Belize Announces Plans for Human Rights Institute in Collaboration with Ombudsman
Belize has announced its intentions to establish a Human Rights Institute. The facility will collaborate with the Office of the Ombudsman, and will be set up in alignment with the Paris Plan. Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Development, Elvia Vega, made the announcement last week before the United Nations Human Rights Council, during the 45th Session of Universal Periodic Review. This session is where member-countries convene to report on progress being made on the Sustainable Development Goals under the human rights category. Minister of State Vega, explained how this new Human Rights Institute will work hand in hand with the Ombudsman’s office.
Elvia Vega-Samos, Minister of State: “Belize is excited to report executive approval for steps ahead to establish a National Human Rights Institution in compliance with Paris principles. Following our engagement with the working group in 2018, Belize successfully undertook a feasibility study providing insights into the potential national human rights institutions’ structure in Belize. With the support and guidance of our partners at the Commonwealth Secretariat and the OHCHR. A key outcome is the government’s endorsement of the proposal for the eventual transition of the Office of the Ombudsman into the NHRI. Furthermore there is approval and support for the necessary steps to amend the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman ensuring it becomes Paris Principles compliant, enabling it to promote, protect, and monitor human rights effectively. Belize recognizes the importance of continued collaboration and will once again seek the expertise and support of our valued partners in the eventual realization of our Paris Principle Compliant Institution. The government, recognizing the autonomy of the Ombudsman Office, continues to provide institutional strengthening through technical and administrative support. As the Ombudsman expands its capacity to fulfill its mandates, it continues to work with government entities to address concerns and issues that may arise.”
Another area that Minister Vega presented on was Gender Based Inequalities. According to Vega, the country’s parliament currently has a 22 percent women representation, and that this is one area they are looking to address in the shorter-term.
Elvia Vega-Samos, Minister of State:“Belize is actively working to reduce gender based inequalities, focusing on reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity. The country has strategic frameworks and initiatives such as Horizon 2010 to 2030, Plan Belize 2022-2026, the Spotlight Initiative, the National Gender Policy and the National Gender and Gender Based Violence Action Plan all aimed at supporting women’s economic empowerment and vocational training. However in the realm of women in political and public life Belize faces challenges. Ranking low in the global gender gap in political empowerment with women comprising only 22% of the national assembly. To contribute to addressing this the newly established Women’s Parliamentary Caucus in 2022 seeks to enhance advocacy and integrate gender perspectives into parliamentary operations, striving for greater inclusivity. To further institutionalize and create organizational changes and to promote equality and non discrimination the Government of Belize through Spotlight Initiative designed and implemented the Gender Equality and Diversity Seal Pattern through the CARICOM Gender Equality and Diversity Seal and the UN Women Gender Equality Index.”
The United Nation’s Periodic Review concluded on Friday in Geneva, Switzerland.
In addition to government’s plans and efforts to further its human rights projects, the Belize Police Department recently embarked on a campaign to educate its officers on basic human rights. Commissioner of Police Chester Williams spoke on the campaign, and how it will benefit the citizenry.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “We have done a number of human rights training with our personnel. We also had Dr.Coombs assist us in printing a number of human rights pocket books that the officers can take around with them in their pockets. The Legal Office has also been going around making sure that the training is given to all police officers across the country. Again we want to be a department that recognizes the human right and dignity of every person in Belize and that’s what we’re trying to do through the assistance of the Human Rights Commission as well as the other international human rights organizations that are assisting us in this regard.”