Opportunities&Challenges:Belize's Country Coordinating Mechanism

Posted 14th, January, 2015

May, 2016 will make it 10 years, that UniBAM has been investing in advancing its policy and advocacy priorities. It has built, its legal capacity through the University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Project, in hiring Senior Counsel Moore to do its LGBT legal review in 2010 on the civil and socioeconomic concerns of LGBT population. It has partnered with Northwestern University, the Michigan Law Clinic to draft briefs for cabinet and in doing legal assessments of particular sections of the law.  Internationally, is has submitted two shadow rights for the Universal Periodic Review of 2009 and 2013 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights while submitting a request for thematic hearings at the Organization of American States in 2014.It has found resources to facilitate its international engagement e on its own terms and leverage that experience for national engagement.

 In 2009, the Belize National Report for the Universal Periodic Review, a reporting mechanism created at the UN to report on a country's progress on human rights, has heard two Belizean National Reports-one in 2009 and one in 2013. The National Report of 2009, spoke of The National AIDS Commission as an Interim Human Rights Commission,  surprising language when given context.  This is important when one looks at the Global Fund 2015 project and module 7 which attempts to deal with removing policy-barriers. In addition,in 2016, Belize got approved a Global Fund Grant with allocated funding for $3,359,024us.Year one has been confirmed with a disbursement of $1,887,349.00us.

The last CCM in December engaged the review of Module 7 as a draft module, which spoke to seven activities that is suppose to address the removal of policy barriers. What can be noted of the activities was its collective attempt to design non-judicary mechanisms to address discrimination while trying to address actual legislative efforts at finalizing the NAC legal Review. Interestingly enough, the PANCAP model Anti-Discrimination Legislation was used to inform partially the NAC Legal Review.

We know from experience that the the 2013 criminal code amendments took over 5 years while the NAC legal Review has been going on since 2008.When the litigation work of section 53 started, it started in 2008 and took another 2 years to reach the Supreme Court. The process, itself, is advancing to its eighth year. When framed in the context of the Belize Country project for Global fund timeline of three years-January 2016  and ends in 2018. The timeline alone points to the challenge of  actual legal reform for the Global Fund project will finish before parliament actually approves any law. It must be noted that the project timeline challenges the system to find the resources to complete the process in a comprehensive manner. The question remains will it? and How comprehensive is the new effort going to be?

The CCM structure that the Global Fund promotes, does offer key population representation at the table, to be informed of resources and activities,  and acts as a monitoring structure in the implementation process of both resources and activities. The challenge for key population, is that it must recognize the limitation of the structure. It should recognize while its civil, political and socioeconomic rights concerns can be expressed, it is the will of the majority members that will prevail. A will that is tainted by suspicion, misplace perception, limited analysis of engagement and concerns about what the political power brokers will accept in legislation. In essence the CCM becomes a gatekeeper against the concerns of rights-holders, especially, key populations. 

In practice, it is willing to ensure non-controversial things like access to medication-ARV's, prevention commodities, HIV prevention education and testing. This practice, extends itself as well to policy-action to the detriment of key population concerns about rights, discrimination and violence. As such the NAC/CCM tends to leave the burden of rights defense and protection to key population building its own leadership, legal and political capacity to engage political leaders.

The result, UniBAM launch its litigation challenge to section 53, submitted three shadow reports to IN international human rights systems, helped to facilitate or influence the development of Trans leadership as an a organization called TIABelize, supported the development of PETAL which as a Lesbian and Bi Sexual women focus, EYBM and BYEC which has a Youth focus, Our Circle, which has a family and community service focus and Tikkun Olam which has a general sex worker focus.  NAC/CCM multi-sectoral response has not, as a priority for developing key population leadership legal and political capacity to advocate in their specialized area to advance the principles of human rights. The NAC/CCM remains a great convener in facilitating institutional communication.

What we recognize is that while the NAC/CCM offers a structure to engage and dialogue on issues of socioeconomic, civil and economic rights that can be leveraged by key population to educate key persons in influential positions about rights concerns without cost. In addition, it offers an opportunity to map allies, opponents and persons in neutral positions or it can act as a monitoring structure to evaluate the policy environment. Representation at the table  has a value that, is only limited by the advocates vision of  action and substance from the NAC/CCM.
Whether it actually is a structure to stagnate rights enforcement and protection mechanisms for key population remains a question to be answered in time. We know that its a child of the state and acts as an institutional screener to minimize rights-holders from advancing the substance of their concerns. It remains a political mechanism that supports the will of the majority at the expense of rights protection concerns of the minority. Its response is generally telling of its conservative commitment to key populations. The use of generic language in strategic planing documents to help facilitate political endorsement and in taking strong public positions on rights base on sexual orientation and gender identity and sex work are two examples of a minimalist approach to rights-holders concerns. Furthermore, it tends to offer justifications that scuttles the advancement of rights beyond the unwritten rule of what the will of the majority is willing to offer. In essence, maintaining the status quo!
Currently, the NAC is in the midst of revamping its legislation to incorporate the CCM into law and calls for a LGBT/MSM/Sex worker/IDU representative in its first draft of the list of representation who can  be on the NAC/CCM. We will be asked to have a mechanism in place to have elect representatives to the CCM. It is not clear, however, if the NAC/CCM will cover the expense of carrying out such a process. A process, that forces key populations to find its own path in scaling-up its political capacity and engagement, as the NAC/CCM may not be the place that will encourage such a process in the multi-sectoral response. From experience, the response will build the administrative skills of key population to monitor and evaluate to support the national response, but will not be very clear, in its support to advance the internal capacity needs of organizations still developing as non-governmental organizations. The result, we systematically collect information differently.
We have seen in sex work how Tikkun Olam looks at contraceptives, abortion issues, sexual and physical violence, emergency care for sex workers families and human trafficking, but the multi-sectoral response, simply focus on testing and providing condoms. In addition, UniBAM, has looked at barriers to Sexual and Reproductive health services, policy barriers through its legal research specific to LGBT population as well as sustains research and documentation into discrimination and violence issues experienced by its population. Though they tried, we have seen our Ministry of Health failing, at its first attempt, to do research with men who have sex with men, even loosing the results after the 2005 study and eventually completing one study on MSM prevalence rates. No study within the system has looked deeply enough into how violence and discrimination in the community impact health seeking behaviours while seeking HIV tests. No study have looked at how socio-economic, civil and political rights help to isolate the populations, socially, and promote exclusion institutionally. No study, has looked at couples relationship and its vulnerability to the lack of protection. In simply term, no study has examined the link between lack of protection in the promotion of vulnerability and effects on self-determination.

Outside of this analysis, the system, recognizes that it has challenges and have people working behind the scenes to navigate the environment in dealing with the politics of rights along with the substance. They are open to conduct engagement meetings and provide information in a timely manner to help to facilitate institutional knowledge of the Global Fund project. They are open to consultation and helps to translate social experiences into language that the Global Fund understands in responding to the rights concerns of Key populations.  
Key populations opportunities, is in using information collected to build support, to conduct political prep work outside of the NAC/CCM system with the political directorate that includes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is charged with human rights response. It can do engagement work with diplomats, with international human rights institution and ultimately with the communities affected by discrimination and violence. Additional opportunities, requires key population to collect its own research that it considers important and to circulate that knowledge in reports to the system in small chunks, to blog it for its communities or to archive it to support institutional reviews and academic research.

Furthermore, when we understand the limitation of the NAC/CCM, the policy processes and who are the power brokers, that knowledge, has the ability to shape how reform is advanced in the system. Key populations representatives lack of power,  is not in numbers, but how its scales-up its understanding of  the political environment, conduct strategic engagement, community and political engagement approaches.  In the end, this article, offers the reader only one prospective into advocacy dynamics of the the reform process. The Belize NAC/CCM, while not a perfect system, offers key population the chance to speak in a space that can facilitate a shift in political tone. Sometimes, in any system, it becomes the foundation that helps to shift political tone to substance. Not an impossible task in the advocacy process.




  1. Dear fellow Pride organiser

    Hello. My name is Kate Wildblood and I work as an exhibition curator and campaigner with Brighton & Hove Pride.

    Our 2016 campaigning theme is Carnival Of Diversity – Uniting Nations as we look to highlight the global Pride movement. From the world record-beating festivals and Mardi Gras’ to the fearless marches, events and festivals debuting each year, we want to shine a spotlight on our LGBT global family. We also wish to highlight the groups, NCOs, charities, campaigners and organisations working for LGBT+ equality across the world.

    Part of this year’s Brighton Pride Festival will be a multi-media Uniting Nations exhibition at the city’s amazing Jubilee Library. The exhibition will feature images, oral history and videos from Pride’s across the globe and we would love you to be part of this exciting new project.

    If you would be kind enough to send me your email I can send you further details about he project and how you can get involved.



    Kate Wildblood
    Brighton & Hove Pride
    Curator Uniting Pride The Exhibition


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