Belize is a democratic, upper middle-income country located at the Caribbean coast of Central America. A member of both the Caribbean forum (CARIFORUM) and the Central American Integration System, Belize connects Central America and the Caribbean.
The structure of its economy has changed over the past 20 years. In 2016, agriculture accounted for 9.8%, industry for 14.9% and services for nearly 61.2% of its economic activity.
Belize faces many development challenges including having weak institutions and being vulnerable to external shocks, such as natural disasters and economic crises. The Belize government's ability to address these challenges is constrained by high debt levels and limited fiscal space.
Belize’s long-term development is guided by Horizon 2030. The National Development Framework for Belize 2010-2030, which is the basis of the MIP, prioritises democratic governance for effective public administration and sustainable development, education, economic resilience and a healthy citizenry and environment.
Belize and the European Union align with several EU policy objectives, most importantly the following two priority areas:
Green growth and sustainable socio-economic development
Our focus is green growth and sustainable socio-economic development among the southern districts of Belize through the sustainable management of natural resources that coherently links environmental preservation, rural transformation, income generation and inclusion of indigenous communities into the social fabric. We aim at unlocking the economic potential of Belize’s southern districts by providing technical assistance and financial resources for public and private investment. Importantly, these districts are home to the Mayan and Garifuna indigenous people who are not well connected to the national development and suffer from high poverty rates, lack of basic services and climate change effects.
Trade and economic integration of Belize into the Northern Triangle
We will focus on the trade and economic integration of Belize into the Northern Triangle, with Guatemala, considering that regional economic integration significantly contributes to growth rates and employment opportunities. The action will provide technical and financial assistance to the various mandates of the Joint Commission promoting cross-border trade and assisting the design of efficient border management while contributing to migration control.
The Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) for Belize for 2021-2024 amounts to €17 million.
Priority area 1: ‘Green growth and sustainable socio-economic development’: the territorial focus of this intervention is a very high priority region for #PlanBelize. The Mayan and the Garifuna Indigenous peoples comprise 17.4% of Belize’s population, with the vast majority living in remote areas, and among the poorest in the country. Given the present circumstances and potential, the targeted areas require an inter-sectoral, interdisciplinary framework for implementing an inclusive, sustainable and resilient development approach. The intervention has a prominent green component as it aims to promote a model that protects and preserves the still intact ecosystems of the several forest reserves, marine reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries in Belize’s border region.
Priority area 2: ‘Regional integration and border management’ is based on the Special Agreement of December 2014. Both countries agreed to re-vitalise the Belize-Guatemala Joint Commission and advance the Partial Scope Trade Agreement. The initiatives and arrangements of the Joint Commission have a substantial impact on both countries, improving bilateral relations is at the forefront of resolving the border dispute and producing concrete signs of progress for the inhabitants of both countries, particularly in the border regions.
Support measures in favour of civil society during the decade-long border conflict with Guatemala left deep traces in the political sensitivity of the entire Belizean population. An eventual juridical decision or political agreement will not easily change the perception of threat and danger or invert an image which was built over a long time by public communication, private interests and social groups. In this context, preparing Belize society for the eventual ruling of the ICJ and, most importantly after a possible arbitration, will require a substantial engagement of civil society organisations.