Saturday, May 18, 2024

GOB shares the achievements of the Blue Bonds


On January 7th, the Blue Bond and Finance for Permanence Unit (BBDPU) hosted a panel discussion on the two years into implementing the Belize Blue Bonds. The live-streamed event saw members of the Government and other key figures sharing information on the achievements made since the launch of “Belize Blue Bonds: Blue Finance for Nature and People” and future plans.
Narda Garcia, Chief Executive Officer at the Office of the Prime Minister and Investment, delivered the welcome address and recognized the benefits the Belize Blue Bonds have brought to the country. “The Belize Blue Bonds represents a groundbreaking initiative that has not only paved the way for innovative financing but has also demonstrated Belize’s dedication to protecting its marine resources and promoting the resilience of its coastal communities,” said Garcia.
Speaking on behalf of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Julie Robinson, Country Program Director for TNC, emphasized the importance of protecting the world’s marine ecosystems. She applauded Belize for taking the necessary steps to protect and preserve its water for future generations. “The people and organizations of Belize have come together to support the creation of a sustainable future for our country. They can be proud of our tangible progress over the last two years. The work we are doing is critical for lasting change. It is no exaggeration to say that Blue Bonds has had a transformative effect on our economy,” said Robinson. She stated that “the eyes of the world” remain on Belize as this program continues to deliver on its achievements. “I have never been prouder of my country.”
Before the panel discussion began, Prime Minister Honorable John Briceno addressed those in attendance. “We are making two years of achievement. For generations, we have valued our natural beauty. Belizeans all believe that our natural beauty is part of our richest blessings; counted among that is our magnificent Barrier Reef System. Our blue space sustains livelihoods, social stability, and climate security. The Belize Blue Bonds is much more than a deal for debt restructuring. It represents the single most successful initiative by the value of our marine resources and our history of good stewardship,” said the Prime Minister. He added that Belize has benefited over the last two years from the Blue Bonds payment plan that supported the country’s national recovery and has placed GOB in a better position to support social and development programs.
The Belize Blue Bonds was an agreement by TNC and the Government of Belize (GOB) on November 4, 2021. It provided immediate economic relief to Belize with a debt-to-GDP reduction of 12% in exchange for GOB to protect 30% of Belize’s oceans and an estimated USD$180 million towards conservation on the ground over 20 years. The Blue Bonds is “an ambitious plan that aligns with national and international commitments to scale up ocean conservation around the world and address urgent biodiversity losses through improved ocean management.”
The agreement calls on Belize to complete seven milestones by 2029. To date, Belize has delivered on conservation milestones one, two, and three by protecting 20.3% of its total ocean space, designating all existing national lands within the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System as mangrove reserves, and launching the marine spatial planning process for the development of the Belize Sustainable Ocean Plan. GOB achieved Milestone One by gazetteingg1,295.60 km2 of its ocean area in new protection zones. This was in addition to the 5,555.82 km2 ocean area Belize had already designated in protection zones before the Blue Bonds agreements. The third milestone was the launch of the Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in October 2022. The Belize Sustainable Ocean Plan (BSOP) is vital in determining the future direction of coastal management activity and features broad stakeholder involvement.
GOB is completing Milestone Four, which calls for expanding Biodiversity Protection Zones to 25% of Belize’s ocean by November 2024.
The panelists sharing information on Belize’s two-year journey in the Blue Bond Program included the Technical Officer at BBDPU, Belizario Carballo, Blue Economy Director Felicia Cruz, Fisheries Administrator Rigoberto Quintana, Chief Forestry Officer Wilbur Sabido, the Director of BBDPU Beverly Wade, Inter-American Development Bank Group Country Representative in Belize Rocío Medina Bolívar, lead for the “Finance for Permanence” Project Osmany Salas, Senior Technical Officer at BBDPU Saphira Vasque CEO of the Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute Chantalle Clarke-Samuels, Commandant of the Belize Coast Guard Captain Elton Bennett and Executive Director of the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association Valdemar Andrade. After the panel discussion, a question-and-answer segment was held.

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