The Sustainable Development Goals in Belize
The Sustainable Development Goals are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the earth’s environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity. These are the goals the UN is working on in Belize:
09 August 2023
Honouring Belizean Youth on World Indigenous Day
As the United Nations Belize commemorates the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, we proudly celebrate the contributions of young Belizeans from indigenous communities who serve as 'Agents of Change for Self-determination.' Among these inspiring individuals, our focus turns to Florentino Chiac Jr., a Science Manager at Ya’axché Conservation Trust who stands at the forefront of safeguarding wildlife and ecosystems in protected areas managed by the organization, as well as farmlands within the Maya Golden Landscape in Southern Belize. Pioneering Citizen Science for Biodiversity Monitoring Florentino's innovative approach has transformed wildlife camera trapping into a citizen science initiative for monitoring biodiversity in the indigenous farming landscape of the Toledo District. This entails strategically placing cameras on the farms to capture photos and videos of the animals in their natural habitats. By engaging 27 farmers as custodians of the land and lens, he has successfully bridged the gap in communicating biodiversity information to farming families. This not only enriches scientific knowledge but has also led to behavioural changes among the farmers, helping them understand the significance of wildlife research and the role of their sustainable farming practices in contributing to biodiversity conservation. Empowering Through Education Florentino's commitment has also resulted in the creation of an infographic guide that equips farming families with information about the rich diversity of species inhabiting their farmlands. Armed with this knowledge, these farmers now utilize the guide to educate students during eco-farm tours. Fostering Harmony in Human-Jaguar Interactions Mitigating human-wildlife conflicts is another area of keen interest for Florentino, given the prevalence of these conflicts in Southern Belize. With a particular focus on addressing human-jaguar interactions, he works closely with farmers to document predator encounters and recommends mitigation measures to reduce conflicts. The data collected contributes to a national wildlife conflict database, offering insights that guide effective management interventions. A Bridge of Cultural Understanding Florentino's indigenous roots as a Mayan lend a unique perspective that amplifies the impact of his work. His connection with the Mayan farming communities in Toledo goes beyond scientific research, forging a bridge of cultural understanding and trust. This connection paves the way for shared learning and collaboration, honouring traditions while embracing new frontiers of knowledge. Inspiration for the Future Florentino's dedication and innovative approach have a lasting impact on wildlife conservation in Belize. His story serves as inspiration for young minds interested in preserving our planet's rich biodiversity. On this year’s International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, join us in celebrating Florentino Chiac Jr.'s unwavering commitment to nature and community! Share Your Story of Impact We invite other young indigenous Belizeans to share their own impactful stories, aligned with the theme: "Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change for Self-determination." For more information, please email us at email@example.com.
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24 June 2023
Saving a Belize village from man-made erosion
“My grandma and my grandfather are now washed out in the sea,” says Mario Muschamp, gazing out at the coast near his close-knit Creole community. “You know, their graves are gone. That really hurts.” This is the reality for the inhabitants of Monkey River, who have watched on, powerless, as their football field, their homes, and even the graves of deceased loved ones, are claimed by the sea. Man-made activity has been identified by experts as the main cause of the coastal erosion which is devastating the village and causing such deep suffering, notably industrial salt mining and water diversion. The situation has deteriorated to the extent that some members of the community have moved away. The geotube fightback Others, however, have decided to stay and fight, and, in the words of local schoolteachers Audra Castellanos, “put Monkey River back on the map”. Mr. Muschamp is the President of the Monkey River Watershed Association, a community-based organization working to conserve and restore the integrity of the entire Monkey River Watershed, and ensure that it continues to provide a multitude of benefits to local residents and the coastal ecosystem. To this end, the Monkey River Watershed Association partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to install one hundred and sixty feet of sand filled “geotubes” in front of the most threatened properties. Residents are teaming up with UNDP to install the geotubes, massive synthetic sandbags that create physical barriers to wave energy and erosion, and take other measures to slow the disintegration of the shoreline. ‘We need climate justice’ “Monkey River Village is one of those coastal communities that we prioritize,” said Leonel Requena, UNDP’s National Coordinator of the GEF Small Grants Programme. “Monkey River’s inhabitants are not responsible for the climate crisis, yet they are the ones that are suffering the greatest loss and damage. What we need is climate justice.” The story of Monkey River is about a hub of biodiversity where the river meets the sea – but more than that, it is about a community that, like so many others, is joining forces to turn the tide on climate change, with the support of the United Nations. Since a 2022 United Nations Global Lens video documentary on the community was produced in 2022, yet another home has been claimed by the sea, but the residents who have resolved to protect their village say nothing will wash away their resolve to fight coastal erosion. “We have been doing our best to try and keep what we have,” said Mr. Muschamp. “I don't want to see any more graves go to the sea.” This story was first published to UN News.
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04 February 2022
The kitchen, as the foundation of a new life
For many refugees and displaced people in the Americas and the Caribbean, food represents a way to hold onto their origins and share with their host communities. In From Our Table to Yours: Fusion Cuisine For Natasha*, cooking has always been a favorite hobby. But one day, that pastime turned into her livelihood after she was forced to flee her native El Salvador to Belize, following threats from gang members. Natasha, 39, learned to cook as a child, alongside her mother. She continued the enjoyable tradition with her own daughter, until three years ago when the two of them were forced to flee. "The gang members harassed me and my daughter… They wanted [her] to join," Natasha explains, adding that the gang resorted to creative techniques to terrorize mother and daughter. "They even walked on our roof to scare us." Mother and daughter endured in a constant state of fear until a tragedy hit far too close to home: They learned that a friend's daughter had been kidnapped and killed by a neighborhood gang. It was then that Natasha knew they had no choice but to leave their country, and the two fled with little more than what they could carry in a backpack. In Belize, Natasha tried to find work as a clerk in a clothing store – a job she had held for years back in El Salvador – but she had no luck. Worried about how she was going to support her daughter, Natasha decided to put the culinary skills she had learned alongside her mother to use and cook for a living. "I've been fortunate to have found many friends here who have taught me Belizean recipes," says Natasha, who now sells local dishes with a Salvadoran twist, including the most typical Belizean specialty, Rice and Beans. Her recipe, "chicken with rice and beans", can be found in From Our Table to Yours: Fusion Cooking, a new cookbook published by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, that is available for free download. This dish combines the most emblematic Belizean dish with the seasoned chicken and vegetables that are eaten in El Salvador. Natasha hopes she and her daughter, now age 16, will be recognized as refugees in Belize so that they can rebuild their lives in peace. "What I love most about Belize is the peace and security that my daughter and I can enjoy here. We walk freely without fear." Food can be a powerful tool for integration, as it was for Natasha and the 13 other displaced people who have shared their recipes in the Fusion Cuisine cookbook. But for many people who have had to flee, food is also something of constant concern. According to a recent survey by UNHCR, 48 percent of refugees in the Americas report eating only twice a day, while 6 percent of respondents eat only one meal a day. It was precisely hunger, as well as difficulties in accessing much-needed medicine that pushed Alfredo, 68, to leave Venezuela. For this retired teacher, his monthly pension did not cover even his most basic food needs: The entire pension was enough to buy only a few kilos of rice or a half dozen eggs. Alfredo realized he had no choice but to flee, and a few years ago, he set out for Chile, where his daughter and grandchildren were waiting for him. Although in many ways he managed to adapt well to his new life in the Chilean capital, Santiago, he found it very difficult to find a steady job. "For many months, I knocked on many doors but there was always some reason not to hire me," he recalls, "because I wasn't young, because I didn't have the right visa, because they believed I didn’t have the strength and many other reasons. I couldn't get a job, and it was very frustrating." This is a challenge faced by many older people who have been forced to start over from scratch in a new country. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic only made the situation worse. However, Alfredo is not one to stand idly by. In the midst of the pandemic, he heard that the local parish was looking for volunteers for the soup kitchen, to help prepare hot meals for those in need. He began to volunteer and in the soup kitchen, he not only learned to make many Chilean dishes – such as Italian squash, charquicán, and potato cake – but has also shared a host of Venezuelan recipes. In Fusion Cuisine, Alfredo shared the recipe for “pabellón criollo,” which combines spring onion, cilantro, red pepper, and plantain.” “This dish has so many meanings for me – it means Venezuela. When I was a child and they cooked this dish in my house, it made me happy. Today I smell it and I remember that happiness”, explains Alfredo while he cuts, whisks, and fires off jokes in the kitchen. Each Fusion Cuisine recipe is a mixture of flavors and sensations that combine to represent both displaced people’s host countries and their countries of origin. UNHCR invites you to cook with refugees and share your recipes. *Names have been changed for protection reasons. VIDEO: Natasha shares how to make Belizean rice and beans in a step-by-step video. The complete recipe is available in From our table to yours: Fusion Cuisine.
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23 February 2023
UNESCO supports post-disaster needs assessment of Belize Culture Sector
A Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) is currently being conducted of the Culture Sector in Belize as a result of the impact of Hurricane Lisa which impacted the island as a category 1 storm on November 2, 2022. Hurricane Lisa impacted the island with hurricane/tropical storm force winds resulting in flooding to the low-lying regions of Belize City and the communities of the northwest rural Belize, as well as the capital city Belmopan. The Belize Culture Sector was among the affected Sectors which included Housing, Infrastructure, Agriculture, Health, Education and Tourism. Led by the Government of Belize, the PDNA pulls together information into a single, consolidated report and details information on the physical impacts of the disaster, the economic value of the damage and losses, the human impact as experienced by the affected population and the related recovery needs and priorities. The PDNA of the Culture Sector is the first of its kind to be executed in Belize and also examines research institutions, built heritage and archaeological sites, moveable heritage, collections, depositories, living heritage and culture and creative industries. Related recovery needs and priorities of the Cultural Sector will be determined. The consolidated PDNA report highlighting the culture sector will contribute to a comprehensive recovery framework for Belize. The PDNA is undertaken with the contributions of the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) and its four institutes/departments, the Institute of Archaeology, the Institute of Creative Arts, Museums of Belize, and Houses of Culture and the Institute for Social and Cultural Research, as well as the overall coordination of the Belize National Commission for UNESCO with technical advice from the UNESCO Office for the Caribbean. This activity was supported by the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund. We wish to thank its donors: the Qatar Fund for Development, the Government of Canada, the Kingdom of Norway, the French Republic, the Principality of Monaco, ANA Holdings INC, the Republic of Estonia, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Slovak Republic, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Principality of Andorra, the Republic of Serbia.
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21 June 2023
Partnering for the Social Protection of all in Belize
BELIZE CITY, BELIZE, 26 APRIL 2023 — The Government of Belize, together with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) co-hosted a three-day event on Partnering for the Social Protection of All in Belize, culminating in a validation Conference on April 20th. This event is part of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Joint Programme, which supports a resilient Belize through universal, adaptive and sustainable social protection. The Joint Programme prioritizes key outcomes outlined in the Government’s Medium-Term Development Strategy 2022-2026, including Poverty reduction and Economic Transformation, as reminded by Dr. Marcelino Avila, Senior Policy Advisor to the Office of Prime Minister. The Joint Programme is expected to contribute to key social and economic outcomes and targets, including increased investments in basic social services, reduction in unemployment and poverty levels, among others. This three-day forum is a major milestone for the Government of Belize as it marks the start of a national dialogue on the vision of social protection for all Belizeans. This dialogue will inform the development of the national Social Protection Strategy, inclusive of the Social Protection Floor, defining the minimum guarantees for all and along the life cycle, including children, working age population and elderly. The event brought together nearly a hundred national practitioners and policy makers of the social protection system from the Government, public agencies, civil society; and international experts from UN agencies to learn, exchange and reflect on the state and future of social protection in Belize. Key pillars of the social protection system for Belize were discussed, including social budgeting and fiscal space, shock-responsiveness, and coordination mechanisms. The main messages and recommendations on the way-forward were delivered at the high-level validation conference. Almost three out of four children worldwide are not covered by any form of social protection, leaving them vulnerable to economic hardship and social exclusion. UNICEF works with the Government to develop programmes that helps families recover from shocks of poverty, violence and vulnerability.
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