Belize is an independent country located on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America comprising 95% mainland and 5% cayes, with a total land area of 22,960 square kilometres (8,865 square miles).
It is bordered by Mexico on the North, Guatemala on the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea on the east.
The Caribbean coast is lined with a coral reef and some 450 islets and islands known locally as cayes (pronounced “keys”). They total about 690 square kilometres (266 sq mi), and form the approximately 320-kilometre (199 mile) long Belize Barrier Reef, the longest in the Western Hemisphere and the second longest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef. Three of the four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere are located off the coast of Belize.
Colonisation, slavery, and immigration have played major roles in affecting the ethnic composition of the population and as a result, Belize is a country with numerous cultures, languages, and ethnic groups. The country’s population is 377,968 (Midyear Estimate 2016 est. SIB)
The Mestizo comprise about 48.7% of the population, Kriol 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garinagu 6.1%, Mennonite 3.6%, East Indian 3.0, Chinese 0.7 and 2.4 other (2000).
Belize has a small, essentially private enterprise economy that is based primarily on agriculture, agro-based industry, and merchandising, with tourism and construction recently assuming greater importance. In 2006, the exploitation of a newly discovered crude oil field near the town of Spanish Lookout, presented new prospects and problems for this developing nation. Sugar, the chief crop, accounts for nearly half of exports, while the banana industry is the country’s largest employer.
The new government faces important challenges to economic stability. Rapid action to improve tax collection has been promised, but a lack of progress in reining in spending could bring the exchange rate under pressure. The tourist and construction sectors strengthened in early 1999, leading to a preliminary estimate of revived growth at 4%. Infrastructure continues to be a major challenge for the economic development of Belize. Belize has the most expensive electricity in the region. Trade is important and the major trading partners are the United States, Mexico, the European Union, and Central America.
Belize still faces some challenges particularly in relation to poverty reduction, employment generation, ensuring access to improved sanitation and the mainstreaming of gender across development planning and programming.
In the past few years the Government of Belize has addressed some of the challenges brought to light by the analysis of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), through innovative projects, programmes and legislation, including the approval of the National Integrated Water Resources Act and the work on the MDGs Acceleration Framework which puts Belize on target to ensure access to potable water.
The“Building Opportunities for Social Transformation Initiative” launched in 2010, the “Quality School Initiative”, and the “Conditional Cash Transfer Programme”, are examples of recent successes in addressing human development. New initiatives and projects, including the BOOST programme, are in progress.
The Belize Scorecard and Outlook Report 2010 presents a comprehensive assessment of how well the country has performed in reaching the Goals, particularly those related to improving maternal health, reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and ensuring access to water.
The Government of Belize has worked and continues to work to secure co-financing at the multi-lateral and bilateral levels for investments in poverty reduction programmes and projects. Since 1996, the Belize Social Investment Fund (BSIF) has responded to the human development needs of the poor and vulnerable to enable every citizen to fully develop, flourish and function to his or her maximum potential. The Fund approves projects and programmes and provides financial and technical assistance to community groups and local government organizations which provide basic services to the most severely affected groups in the country.
Belize has made significant progress in primary education, particularly in relation to net enrolment. Accordingly with 2010 data census figure, the net enrolment has significantly increased reaching 95 per cent in 2011.
Belize has made some progress towards promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. The literacy rate of 15-24 years old increased from 70.3 per cent in 1992 to 94.7 per cent in 2006, surpassing the literacy target of 90.6 per cent for 2009. The proportion of women employed in the non-agricultural sector has increased from 38.7 per cent in 1995 to 41.7 per cent in 2007, signaling the opening up of labour markets to women. The Labour Amendment Act No. 3, approved in 2011, grants for the equitable treatment of women in the labour force.
The country is making very good progress towards reducing child mortality. It has already met the target of reducing the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015, and aims to further improve it. The country has made qualitative progress in improving maternal health and succeeded in bringing to zero the number of maternal deaths in 2011. Also, it made remarkable progress in reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.
Significant strides have been made in the stewardship of Belize's natural resources to ensure that it continues to be the source of economic growth and social progress. Success has also been experienced in bringing clean water to multiple communities and in increasing the share of population benefitting from an improved water source.
Developing Global Partnerships, MDG8,was born out of the recognition that for countries like Belize to achieve the rest of the Goals, an international environment which is conducive to their attainment must be sought and sustained. Developing global partnerships is an active endeavour of the Government of Belize and details of the various initiatives can be seen on this website.