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Mar 31, 2016

A National Cultural Policy is Unveiled in Belize City

The national culture policy took five years to formulate. It was launched today at the Biltmore Plaza at an event attended by stakeholders from across the country. At the centre of the policy is the diversity of the Belizean ethnicity and how their values and richness will propel their economic development. But on the heels of a much debated 2016/2017 budget, is there an allotment for the preservation and promotion of Belizean culture in the months ahead?  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The National Cultural Policy, a course of action that has been outlined for the next ten years, has been long in the making.  The product of a series of consultations with artists, intellectuals, laymen and other stakeholders, the strategy delineates the way forward for the development and promotion of the Belizean culture.


John Morris

Dr. John Morris, Director, Institute of Archaeology

“About five years ago, the president of NICH asked me and Mr. Nigel Encalada who is the Director of the Institute of Social and Cultural Research if we could work towards developing a national cultural policy because there were many questions about the cultures of Belize and we needed some guiding principles that could help us chart the way forward.  There was a strategic planning session and what came out of that planning session is that Belize needs a National Cultural Policy just like you have an educational policy or an agricultural policy.  You need a policy for culture.”


The document which was launched today, aims to preserve Belize’s rich cultural heritage.  Open discussions were held with Belizeans across the country, in order to develop an understanding of cultural dynamics and to expand on the policy framework that merges culture as a spark for the social and economic development of our country.


Diane Haylock

Diane Haylock, President, NICH

“With the active participation of the directors of the different organs of NICH, the President of NICH and representatives of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, including the minister at times, nationwide consultations were held in every district, as well as working sessions with key special interest and stakeholder groups and organizations that reconfirmed much that was said before and put forth critical new elements for inclusion in the policy.  Acknowledging the importance of ICT, Information Communication Technology in reaching another cross-section of stakeholders a web-based survey and a paper version of it was also developed and put on the NICH website to garner information on key cultural issues.”


While great effort has been placed into formulating this policy, the most pertinent question is how these newfound guidelines translate into everyday life.


John Morris

“Everything in this document literally comes from the people who are on the streets, the people who live Belizean culture and so we simply just put their words on paper.  And so now it is the duty, I think, of the Government of Belize.  It is the responsibility of NICH and other agencies to take this document and to say look we need to implement a number of these policies that are enshrined in here because this is what the people were saying.  This is what the people want.  In terms of a musician, a musician needs assistance to develop their creativity, develop their capacities.  How do you do that?  Well you need to create funds to help them, you need to pass legislations that will allow them to import the materials that they need.”


Minister of State for Youth and Culture, Elodio Aragon Jr. touched on the cultural bill of rights which speaks to our freedom to participate and make decisions as it pertains to cultural expression.


Elodio Aragon Jr.

Elodio Aragon Jr., Minister of Youth & Culture

“A cornerstone of this policy is the cultural bill of rights.  Our right to participation and decision making, our right to cultural expression, our right to formal and informal education about our culture, as well as our right to social and economic benefits derived from culture.  So, as we honor the intrinsic values that make us unique, we see it as imperative that we promote economic prosperity for all of our children, for our youths, men and women whose multiple talents contribute to sustainable development.  This National Cultural Policy is therefore holistic, relevant and multi-dimensional.  It is intended to foster a greater sense of unity, diversity and nationalism among all of us.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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