in persons, which has assumed great importance after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States.
TRADE AND INVESTMENT
Belize has ratified the legislation to adopt the Caribbean Court of Justice as Belize’s final court of
appeal. The Court will be the first of its kind in the world, and will be charged with dealing with cases of international law and with applying the revised treaty of Chaguaramas, the Treaty that established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
With the implementation of the CARICOM single market and economy, cases which individual CARICOM nations cannot sort out among themselves will be referred to the Court, where the judgement will be final.
In terms of infrastructure, the new Marine Parade Boulevard significantly eases the flow of cruise tourism-related traffic while modernizing the coastline of Belize City. The single lane Sibun River Bridge was replaced by a new double lane bridge. Eight miles of all-weather road were completed
to connect Dolores in the Toledo District to the rest of Belize. Municipal drainage projects and upgrading of streets were carried out in Dangriga and Punta Gorda.
The Caye Caulker airstrip is being reconstructed. The San Pedro Town Commercial Marina, designed to withstand hurricanes, was inaugurated. The Jordan bridge which spans the Moho River in the Toledo District was constructed and now allows the villages of Santa Teresa, Dolores, Mabilha, San Lucas, Corazon, Otoxha and Hicatee in the Toledo District all-weather access even at the height of the rainy season.
The road from Burrell Boom to Willows Bank was upgraded. A new bypass in Orange Walk was being constructed. This is a major development that will have a significant impact on traffic flows in Orange Walk Town.
In rural communities, over 250 wells were drilled, hand pumps installed and another 250 wells disinfected.
Under our low-income housing program, construction has begun on over 200 houses and a special program commenced to provide houses at Mahogany Heights at repayments not exceeding $200 per month, primarily for public officers.
The Ministry of Human Development initiated the implementation of the National Plan of Action for Children in the areas of health, education, HIV/AIDS, child protection and the family.
In the area of health, under the health sector reform project, major renovations were carried out on the Matron Roberts Health Centre, the Cleopatra White Health Centre and a second San Pedro Polyclinic, and a program of sustained maintenance of community health outposts countrywide was carried out.
Under the Social Investment Fund, over $6.3 million was spent on ongoing important community projects that have a direct impact on the lives of poor people.
Some examples include:
• the Rudimentary Water System Projects in Monkey River , Cristo Rey, Yo Chen, Trinidad and the Rootsville Area of Lake Independence that brought potable water to over 500 households, • the electrification of areas in the Red Bank, Steadfast, Maya Centre and Hummingbird communities,
• a number of extensions to schools and day care centres in Belize City, Burrell Boom and Patchakan, and
• other projects related to skills training, starter homes and support for abused children.
The Government continues to strengthen its National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO). Studies conducted by Consultants from Canada, Italy, Barbados and Jamaica, on Emergency Telecommunication, National/District Emergency structures, Hazard Mitigation Planning, Economic/Infrastructure Assessment and Disaster Emergency Legislation, have been incorporated into Belize’s Emergency Plans for Hurricane, Floods, Fires and Oil Spill.
The NEMO Secretariat regularly conducts Shelter Inspections in support of and in conjunction with the Hurricane Rehabilitation Project (Ministry of Economic Development); responsible for the retrofitting and construction of (Regional) Shelters as stipulated under the BZ $66 M Loan Agreement between the Government of Belize, International Development Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank.
NEO recently coordinated a four-day Trauma and Disaster Mass Casualty Management Workshop for Physicians, nurses and emergency medical personnel from the Ministry of Health,
private hospitals and Belize Defence Force. The workshop involved an exchange of best practices knowledge and skills in handling patients in emergency cases with medical personnel of the Louisiana Army National Guard and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
Environment and Natural Resources Management
The Caribbean Regional Environmental Programme, the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, Commerce and Industry have launched a three-year conservation and development project for the Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR) and Payne’s Creek National Park (PCNP), as well as for the
surrounding communities of Monkey River, Punta Negra and Punta Gorda.
The PHMR/PCNP project will work to conserve the resources of these two protected areas in Toledo while developing alternative income generating options for local residents. Proposed activities include a fire management plan for Payne’s Creek National Park (which is highly
susceptible to fire damage in the dry season), demarcation of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve and installation of mooring buoys, development of eco-tourism products in the protected areas and surrounding communities, implementation of tourism training including kayaking, birding, fly-fishing, diving, hospitality and small business management. Also proposed are fish stock assessments for key commercial species in Port Honduras Marine Reserve, including lobster and conch, and the development of a honey production strategy plan.
The Caribbean Regional Environmental Programme represents a bold and innovative approach to conservation and community development as it seeks to strengthen collaboration between government and non-governmental organizations, through this 3-year project, in order to demonstrate how governments and civil society can work together to manage natural resources in a manner that internalizes environmental conservation in the basis of their value in supporting sustainable social and economic development.
The new Caribbean Research and Development Institute (CARDI) Belize Headquarters was officially opened in Central Farm, Cayo District, enabling closer ties with other institutes in agricultural development.
The new CARDI complex houses three offices, a laboratory, and other facilities for technical research and projects and is within close proximity to the Agriculture Department, University of Belize, Agriculture Department, BAHA, ROC Agricultural Technical Mission, Galen University’s Veterinary Unit, The Pesticide Control Board, and other institutions.
CARDI has come to full circle, closing the gap with other agriculture entities and local farming communities. Belize has benefited from CARDI projects, focusing on citrus, rice, bean, ginger, peanuts, cereal and other crop production, as well as pesticide control. The new facilities will allow CARDI to cultivating the right spirit towards transforming local and regional agriculture to international competitiveness, as CARDI is committed to bring global technology and research to the Caribbean communities.
Established 29 years ago, CARDI’s mission is to improve the lives of Caribbean people through
agricultural research. Today, CARDI has been set up in twelve of its CARICOM member states, implementing programmes of technology generation, adaptation and transfer. In expanding its work, CARDI pools resources with national agencies and continues to strengthen collaborative linkages with regional and international research centres.
GROWTH WITH EQUITY
Enabling Economic Environment
The Government has established a National Economic Council which brings together members of the Cabinet, the Legislature, the University, senior Public Officers, and representatives of the private sector in an effort to build consensus on public policies and programs to achieve our shared national objectives.
The National Economic Council is intended to maintain and strengthen the partnership in development between Government and the various economic sectors with the goal to achieve, among other things:
1. broad-based job generating economic growth;
2. investment, trade and export promotion;
3. poverty reduction programs; and
4. the strengthening of institutions for better governance.”
The work of the Council will be guided by the Medium-term Economic Strategy (2003-2008). This strategy linked to cooperation for sustainable development and engineered to meet our Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for poverty reduction.
Enhancement of Technical Vocational Education
Enhancement of Technical Vocational Education and Training Project (ETVETP) successfully assisted in the development of legislation, relevant curricula, staff development programmes, and the construction and equipping of Centres for Employment Training (CETs).
The Belize Technical Vocational Education and Training Act of February 2004 regulates the development and delivery of Technical Vocational Education and Training, through the establishment of a National Council whose responsibility is to monitor and provide direction.
A National Apprenticeship Program for persons 16 years and older has been established to provide on-the-job practical and technical training in designated trades. This programme is being piloted September thru December of this year in the Belize and Corozal Districts.
The design for the Testing and Certification Scheme which falls under the Technical Vocational Education and Training Act has been completed. The Scheme will be responsible for Occupational Testing and Certification and the awarding of Belize National Vocational Qualification.
TVET instructional programmes are being strengthened thru the development of employer driven occupational standards supported by modularized teacher/learning packages for 10 programme areas at three levels. In addition, a system of accrediting Technical Vocational Education and Training institutions and programmes is in place.
Training programmes for CET Instructors and management staff have been developed and piloted with a cadre of Trainers. These training programmes will ensure that instructors have the capacity to effectively deliver the Technical Vocational Education and Training Curriculum. In addition, a Staff Development Unit has been established to coordinate the training of all Instructors.
National and Regional Standards for Secondary Education:
A National and Regional Standard for Secondary Education has been presented to the Ministry of Education. The presentation is the culmination of a two-year preparatory project initiated by Coordinacion Educativa y Cultural Centroamericana (CECC) and Belize’s working team, who
define guidelines for Secondary education in Belize. More than 200 teachers in Belize contributed to the construction of the secondary standards, establishing Belize as one of the few countries with such standards at secondary level.
CECC is one of the technical secretaries of the System of Central American Integration (SICA) that is commissioned to promote cooperation and integration in Education and Culture.
A new building was constructed for the Corozal Junior College and another was built for the Agricultural and Natural Resources Institute in the Stann Creek District. A new building to house Wesley College Sixth Form was constructed in Belize City and 14 new community pre-schools were built in rural communities across the country.
The construction /rehabilitation of Centres for Employment training has commenced in Corozal Town, San Ignacio/Santa Elena and Dangriga.
More that 100 new classrooms were constructed countrywide, which significantly increased access at both primary and secondary levels.
Government assumed payment of salaries for an additional 33% of pre-school teachers to support the expansion of early childhood education. An additional 100 full tuition scholarships to the University of Belize were granted, and increased grant assistance was provided to students for higher education in Belize and abroad.
Health Sector Reform
In an effort to improve the quality of health services and in meeting the goals of the Health Sector Reform Project, the Government of Belize through the Ministry of Health inaugurated three Polyclinic II facilities in the Belize District during the month of March, 2005.
The Ministry of Health is presently undergoing reform aimed at improving its effectiveness and efficiency. The Ministry is focusing its energies on three major areas: Health Reform, Quality Improvement and Caring for its Care Providers. As a part of the overall improvement of the quality of health services in Belize the Ministry of Health is currently implementing the Health Sector Reform Project.
The objectives of the project are:
a. Restructuring and strengthening the organizational and regulatory capacity of the public sector plan, deliver and procure good quality and value for money services;
b. Rationalizing and improving the coverage and quality of services of public and private sectors by restructuring (refurbishing and re-equipping) public facilities, purchasing selective services from the private sector, providing mobile services and transport in less accessible areas, training community nursing aides, and encouraging behavioural changes towards healthier lifestyles among beneficiaries;
c. Achieving an equitable and sustainable system of sector financing by setting up a national health insurance system and focusing public spending on the poor.
After more than one year of offering free universal Antiretroviral Therapy against HIV/AIDS and Voluntary Counselling and Testing Services, the National AIDS Programme, Ministry of Health has obtained technical support from the Caribbean Epidemiological Centre (CAREC), Centre for Disease Control and Prevention-Global AIDS Programme (CDC-GAP) and Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).
In collaboration with these partners the Ministry has conducted for the first time, an in-depth and specific Situational Analysis of HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment in Belize as a part of its National Operation Plan for Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment in Belize.
This is a very critical step as Belize is embarking on the PAHO 3 x 5 Initiative (treat three million persons with medications by the end 2005) aimed at scaling up care and treatment.
This National Operation Plan for Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment in Belize will include outcome indicators pertinent to treatment and care that are a part of the Millennium Develop Goals and Belize is required to report on these indicators on a regular basis.
The National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) was recently created by the Government of Belize to bring together diverse government departments, which had historically worked to preserve and promote Belizean culture and to allow for the management of newer endeavours. The Institute is tasked with the preservation of Belize's ancient and historical era monuments and artefacts; the interpretation of Belize's documented, photographic and oral history; and the promotion of contemporary visual, literary and performing arts. Through research and community outreach activities, NICH seeks to help provide access for all to the diverse cultures of Belize.
There are four main branches of NICH:
The Institute of Creative Arts is responsible for the promotion of the performing, plastic and visual
arts and it is headquartered at the Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts (Belize City). The ICA hosts performances, festivals of art and has excellent links with educational institutions in order to encourage and showcase music, dance, drama, creative writing and the visual arts.
The Museums of Belize and Houses of Culture include the Museum of Belize in Belize and the
Museum of Belize in Belmopan. There are currently 3 Houses of Culture in Belize that promote community participation in the arts as well as provide a venue for concerts and exhibitions in Belize City, Orange Walk Town and in Benque Viejo Del Carmen.
The Institute of Archaeology is responsible for the administration of the archaeology countrywide.
The Institute of Archaeology monitors all ongoing archaeological projects in Belize and issues permits for site work. The Institute also manages all archaeological parks and reserves including the visitors' centres.
The Institute of Social and Cultural Research provides a centre for research, with a library and
conference facilities for scholars and students of Belizean History, Culture and Sociology. ISCR
was instrumental in liaising with the Multicultural Centre at the University of Belize for the development of the African and Maya History Project for Belizean schools.
In the area of culture, Belize inaugurated the Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts in Belize City and the Garifuna Museum in Dangriga. The infrastructure at our major cultural heritage sites were improved, including Caracol, Lamanai, Xunantunich, Altun Ha, Cerros and Cahal Pech.
CHILDREN AND YOUTH
The Prime Minister, Honourable Said Musa, launched the `Youth for the Future’ initiative. This
initiative encapsulates youth leadership and governance, youth enterprise development, youth mentoring and youth volunteering. Youth should also be targeted with initiatives that intervene to reduce crime and violence and the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The initiative is a refocusing, in a very direct way, policies and resources to address the critical issues related to youth development in Belize. The Youth for the Future Initiative is aimed at coordinating service delivery for at- risk youth in a timely manner and with a rights approach. The initiative envisions collaboration and cooperation with the private sector, non-governmental organizations, religious institutions, civil society and the international community – to ensure that
Belizean young people are provided the opportunities which they need today to be the leaders and responsible adults of tomorrow.
The program seeks to establish a network of service providers for youth that have previously been offered in a scattered manner. This ought to have a significant impact in catering to the needs of youth with special needs, especially to youth who are at risk. An important component to this strategy is youth governance and participation. This component is oriented towards having youth issues become part of the national governmental agenda through youth participation, in such a way that through social mobilization there is a nationwide focus on youth.
Youth for the Future is geared toward the promotion of the ideals deemed most appropriate for the positive and full development of Belize’s young people. This initiative is comprehensive and is dedicated to guiding, supporting and uplifting Belize’s young people; recognizing and
respecting them as future nation builders as well as today’s community and national young
In addition, the initiative forms a part of the macro- strategy for poverty elimination with special focus on youth in the urban areas and seeks to aid in the reduction of at risk factors such as poverty and violence within the youth population.
The Youth for the Future Initiative aims to more coherently link the range of existing efforts –
complemented by a number of new measures to address gaps in existing services – to ensure
that those endeavours are better coordinated, better targeted, better understood, better used and that they provide more access, more relevance, more opportunities, and more hope to our youth.
The Youth For The Future Secretariat was established under the theme “Tomorrow Starts Today. The Secretariat is designed to coordinate all activities to meet the general objectives of the Initiative to ensure our youth a positive and constructive future. To achieve these objectives, several related programs and services are provided through:
I A Youth Governance Unit
II An Enterprise/Job Creation Unit
III A Conflict Resolution Unit
IV Two Positive Enhancement Training Institutions: The National Youth Cadet Service
Corps and The National 4-H & Youth Development Centre