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Commonwealth Secretary-General's First Visit to Belize

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma began a three-day visit to Belize on Tuesday, May 15, 2012, which was his first to the country. Mr Sharma heard first-hand how the small Caribbean nation has been coping with the challenges posed by the global fuel, food and financial crises. He also explored how the partnership between Belize and the Commonwealth can be deepened.

“Belize is a highly valued member of the Commonwealth,” stated Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma during his departure speech from the country. “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.”

The Secretary-General met with Prime Minister Dean Barrow and various members of the Belize cabinet. He will also attend a board meeting of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum.

Mr Sharma, who arrived in Belize from Mexico City after meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Chair of the Group of 20, will brief Prime Minister Barrow on the outcome of his discussions with the G20 Chair. The discussions are in the context of consultations which G20 chairs now customarily have with the Heads of the Commonwealth and La Francophonie ahead of G20 summits. They provide the opportunity to strengthen the global legitimacy of the G20 and ensure that the views and particular concerns of small and vulnerable economies like Belize are heard ? even if those states are not seated at the G20 table.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General also updated Prime Minister Barrow on the Commonwealth Secretariat’s institutional reform agenda following a report from the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group in 2011.

Speaking about the importance of local and international partnerships ahead of his trip, Mr Sharma said: “In today’s complex world, governments and international organisations should not expect to have all the answers to building healthy economies, creating jobs for their citizens and dealing with the impacts of the global financial crisis and climate change.”

Mr Sharma added that there was a big dividend to be paid from investing in trustworthy and mutually beneficial partnerships at both the local and international level. He said it was also crucial to ensure that women and youth ? a prime resource for many small countries ? are fully engaged in these partnerships.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General noted that small developing countries like Belize are particularly vulnerable because of their small domestic markets, over reliance on a single sector, high levels of indebtedness and the threat of natural disasters like hurricanes
which can set back years of progress with a single blow. He said these countries need to build their resilience and for that local and international partnerships are needed on board.

“The Commonwealth has an enviable record of working shoulder to shoulder with our Caribbean members to provide specialist skills where they are needed, in helping to develop policies to tackle new challenges, providing forums where Commonwealth countries can network, and in learning from each other and advocating on behalf of developing countries on the international stage,” the Secretary-General said.

The Secretariat supports collaboration between the Government of Belize and the CARICOM Climate Change Centre in the capital of Belize, Belmopan.

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