San Ignacio, 21 April 2023 — The International Labour Organization (ILO), as part of the UN Joint SDG Fund Programme , with support from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Programme (WFP): Building a Resilient Belize through universal, adaptive and sustainable social protection, seeks to support Belize in line with its National Development Plans, to recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on vulnerable groups such as women, micro-entrepreneurs and rural the population. The Government of Belize and the ILO presented draft value chain analysis findings and recommendations to stakeholders in a validation session. The two sector results presented were the manufacturing of handcrafted food (dried fruits) and sustainable tourism. Stakeholders were given the opportunity to confirm, add and adjust recommendations within the aforementioned value chains.
In his opening remarks, Chief Executive Office for the Ministry of Economic Development, Dr. Osmond Martinez, welcomed stakeholders, emphasizing that this space is a tool to serve as an important source of insight to produce an effective workplan for the development of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)., “Through this analysis, we will seek to understand barriers, bottlenecks and challenges, but also the opportunities that exist within the two selected sectors. It will give local economic development sectors much needed information that will strengthen their participation within these sectors and create a favourable environment for MSMEs to fully realize their growth potential. Another important component of this analysis, that is also a significant element throughout the Government’s Medium-Term Development Strategy (MTDS), is its focus on underserved and overlooked populations such as gender, youth, and the indigenous people.” Dr. Martinez stated.
The main results of the Joint Programme are centered on two interconnected outcomes, both of which are articulated in Belize’s National Development Plan and the MTDS Priority Areas: Poverty Reduction and Economic Growth. Amongst others, the Joint Programme aims to provide entrepreneurs, whose incomes and livelihoods were further devastated by COVID-19, access to a strengthened environment for MSMEs, to enable their growth and to reduce their vulnerability to shocks.
The Government, in its National Development Plan Belize, has put specific emphasis on the recovery and empowerment of MSMEs which still see most of the jobs being generated (over 60 per cent) and of relevance for women and youth. Most enterprises in Belize are MSMEs (over 90 per cent). The pandemic has widened this sector due to loss of formal jobs. Small enterprises are often characterized by low productivity, high informality (over 90 per cent) and a short life span. To assist the Belizean Government in its reactivation efforts, the ILO constituents and partners have continued to work with key stakeholders to support MSMEs with particular attention to vulnerable groups including women, youth, and indigenous peoples and to generate integrated support in an articulated manner. This embodies the principle of Leaving No One Behind (LNOB).
Ms. Gabrielle Hulse, Economist in the Ministry of Economic Development, said “I am pleased to see the substantial progress being made in this programme. And I say this not only as a contributor to the work, but also as a youth and a woman. It’s encouraging to see a national coordinated effort to create meaningful opportunities for youth, women and other underserved populations.”
Mr. Miguel Macias, Representative of Grupo Minerva SRL, highlighted that “The tripartite and systemic approach utilized to build this plan allows for a holistic view where both decent employment and business productivity shortfalls are tackled. These activities resulting from this project will drive economic activity, with positive impact on the environment, and promote the development of the most vulnerable communities in the most sustainable way.”
Mr. John Bliek, ILO’s Specialist, Enterprise, Cooperatives and Rural Development, noted “These value chain analysis will support the ILO, and its partners, to provide a focalized technical assistance to Belize. Particularly, it has been seen that there is still a strong gap to support enterprises through training and coaching to become more sustainable enterprises, both economically and environmentally. This Joint SDG Fund project enables the ILO and its partners to provide technical support to enhance the capacities of the tripartite actors to continuously support small scale enterprises, and in particular, vulnerable groups.”
The Ministry of Economic Development and the ILO are the Co-Chairs of outcome two of the Joint SDG Fund: Building a resilient Belize through universal, adaptive, and sustainable social protection. Outcome two focuses on the strengthening of local economic development (LED) and livelihoods in targeted municipalities, through a gender and youth sensitive value chain development approach to employment and decent work. The Labour Commissioner of Belize, Mrs. Rissela Dominguez-Patt, gave the closing remarks as the steps continue towards a just transition inclusive of advancing social justice, promoting decent work. Also present were Mr. Valentino Shal, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Labour and Local Government, and Dr. Marcelino Avila, Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister, who were actively engaged and their attendance too is a testament to the larger government’s commitment in a just transition inclusive of advancing social justice, promoting decent work in Belize.
Originally posted at ILO.
The Joint SDG Fund's joint programmes are under the prestige leadership of the Resident Coordinator Office and implementing United Nations Agencies. With sincere appreciation for the contributions from the European Union and Governments of Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and our private sector funding partners, for a transformative movement towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.