Two organizations are the recipients of the Raymond Milefsky Award, an honor that is given by Durham University’s Centre for Borders Research (IBRU). The organizations are the Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) of Belize and Asociacion Balam from neighboring Guatemala. Named after a long-time borders’ expert with the U.S. State Department, the award was given to the two organizations for their cross-border NGO and community-level initiatives. That work, according to FCD Executive Director Raphael Manzanero, has resulted in the signing and renewal of formal agreements for the protections of the Mopan River watershed between twenty Belizean and Guatemalan communities.
Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, FCD: “Since 2011 we signed an agreement with BALAM and as a result of that what we developed was an action plan. That action plan outlines the variety of activities to do as cross border cooperation activities. Up until today basically we still have a whole range of activities from research to enforcement to education to research so basically almost all of our programs that FCD has a binational component and so today we would say that unlike in the beginning years in 2007 I must say that today there is a new change in the landscape in terms of other partners, other institutions, other organizations that have been now coming on board on the southern part of Peten that did not really exist and that has been primarily because of BALAM that moved south into the southern region of Peten and then started really to activate all of these activities based on action plan.”
The work that FCD and Asociacion Balam isn’t easy and cheap. Manzanero says that since the COVID pandemic hit Belize, one of the challenges is receiving funding to carry out activities.
Rafael Manzanero, Executive Director, FCD: “Well in the beginning years and up until two years ago the British High Commission’s Office had primarily been supporting a lot of those binational efforts here from the office in Belize and also in the office in Guatemala from the British High Commission’s Office. In fact they have asked us once again to see how they can be able to support our activities both in Belize and Guatemala so largely I should say that the funds from the British High Commission has been really instrumental in putting us to do those exchange programs and those binational activities. The US Department of the Interior have also been highly supportive of that work and so those have been ongoing streams of activities. The Canadians supported also for one or two years and so I would say that this like the Friends of Belize Guatemala have extremely been supportive in that context of seeing how we can be able to do activities bi-nationality through the theme of environmental protection.”
The award includes a cash prize of seven hundred and forty-five British pounds sterling, which roughly two thousand one hundred Belize dollars. The prize money will be split evenly between the two organizations.