Créditos UNICEF/UN032017/UNICEF/UN0320
Publicado en Junio 5, 2024

Ensuring Social Protection for All in Belize

Globally, the last five years have tested the resolve of societies as they are confronted with a myriad of unprecedented health, economic, climactic, and social challenges. In developing countries like Belize, those crises have demonstrated that societies can only be as resilient as the strength and mettle of their communities and the responsiveness of the social support systems instituted to assist the people of the country.

To advance national human development and poverty alleviation goals, work has been ongoing to strengthen this resiliency through social protection programmes. In the last few years, Belize has demonstrated its commitment to enhancing social protection measures for its citizens. With the support of various programs and initiatives, including the Joint SDG Fund programme "Resilient Belize," the country is actively working to ensure that all individuals, especially the most vulnerable, have access to adequate social protection.

The government has demonstrated strong commitment in their Medium-Term Development Strategy (MTDS) 2022-26 where they pledged to “develop a social protection policy and strategy with the overarching objective of comprehensively addressing the needs of the poorest members of the society throughout their lifecycle, addressing social risks and vulnerabilities, and improving cross-sector coordination in the delivery of interlinked protection programmes”.  Despite these efforts, Belize faces substantial challenges in providing comprehensive social protection coverage.

Furthermore, Belize is regularly exposed to hurricanes, tropical storms, and flooding, and is ranked 118th in the Climate Risk Index and 61st in its relative mortality risk from multiple hazards. The World Bank's Natural Disaster Hotspot study highlights Belize as the 8th most at-risk country globally, with annual climate-related losses estimated at 7 per cent of GDP. This reality compounds fiscal constraints, further limiting resources for social protection and service delivery.

Beyond the impact of climate change, Belize's vulnerabilities are highlighted by recent crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the global cost of living crisis triggered by the Russia-Ukraine war, and Hurricane Lisa. These events have magnified existing challenges, including limited human and financial resources, inadequate infrastructure, and internal geographical barriers. Fostering partnerships and ensuring maximisation of resources are crucial steps for Belize to enhance its social protection framework and address vulnerabilities.

These risk factors underscore the importance of initiatives like the Joint SDG Fund programme "Resilient Belize" in playing a convening role in highlighting the eminence of nationwide reforms such as social protection. Therefore, collaborating with a range of stakeholders including the United Nations, the Government, Civil Society Organizations, Workers and Employers’ Organizations, the private sector, International Financial Institutions, and others; a program like this is instrumental in strengthening Belize's social protection system and enhancing resilience.


Key Initiatives and Achievements that came forth from the Joint Program (JP):

Efforts under the joint programme have resulted in a strong government commitment to the development of a social protection system.

Financing the vision – Belize's first costed Social Protection Floor: Costing of the Social Protection Floor(s) in Belize; Financing the Leave No One Behind Agenda

The Joint Programme has contributed to the development of Belize's National Social Protection Strategy by completing the first-ever costing of the Social Protection Floor and facilitating extensive dialogues with various stakeholders, which sets out various options regarding the scope and cost of a social protection floor in Belize.


Coordinating the vision – Integrated response for social protection

Two significant social protection stakeholders’ engagements were organised, involving government entities, UN agencies, civil society organisations, the private sector and academia. These consultations aimed to collaboratively discuss social protection priorities and establish concrete next steps and timelines for finalising a National Social Protection Strategy. These efforts resulted in the integration of social protection policy commitments, focusing on addressing the comprehensive needs of the most impoverished members of society throughout their lifecycles. This marks a significant shift for Belize.

The UN country team, utilising the joint programme, expanded efforts to strengthen the shock-responsiveness of social protection in the country, fostering synergies with national partners and enhancing their capacity to implement social protection programmes and interventions. Capacity building efforts included training, seminars and webinars on shock-responsive social protection, financing of social protection, social protection statistics, including technical support in relief assistance and the design and monitoring of digital cash assistance programs, particularly for households affected by Hurricane Lisa and vulnerable migrant children and families.

A key aspect of the joint programme’s success was how it sparked collaboration amongst the UN agencies, government, civil society, social partners, academia and the private sector at the national scale.

This powerful synergy created awareness, built capacities and delivered results, strengthening existing social programmes and governing policies that will now lead to the development of a robust social protection system.

Building on this momentum of collaboration, several challenges remain in ensuring universal access to social protection in Belize. Coverage gaps, funding limitations and program complexities still need to be addressed. However, with continued collective effort, Belize can bridge these divides and ensure a solid social protection system for all.


Amplifying advocacy for responsive social support

The joint programme has also opened the space for the Government of Belize to make enhancements in its existing fiscal resourcing for disaster response with the introduction of top-up facilities in its sovereign Catastrophic Risk Insurance policies for hurricanes and flooding. This enhancement to the policy has been critically important in providing direct and immediate support to disaster-affected households, providing the needed safety with cash for essential relief goods especially food, and helping build their resilience with cash support for the recovery of their livelihoods.

The project was able to promote the development of a cost assessment to the introduction of the unemployment benefit within the social security scheme. Further consultations are now set to happen in the coming months to ensure the discussion is held at the highest level of the nation and becomes a reality.


Economic Development and Gender Equity – Diverse and Equitable enterprises

The joint programme successfully contributed to the strengthening of the local economic development and livelihoods in two targeted municipalities. This was achieved through a value chain development approach to employment and decent work, facilitating a study to identify sectors with high potential to support Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in their recovery, growth, and social inclusion—particularly focusing on women, youth, and vulnerable groups.

As a part of the Local Economic Development Approach, three key methodologies were developed and implemented: Gender and Entrepreneurship Together (GET Ahead) Training of Trainers- focused on empowering female and rural entrepreneurs.  The programme trained 35 trainers and facilitators. Through their knowledge and skills, they reached over 300 participants in roughly 12 communities. These trainers will continue to roll out these programs in 2024 and beyond; My Green Enterprise- addressed the environmental impact of entrepreneurship; Local Inclusive Sustainable Tourism Opportunities (LISTO)- supported local action based on multi-stakeholder analysis and planning.

Sustainable solutions are required with continued commitment and collaborative efforts from all government ministries and all stakeholders to ensure effectiveness. With sustained investment in a social protection system, and a holistic approach that addresses the underlying causes of vulnerability and inequality and being able to link contributory to non-contributory social protection, will establish the ideal social protection system for Belize.

Consequently, building on the achievements of these initiatives like the Joint SDG Fund programme "Resilient Belize" and fostering partnerships at local, national, and international levels, Belize can further advance its efforts towards realising the vision of social protection for all.


Originally written by the Office of UN Resident Coordinator in Belize



All joint programs of the Joint SDG Fund are led by UN Resident Coordinators and implemented by the agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations development system. With sincere appreciation for the contributions from the European Union and Governments of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and our private sector funding partners, for a transformative movement towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.