Declaration of good intent signed by Civil Societies from Belize and Guatemala Print E-mail
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Friday, 08 March 2019 00:00

Civil Societies from both Belize and Guatemala edged a little closer last Thursday at the Organization of American States Center on the Adjacency Zone. Some 12 organizations from Guatemala and seven from Belize signed a declaration of good intent in the presence of community leaders from both countries.

Notable groups such as the Toledo Alcalde Association from the South of Belize and Exploring Solutions Past from the West formally signed the declaration. Both the Friends for Conservation and Development and Asociacion Balan were, for the first time, the nuclei to the declaration of good intent.

With the signing of the Declaration, it now paves the way for the formation of a technical working group to make events happen on the ground. These include for the protection, conservation and restoration of natural and cultural landscapes in both Belize and Guatemala. Innovative models for the management of forests in both Countries will also be promoted in this new agreement.

A major part of the document was for joint operation for research, training and continued collaboration in scientific activities.

At the opening session,  Byron Castellanos, Director of ‘Asociacion Balam’ commented that both Guatemala and Belize are now faced with similar threats such as an advancing agricultural frontier, forest fires and the illegal harvesting of timber. So, in his analysis, there is now need for a bi-national plan of action to also improve the economic situation in those communities bordering protected areas. A law enforcement strategy alone will not work, he said. Castellanos also acknowledged that much can be achieved when both Belize and Guatemala can work in a coordinated way to protect ecosystems as has been successfully done over the last decade.

“Many people out there feel that Guatemalans don’t want to work with us, I have never really felt that way. We have to open up also ourselves when that objectivity however is a protection of the natural environment.  Guatemala cannot have their water if we destroy the Chiquibul.  100,000 Guatemalans depend from the watershed in Belize. Likewise if they don’t protect it they also will destroy ours,” says Rafael Manzanero, the Executive Director of FCD.

“There is the commitment from the civil society groups to work together with Guatemalans and likewise Guatemalans with Belize so that is a reassurance. That is why it is called a good intent that we have the commitment and we hope that the Government will be able to see us as an important practical and key group whenever we discuss about trans-boundary and environmental issues.” He concluded  “We have learned that in reality on the ground with organizations on the ground there is that common interest and concern.”