Friday, November 16, 2012

Ambassador Shoman and Fred Martinez talks about going to the ICJ

Belize's former Ambassador and Belizean historian Assad Shoman along with Alfredo Martinez (Ambassador of Belize to Guatemala) render their views on going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as a final resolution to end Guatemala's unfounded claim over Belize.

Interestingly, Shoman says the Gov has a copy of an unpublished legal opinion Guat had received which advised them Guatemala did not have a case against Belize. This is unlike Belize legal opinion that is available in the public domain and which argues the same, ie. Guatemala has no case over Belize.

It would be good if we can get a hold of Guatemala's legal opinion.

Shoman also promises to make a publication on Belize-Guat free of charge by Feb 2013.

Belize and Guatemala will hold a referendum in 2013 to decide whether or not to take the case before the ICJ for final resolution.

Video from Open Your Eyes (Shoman segment starts at 45 minutes in):

Video from Lovefm/tv:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Workshop on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

The National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) through the Institute for Social and Cultural Research (ISCR) recently held a National Workshop on the Implementation of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage from the 5th - 9th November, 2012.  House of Culture, Belize City. 

By ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ we refer to music (punta, brukdown, zapateado, etc), songs (carnival songs, folksongs), dances (jonkunu, deer dance), festivals (San Jose Palmar Festival, Maya Day Festival), games (pitpan race, torrito), storytelling (annansi, Maya animal stories), rituals (nine-nights, marriage), language (Maya, Creole), and masquerades (carnival, cortez dance), among other expressions of culture.

Belize signed the Convention in 2007. Since then, we have submitted only one of our ICH to the International List which is the "Language, dance, and music of the Garifuna" in 2009. This was a result of the Garifuna language having been declared a Garifuna Language, Music and Dance a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Belize along with Trinidad and Tobago are the only two Caribbean states with an item on the international list thus far. 

This does not mean that we have not been involved in safeguarding our cultural traditions. Indeed, it became apparent that many Belizeans (individuals, communities, educators, organizations and groups) have been contributing towards the goals of the convention. The Convenetion nonetheless provides an excellent platform from which current measures of 'safeguarding' can be improved for greater success. 

The workshop was part of regional and global effort organized by UNESCO Cultural Section and funded by the government and people of Japan. The workshop focused on developing the necessary knowledge and research capacity for cultural workers to obtain the maximum benefits of the Convention for our communities and nation.

The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Kris Rampersad, who did a wonderful job. 

The participants were from a cross-section of the Belizean socio-cultural landscape. They were persons who have been engaged in promoting and preserving the major cultural groups in Belize such as the East Indian, Maya, Mestizo, Creole, and Garifuna cultures. They were also representatives from the various Houses of Cultures and educators.  Like myself, they all found the workshop to be a very enlightening experience. 

On the final day of the workshop, an "ICH Declaration for Belize" was drafted and signed by participants. The Declaration recommends key goals that ought to be pursed by the participants and NICH to fulfill the Safeguarding of Belize's Intangible Cultural Heritage. Another workshop is schedueld to take place in 2013 to continue the capacity building of Belizeans necessary for the implementation of the Convention and by extention for the cellebration and preservation of Belize's rich multicultural society and heritage. 

Here is a verbatim rending of the ICH Declaration: 

Photos courtesy of Sylvia Perez and Phylicia Pelayo

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Opportunities for Renewable Energy Development in Belize

Opportunities for Renewable Energy Development in Belize

Despite its small size and population, Belize is one of the most culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse countries in Central America. As a member of the Caribbean Community  (CARICOM) as well as the Cent ral American Integration System  (SICA), it is the only Central American country with strong ties to both theCaribbean  and Latin America. In the initial phase of our project in the region , the Worldwatch Institute is assessing the existing barriers to and opportunities for a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable energy system in Belize—an outcome that could connect these two neighboring yet culturally distinct communities and provide tangible benefits to both.
Source: Public Utilities Commission of Belize
With a population of only 350,000 and a national economy of US$1.5 billion in 2011 , Belize does not consume large amounts of energy. Peak electricity demand in 2010 was 80.6 megawatts (MW), well below the U.S. state of Vermont’s peak energy demand of 953 MW in 2011. Belize’s low energy consumption makes it a suitable location for further development of clean, indigenous energy sources.
Currently, Belize depends heavily on foreign energy sources. In 2010, the country imported more than a third of its electricity from the Mexican power provider, ComisiĆ³n Federal de Electricidad . In addition, Belize spent approximately $129 million, or 18.2 percent of its total import expenditures, on imported fuels. Not only has this raised energy prices for consumers, but if Belize continues to rely largely on imports to meet its energy demand, it will be highly susceptible to fluctuations on the international market. The Belizean government must explore other, local energy resources to strengthen and stabilize the country’s energy sector.
Over the last 20 years, Belize has spent considerable resources developing domestic hydropower. TheMollejon power plant , a 25.2 MW run-of-the-river facility on the Macal River, was completed in 1995 and is owned by Belize Electricity Company Limited (BECOL), a subsidiary of Belize Electricity Limited . A decade later, BECOL completed the “Chalillo” facility a few miles upstream, to increase the plant’s total output. Many people objected to the Chalillo dam , however, because they believed (and some studies demonstrated) that it would threaten the ecological diversity of the Macal River Valley. Environmental groups, including the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council, filed lawsuits  alleging that the project would destroy critical rainforest habitat for the jaguar, scarlet macaw, howler monkey, tapir, and other endangered and threatened species.
Country map of Belize. (Source: CIA World Factbook).
Supporters of the Chalillo project argued that the dam was necessary because it would lessen Belize’s dependence on Mexican power and expand domestic access to electricity. In the end, the dam was built , but the project highlighted the public resistance to large hydroelectric projects and their environmental impacts. The project also illustrated the competing interests in furthering economic development while also safeguarding important natural resources. Moving forward, Belize will need to focus its attention on renewable energy sources with fewer negative environmental consequences.
Like many Central American countries, Belize has a large untapped renewable energy potential; however, the extent of this remains largely unknown, due to the lack of comprehensive assessments. If the Belizean government were to commit to developing domestic solar, wind, and biomass resources—as well as updating the grid system—these renewable sources alone would likely be able to satisfy Belize’s entire energy demand.
Although Belize lacks a national wind energy assessment, known wind resources exist in Baldy Beacon, a region capable of supplying 20 MW of electricity from wind turbines , or almost a quarter of the country’s electricity needs. The Belizean government needs to conduct a comprehensive wind resource assessment to identify other suitable turbine locations. In addition to studying the feasibility of a wind farm in Baldy Beacon, there is significant potential for small-scale, off-grid wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects in communities without access to the national grid.
Biomass energy is another option. In 2009, BELCOGEN, a subsidiary of Belize Sugar Industries, completed a waste-to-energy power plant in the district of Orange Walk that is capable of generating 31.5 MW of electricity. The cogeneration facility reportedly uses only 8 percent heavy fuel and relies on 92 percent biomass, burning wet bagasse, or residue from the sugarcane milling process, to generate high-pressure steam. Due to the extent of sugar production in Belize , similar facilities could be established in the future to produce more local, clean energy.
Bagasse, wind power, and solar energy all offer an excellent alternative for a country that to-date has relied heavily on imported electricity, controversial large-scale hydropower, and fossil fuel imports.
Sean Ahearn is a Climate and Energy intern at Worldwatch Institute.