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Jun 26, 2018

Guatemalans Respond to the Delisting Saying the Reef System is under Dispute

Patrick Faber

Taking in the announcement, Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber reminded the international community that Belize’s ecosystems are under attack due to continued incursions, including illegal fishing and the pillaging of the forests by Guatemalans.  As soon as the DPM concluded his statement, the Guatemalan head of delegation raised his flag to counter the statement by Faber. The Guatemalan response was that despite the good news of the delisting, the barrier reef system is disputed territory and his government’s hope was that the World Heritage Committee will continue to safeguard world heritage and not engage in discussions of sovereignty. Here’s how that went down in Bahrain.

 

Patrick Faber, Deputy Prime Minister

“I would also like to take this opportunity to also highlight the threats, challenges, if you will that Belize currently faces in its efforts to maintain the value of our natural resources. While we have made great strides to address those that are local, Belize’s natural resources, both terrestrial and marine are constantly being pillaged by incursions from our neighboring countries. We call on the support of the international community and partners to assist us in our efforts.”

 

Guatemalan Representative, WHC Meeting

“We wanted to say that the Government of Guatemala – and would like this to go down on the records of the World Heritage Committee – bearing in mind the lofty goals of this convention, whenever corrective measures are taken and the withdrawal of a property off the in danger list is a positive. And Guatemala would like to highlight that the barrier reef reserve system is of great value and yet there is a disputed territory between the state party in concern and Guatemala, concerning this and access to this space. Guatemala feels that all effort should be taken to preserve this jewel of natural heritage and we think that it really is of the utmost importance that the site be preserved. The dispute at hand goes back nearly two hundred years but the dispute currently goes back to about 1930 between the countries claiming sovereignty at the time. Over the 19th Century and the 20th Century, many attempts at reconciling the state party have been undertaken but none of them has so far resolved this. The United Kingdom believes that 1981 heralds the start of the independence of Belize. And many international efforts have been undertaken to resolve this. In 1991 we re-established diplomatic relations but never renounced territorial claims on this area. In 1992 there was a joint declaration where joint state parties recognized that the external boundaries had not yet clearly been decided. In 1994, the Secretary General of the UN was notified of our position on this. In 2002, 2003, 2005, further attempts were made and finally in 2008 both governments issued a special agreement in which the island and maritime boundaries were given a special status. On the fifteenth of April 2018, the Guatemalan Government renewed initiatives to resolve the crisis but unfortunately because of the continued existence of this territorial dispute, we can only exert the international community to do everything possible to resolve this situation. We do hope that the World Heritage Convention will continue to safeguard world heritage and not engage in discussions of sovereignty. But we do hope that the existence of this territorial dispute between both countries will be duly noted and we do think that it is important that it goes down on the records.”

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