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Global Issue 15

network How easy is it to protect remote archaeological sites from attacks like this? commonwealth “There’s an educational process. We want people to be aware of exactly how precious our heritage is. But there will always be those who want to make money from it. We’ve signed agreements with Mexico and Guatemala that see them agreeing to stop sales of Mayan relics. The Archaeology Department in Belize is relatively smaall – we’ve got hundreds of these Mayan sites, some of which haven’t even been excavated yet.” Compared to larger countries, Belize’s ministers are small in number and have broader responsibilities. Before he became party leader, Barrow held various ministerial roles and came to be known as the “minister of everything”. He is currently the minister of finance and economic planning, as well as being PM. In person, Barrow comes across as down to earth and approachable. He is not accompanied by the large entourage you might expect of a prime minister – it’s just him and the High Commissioner when Global meets him. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of heading up a small country? “Well, the clamour for progress and improvement gets quite personal because it is a small country, so people are more or less able to stop you on the street and let you have a mouthful if things aren’t going well. And things are never going as well as they could be! So politics is very very personal in Belize and there’s a sense of immediacy about what one does in government. “Generally the fact that we’re a small country does mean that, in the world of big power politics, we have to fight hard to get a fair shake in terms of trading relations. On the plus side, while there are problems, relatively speaking, they’re on a small canvas. There are not teeming millions to look after. All the social problems – education, healthcare and poverty – are that much more manageable.” Commonwealth membership is, therefore, important to Belize. “As a small country, it’s nice to belong to a club of 50-odd members. Going to a CHOGM Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting a couple of years ago, I was quite pleased to see how clubbable it was. So it’s important to know that there’s a significant enough institution globally that you can belong to where you can feel that your voice counts for something, but it’s not so big that you get lost in the crowd.” Barrow will soon be heading to 2013’s CHOGM in Sri Lanka. He’s hoping that the environment will be high on the agenda. 76 l www.global -br ief ing.org thi rd quar ter 2013 global Belize’s agriculture has been predicted to be vulnerable to climate change, which could have a big impact on the economy – the sector currently provides some 71 per cent of the country’s total foreign exchange earnings, and gives employment to almost a third of the labour force. “In Belize, we look for the Commonwealth to play more of a leadership role in matters such as climate change. At the last CHOGM I went to in Trinidad, the Brits and Australians were very very gung ho about funds to deal with mitigation and the need for the world to reduce its carbon emissions. They were concerned that small island states and other vulnerable nations should get funds to deal with protecting areas that are below sea level.” The Commonwealth has also been invaluable, says Barrow, in giving Belize diplomatic support over its territorial integrity. Guatemala has claimed on and off since 1940 that all, or part, of Belize’s territory is Guatemalan and there have been some border skirmishes in recent years. The Organization of American States (OAS) has attempted to mediate on the dispute, with an agreement reached that each country is to have a domestic referendum on referring the matter to the International Court of Justice. The referendum was due to take place in October, but Guatemala has now reneged on the date. “I think they’ve had an earful from the international community and from the OAS and so they are talking about fixing another date, possibly in the first quarter or so of next year,” says Barrow. “But there’s a willingness on the part of the Guatemalans to work to ensure that flash points on the border are handled diplomatically, so that they don’t flare up and cause real real trouble.” Even closer to home, the Belize government is locked in a dispute with environmentalists who want to see offshore oil exploration banned to protect the coral reef off the country’s coast. Belize has the world’s second largest barrier reef, once named as one of Jacques Cousteau’s top ten scuba diving sites. A coalition of environmental groups, alarmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, gathered enough signatures to trigger a national referendum in Belize on offshore drilling in 2011. However, the government wriggled out of holding a referendum, citing technical problems with the petition, so the groups carried out their own unofficial referendum, which saw overwhelming support for halting the drilling. This year, the environmental groups Oceana, Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action and the Belize Coalition to Save our National Heritage went to the Supreme Court The Long View Dean Barrow Curriculum vitae Politics is very very personal in Belize, there’s a real sense of immediacy 1951 Born in Belize City 1973 LLB from University of the West Indies, Barbados 1977 Partner in his uncle’s law firm (Dean Lindo) 1981 LLM; MA in international relations, University of Miami 1983 Elected to Belize City council 1984 Elected to the House of Representatives; nominated to Cabinet as Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs 1989 Starts his own law firm Barrow & Williams 1990 Deputy Party Leader of the United Democratic Party 1993 Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of National Security 1998 Leader of the Opposition 2008 Prime Minister of Belize 


Global Issue 15
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