Pristine rivers surrounded by lush, green vegetation set to the backdrop of scenic mountains, stunning coral reefs and home of the fascinating Mayan sites, Belize is known for its beauty and intrigue. But its greatest asset, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said yesterday during a visit to a secondary school in the heart of the country’s capital Belmopan, is its people - a large percentage of whom are below the age of 20.
Students at the Belmopan Methodist School treated the Secretary-General to a special performance, which captured the colours and rhythms of the Garifuna element of the diverse Belizean culture.
Secretary-General Scotland encouraged the first, second and third formers to “dream big”, urging them to use their talents and push past any fear of failure. Later she proved to the young people that she could speak their language, by taking up the challenge of a calypso dance–off with one of the students.
“Since I started my term at the beginning of April, I have met with many of the leaders of civil societies, governments and businesses, and this meeting with these young people is definitely one of the highlights of my month,” said the Secretary-General. “From our commitment to helping to protect women from violence, to our efforts to rescue our planet from the effects of climate change, ultimately it is about creating a world where our children feel secure and have the hope of a prosperous future.”
When asked how the Commonwealth could help improve their lives, one girl responded: “give us peace with Guatemala.”
Currently Belize is in a territorial dispute with neighbouring Guatemala over an 1859 boundaries treaty. Recently tensions were heightened after Guatemala said it suspected Belize soldiers were behind the killing of a teenage boy.
Secretary-General Scotland said: “As I spoke to officials today it was clear that this issue is on everyone’s mind and is causing a great deal of anxiety. I endorsed the view expressed by the African Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, when it affirmed its commitment to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Belize and urged both sides to work towards a peaceful resolution.
“I applaud the Organization of American States for its multifaceted peace building work, and I hope they will receive sufficient resources to continue this invaluable initiative.”
Yesterday the Secretary-General met Belizean Governor General Sir Colville Young and OAS representatives. She will continue her engagements today with meetings with the Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow and opposition leader John Briceño.