18 May 2012
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma's departure statement following a three-day visit to Belize from 15 to 18 May where he met with Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma:
Belize is a highly valued member of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, as an association of peoples and governments, is enriched by Belize’s membership. For its part, Belize gains from access to the networks of 54 member governments, as well as professional associations and civil society, through the sharing of resources, experiences and opportunities. I was honoured to be received so warmly during my visit, from 15 to 18 May, and I depart with appreciation and also a deep and first-hand understanding of Belize’s national challenges and priorities.
During my visit, I was received by the Prime Minister, Hon Dean Barrow, and I was deeply appreciative of the time he kindly set apart for the meeting. I met the Honourable Speaker of the House, Hon Michael Peyrefitte, and the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Francis Fonseca. I also met members of the government including the Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Wilfred Elrington; the Minister of Labour, Local Government and National Emergency Organisation, Hon Godwin Hulse; the Minister for Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation, Hon Anthony Martinez; and the Minister of Public Service and Election and Boundaries, Hon Charles Gibson. I also met representatives of the banking sector in Belize.
All of my meetings were engaged and informative, and afforded the opportunity to gain an up-to-date perspective of how the Commonwealth’s work is viewed and how we may be of greater assistance and relevance to all Belizeans.
My visit coincided with the Board meeting of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, which brought together ministers and senior representatives of local government from around the Commonwealth. I was pleased to participate in that Board meeting, which has been generously hosted by the Government of Belize.
The Commonwealth is committed to assisting Belize in continuing to strengthen its impressive culture of democracy and pluralism. Belize is richly endowed with human resources and natural resources, and the Commonwealth is also committed to assisting Belize to unlock these resources and this potential in order to achieve economic growth and development for the nation.
The Commonwealth is very active through the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation in providing development in partnership with Belize, notably at present in strengthening the public service, education and the judiciary.
The goal of the Commonwealth’s partnership with Belize is to provide every individual citizen with dignity, access to their rights, and opportunity.
There are particular challenges in Belize for its young people, and the Commonwealth is committed to pursuing actions that place young people at the heart of national development as this country’s future leaders, as well as agents of social and economic transformation.
The Commonwealth is pleased to deepen its partnership with Belize in the years ahead and we will pursue possibilities for new assistance in the following areas:
· public service strengthening including support for training of public servants; support for improved governance in public bodies; further technical assistance to unlock Belize’s natural resource potential in a sustainable way that provides national benefits; and exploring options to provide the public service with enhanced capacity to unlock assistance and finance from other development partners;
· building knowledge and skills to develop small and medium enterprises, including capacity of these enterprises to generate income from exports;
· supporting youth enterprise, including continuing to explore opportunities for commercial banks to support young professional and business creators; and
· professionalisation of the media, including training for journalists and exploration of a voluntary Code of Conduct. Responsibility in this area is particularly relevant in the context of overcoming the current challenge of gang criminality.
The Commonwealth has long supported the territorial integrity of Belize. Foreign ministers of all member states review this situation annually, and the Heads of Government at their biennial summits. We welcome the prospects of a mutually rewarding resolution of the question between the two neighbouring countries through the announcement of a date for a referendum in October 2013.
Belize City, Belize
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