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Address delivered during FORUM III

by K. Mustafa Touré
Manager of Planning, MIS & Projects, Ministry of Education and Sports, Secretary-General, Belize National Commission for UNESCO

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Greetings and Salutations to all and a special word of thanks to the Government and People of Hungary for hosting this gathering in such a historic city at such an auspicious time. My special appreciation goes to UNESCO, ICSU and all the other sponsors who have made this conference possible.

Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the Government and People of Belize, I am honored to present this brief statement which covers the following:

  • First, a description of the location of Belize and a brief summary of her geo-political significance;
  • Next, a Statement of Support for the Draft Declaration and Action Agenda on behalf of my country and a number of her neighbors; and
  • Finally, a number of specific recommendations and some closing comments.

Belize is a Caribbean nation located on the Isthmus of Central America, southeast of Mexico and east of Guatemala.

As such, she is a member of the Caribbean Community and the Association of Caribbean States and participates actively in the Central American integration movement where she recently served as Chair of the Central American Commission for Environment & Development.

Formerly known as British Honduras, Belize achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1981 after a protracted but peaceful struggle which benefited from the fraternal support of CARICOM, Cuba, Panama and many friends from both the South and North. With a population of only 250,000, Belize has been able to maintain her environment in a relatively pristine condition.

Over the past decade, Belize has ably demonstrated her commitment to promoting the just, peaceful and equitable use of Science and Technology (S&T) in a number of ways that reflect her ‘world-class’ human and natural ecology:

  • Belize hosted the Caribbean’s first Eco-Tourism Conference in the early 1990s and co-founded the ‘Mundo Maya’ cultural tourism initiative along with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador;
  • Belize successfully secured a US$3 Million Global Environmental Facility Marine Biodiversity grant that was recently followed up with a further US$5 Million and acquired UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the Belize Barrier Reef System in order to protect and sustainably use the natural resources of this almost 200-mile long carbonate platform, which is considered by many to be the longest continuous living reef on this planet; and
  • Following our new Government’s 1998 commitment to connect all schools and libraries to the Internet within five years, in light of the dawning of the 21st Century ‘Digital Economy’, Belize last week announced a new ‘On-Line’ policy which will shortly allow all government departments to have World Wide Web ‘Home Pages’ in order to facilitate citizen access to information and permit increased transparency in public life.
  • Presently, Belize is collaborating with her CARICOM sister states and the Organisation of American States (OAS) in executing the first GEF-funded regional project arising from the 1994 United Nations Conference on the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

The project, Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Global Climate Change, or CPACC, was recognised last year by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as a leading example of regional collaboration in addressing the critical issue of Climate Change which threatens to obliterate many SIDS and low-lying coastal states in the coming century due to expected rising sea levels.

Already, CPACC has enabled 12 CARICOM states to develop an operational network of satellite-linked state-of-the-art ‘ocean climate’ monitoring stations which are connected via the Internet. This cooperative regional initiative is an example of the type of ‘Technology-Transfer’ and ‘Capacity-Building’ required by vulnerable small states like Belize.

In concert with the position taken by our hemispheric colleagues from the Latin American and Caribbean region in the March 1999 Declaration of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), Belize supports the present Conference’s Draft Declaration and Science Agenda – Framework for Action.

We earnestly believe that these two documents represent a ‘window of opportunity’ for realising a new global commitment by the international community to a more just, equitable and participatory science in the 21st Century.

Further, along with Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago and the Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Belize now wishes to additionally lend her voice to the call for this conference to consider a number of specific recommendations on behalf of vulnerable Small Islands and Low-Lying Coastal States, both in the Caribbean and worldwide.

Specifically, we call for the following:

  • There must be genuine and meaningful cooperation between those nations who possess strong S&T capabilities and those nations whose peoples face abject poverty and social exclusion; failure to bring about this cooperation will surely lead to a further widening of the existing gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’, with terrible social and environmental consequences;
  • Small developing nations, including SIDS, have special needs. With very few exceptions, they do not currently possess the required ‘critical mass’ of human resources in the vital areas of S&T;
  • There is an urgent need to strengthen existing networks, both South-South and North-South, which have proven to be useful to our sustainable development. These networks must include our scientists based in developed countries; and
  • We must not fail to target our most abundant resources, with appropriate external assistance, for rational development in this new 21st Century Science endeavor. Namely, our human resources, by giving priority attention to science education, and given the intimate link between tropical regions and the oceans, our marine resources from coasts to deep sea beds.

In conclusion, Mr Chairman and distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, concrete and meaningful follow-up to this important Conference can only be achieved by treating the long-term global issues and challenges which have been identified here over the past three days in a similar manner to BioDiversity, Climate Change and the Law of the Sea.

I close by imploring you, as representatives of the international community, to consider the dire need for urgently establishing permanent mechanisms such as those which arose from the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).

Mechanisms such as the Global Environmental Facility and the Climate Change Secretariat are required if we are to realistically ensure that our collective commitment to a just and peaceful 21st century science is to be realised in an equitable and participatory manner.

Failure to act in this regard may condemn us to suffer the fate of the fictional ‘Dr. Frankenstein’, whose immoral and unethical application of science resulted in his own self-destruction.


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