Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Belize

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Belize, 16 July 2009, available at: [accessed 22 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Transnational cooperation

Belize is the most culturally diverse nation in Central America and the approximately 300,000 person population considers itself to be both Caribbean and Central American. There are four main indigenous groups in Belize, namely the Kekchi Maya, Mopan, Yucatec, and the African descendant Garífuna (Garinagu), who retain their own language and indigenous African Carib culture.

One of the main constraints to indigenous self-realization in Belize has been the critical lack of trained indigenous Belizeans to participate in the development of joint ventures and projects. This prompted the establishment of a centre to meet the specific training requirements of indigenous peoples.

Belize Indigenous Training Institute (BITI), which began operations in 2008, is a ground-breaking indigenous cooperative educational project that marks the first time that the country's indigenous peoples (Mayan and Kalinago-Garífuna) have cooperated on a project as 'indigenous Belizeans'. It is also an example of the strong transnational nature of the indigenous rights movement in the Americas.

BITI is a unique alliance between the indigenous peoples of Belize and the Inuit of Canada, represented by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) and Unaaq, an Inuit-owned firm. Over the course of two years the Inuit provided planning and facilitation services, and helped to implement a comprehensive project plan and communication strategy for BITI.

The experience in indigenous community-based practical training gained in the Arctic was used in the Belize education project. This included organizing consultation meetings in Maya and Garífuna village community centres and government offices throughout Belize to obtain information on training needs and indigenous community priorities, and to demonstrate that the institute would rely on the communities for governance and direction.

BITI will deliver programmes in Kekchi, Mopan and Garífuna (African Indigenous) communities. This includes a range of services, among them the design and production of culturally appropriate training materials and the administration of local and remote training programmes and facilities.

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