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Remarks by CEO of MF at the State of the Region by Office of Public Information
Remarks by H.E. Alexis Rosado
Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
On the Occasion of the Presentation of the “State of the Region”
University of Belize, Jaguar Auditorium, April 26, 2012.
It is an honour to be here for the launch of what is clearly a very important research document. I want to join in congratulating the team of researchers and the consultative group for undertaking the enormous task of putting together what is a state of the region’s human development. Kudos to them for a job well done.
I want to recognize the University of Belize for organizing the presentation of this report. It is only fitting that our own national university should play this kind of role. We want to welcome it and thank the University for providing such a forum, and also for stepping up its capacities in research and analysis. I know that what we are witnessing is only the beginning of a newfound renaissance in this University’s activities. This can only redound to the greater benefit of its students and Belize as a whole.
The report as we just heard seeks to contribute to efforts across Central America in the promotion of sustainable development by providing comprehensive and reliable information in a timely manner about Central America’s performance. There is no doubt that students, researchers, teachers and practitioners will use it as a valuable reference across many fields. I am glad to hear that its findings and recommendations are being made freely and widely accessible to everyone, not just in hard copies, but also via the internet.
It is a particular privilege for me personally, coming from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to be here. The report speaks to areas of concern that have occupied us in the Ministry and many other Ministries and Departments of Belize in our engagement with Central America.
From where I sit in the Foreign Ministry we are in no doubt about the interdependence that characterizes Belize’s existence and the rest of the world, and particularly among neighbours.
Yesterday, in Belize City, my Minister had the occasion of signing the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2013 – 2016 by which the Government of Belize is partnering with the family of United Nations agencies in clearly defined goals and objectives aimed at meeting Belize’s national development priorities as laid out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Horizon 2030 and other strategic plans and programmes defined by the Government of Belize after consultations with stakeholders and the general public across the nation. While Belizeans are ultimately responsible for our own national development, yesterday’s signing of the document with eighteen UN Agencies brought home the point that Belize is not alone in facing up to challenges that are confronting us. There are many out there who are willing to partner with us, and we must be ready to search for and welcome opportunities for partnerships and cooperative engagements with the international community. In this case the UN agencies are committed to contributing around $36million over the period covered by UNDAF.
The priority areas for joint intervention identified in that document are: the promotion of human rights, equality, equity, and non-discrimination; the promotion of economic and social development, citizen security and justice; environment and natural resource management, disaster risk reduction and their mainstreaming into public policies and management processes; and democratic governance.
These broad priority areas seek to address concerns and problems that are not too dissimilar from those identified in this State of the Region Report.
The fact is, as the Report makes quite clear, several of the greater challenges facing us are truly affecting all of us in the region. Climate change, environmental degradation, the organized crime involved in the drugs and weapons trade, in human smuggling – they respect no borders and the only effective way of addressing them is by joint and collaborative action.
I am happy to say that the region has been working in many of these areas already. Clearly, there is a need for much more to be done.
So far in respect of security concerns, the region has elaborated a Central American Regional Security Strategy that was launched last year in 2011 by all the Heads of State and Government of the region. We are currently actively involved in elaborating detailed projects and action plans that should help to strengthen our national and regional capacities to address the myriad sets of problems associated with security issues.
In Belize, to address human security and social inclusion, the Government is now implementing various programmes to assist the most vulnerable in our society. There is the basic food basket that is made available to the most needy and vulnerable; there is the assistance programme to our high school students to help defray the costs of registration into high school and to assist them with the purchase of books. There is the feeding programme for our primary school children; the rolling of the NHI and the assistance to our senior citizens in the form of a monthly grant. The threshold for income tax was increased so that anyone earning less than $25,000 a year is not paying income taxes. Many in the low-income brackets now benefit from flat electricity rates. These are but a few examples of programmes that the government has put in place to assist in very tangible ways the most vulnerable in our society.
At the regional level we continue to work with our Central American and Caribbean partners to explore joint mechanisms to reduce the incidence of poverty and to work towards the achievement of the millennium development goals.
In respect of climate change, we are very fortunate to host here in Belize the Caribbean Climate Change Center, a world leader in climate change research and advocacy. Toward the end of last year, Belize successfully competed to host the headquarters of a new international body called SIDs Doc, a product of the ongoing global climate change negotiations that will serve to address the concerns of small island developing states. We are in the process now of finalizing the Headquarters agreement for that body to set up in Belize. We are also heavily engaged with our Central American and Caribbean partners in formulating negotiating positions and programmes to address the effects of climate change.
In respect of infrastructure, as part of the Tuxtla Process and the Mesoamerica project that includes all countries from Mexico south to Colombia, Belize is in the process of improving its interconnections with the rest of the region. Our road network is being enhanced so that by the end of this year we will witness the opening of a new international bridge crossing between Belize and Mexico. In southern Belize, the Jalacte road is now being fully paved to highway standards. That will facilitate transport and communications to Guatemala with far easier access to the Inter-American Highway. Studies are in the pipeline for exploring the feasibility of Belize interconnecting to the electricity grid of the Mesoamerican project in Central America. This would complement the interconnection we already have with Mexico.
With an eye on the isthmus, I thought I should just mention a few of the works Belize currently has in progress with the rest of these countries in the region.
Clearly there is a lot more that must be done, and a lot more we can and must do.
Clearly, there are differences among and between countries in the region. This should, however, never prevent us from working constructively together in those areas in which we share interests and have common concerns.
As full members of the Central American Integration System (SICA) we are fully committed to ensuring that this region becomes and remains a region of peace, security, democracy and development. That is what we are signed on to, and we shall keep working to that end. And we are committed to engaging with the wider world in matters that affect us all. I encourage you, especially you young and talented people here today to interest yourselves with what is happening in our neighbouring countries and the wider world.
Keeping our head in the sand is not an option we can afford. When we do, the rest of the world just keeps moving along. It is our responsibility not just to keep up, but to keep ahead of the curve. This applies to us as individuals and to us as a nation.
The State of the Region presented here today gives a good account of where we find ourselves today. I hope we can all use it to help us determine what role we will play in respect of where we want to be in the future. I hope it will also serve to stimulate more research and analysis of the Belize reality, so that future State of the Region Reports could more fully include Belize on integral part of its analysis.
That notwithstanding, the analysis in the State of the Region is solid, it is timely and it is useful. There is no doubt that it will serve as a valuable reference and as a guide. It will contribute to a greater understanding of the region we live in and help in our analysis of the challenges before us. It should serve to inform our dialogues and debates as we search for answers and formulate our plans for the future.
Having said that, I want to reiterate my thanks to all the individuals involved in preparing this report on the State of the Region and to those who organized this event.
Thank you to the University of Belize for allowing us this opportunity. Thank you all.