The US Embassy issued $750,000 US in the form of a grant to three organizations as part of the 2019 Central America Regional Security Initiative, Economic Support Fund (CARSI ESF). The grant is in favor of organizations who support good governance by using civil society engagement to strengthen government effectiveness. The recipients were awarded at a ceremony held today at the residence of the US Ambassador in Belmopan. The Charge d’Affaires, Keith Gilges, told us more about the grants.
Keith Gilges, Charge d Affairs, US Embassy Belize: “We had a ceremony to sign the grants for three different organizations that will be working on good governance here in Belize. We have a program called Central American Regional Security Initiative and as part of that there are economic support fund grants that we issue. So a few months ago we asked for folks around Belize to come up with their, organizations from around Belize to come up with their best ideas for how they’d like to see good governance implemented here. And we had a committee that selected the three best projects and today was our opportunity to announce the three organizations that got those grants and actually see the grants to them. We’ve been doing this for a year. So, you know total of 42 million dollars has come through the CARSI ESF program over the years. This year got three grantees last year was four grantees, it depends on the amount of money frankly that we will get from Washington in order to put towards these programs. But we covered over the course of the years things like citizen security, we’ve done economic prosperity and for the past couple of years we’ve focused on good governance.”
Reporter: Is there some way that the embassy not necessarily tracks but ensure that the money is going to good use?
Keith Gilges, Charge d Affairs, US Embassy Belize: “Every penny has to be accounted for and the idea is not that we demand automatic success, we want folks to innovate we want them to try things and if it doesn’t quite work explain to us how that didn’t work and let’s move on. So it’s not a matter of it has to be the same thing over and over and we want innovation month folks to try new things but yes as part of our process there is absolute accountability for every dollar that’s spent, you know our taxpayers require that and so we look at organizations that we know have the reputation and capacity to account for every dollar but again, it’s not just accounting for the activity you’ve done but through that activity have you achieved the objectives that we collectively would like you to achieve.”
We also heard from the three recipients themselves, which were Youth Enhancement Services, Trust for the Americas, and RET USA, INC. They each told us how they would be using the money to benefit Belize.
Karen Cain, Youth Enhancement Services: “As an NGO working with young women and girls for the past 30 years we had gotten a US CARSI grant back in 2012-2015 and we thought we had done excellent work with those monies and the plight of women and children continues. So when we saw the opportunity to apply again we thought that this would have been something nice to do and of course it’s extra nice now because we have actually won the grant. The work that we’re going to do has four stages, one has to do basically with parenting, training trainers to deliver parenting sessions to parents of youth and then the second one is to look at actually working with government and government employees how to deliver services to the marginalized which is again women and youth. Our third goal is to look at working with youth. The last one, which is a big one to me is to look at domestic violence in all its entirety.”
Starret Greene, OAS Representative in Belize, Trust for Americas: “The money that we have gotten which is over $209,000 US dollars will be used in what we call a phase 2 of the project. We have already completed phase one and now in phase two one of our important goals is to build capacity, capacity in government and capacity in other actors who are associated with government. The second goal is to bring civil society organizations together with government to strengthen their partnerships.”
Landee Longsworth, RET USA: “RET International or RET America which is what we are going through right now applied for this grant because the issues of gender based violence and trafficking of persons is so prevalent in Belize and we want to continue working towards the reduction of these issues so yes that is the reason why we applied for this grant and we’ll use this money for a new project to reduce the incidences of gender based violence and trafficking of persons and the response to these incidents. So we will be working in nine municipalities in Belize; in Belize City, Cayo and Stann Creek and our aim is like I said to greater improve the response to these incidents. We’re working with four key partners to ensure that this project is off the ground and will launch properly. So we’re working with the National Women’s Commission, ATIPS Council, the Human Trafficking Unit and the Belize Network of NGOs so those are four key partners that we’ll be working with to ensure that this project really is launched and is successful.”
The criteria for this grant was the same in similar grants throughout Central America.