Last June, ELAW helped partners at the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) publish a guide  to help citizens in Belize participate actively and effectively  in  decision-making processes that impact the local environment.  In other words, if a concerned citizen sees a fancy new beach resort under development, and is curious about what impacts the project will have on the area, the Guide tells them where to start and how to get the information they need. Or if a citizen notices illegal activity, such as the destruction of a mangrove forest or the dredging of a protected lagoon, the Guide gives them agency contacts for reporting illegal activites and tips for holding government agencies accountable for enforcing the law.

The Guide focuses on three laws in Belize that were written to give the public a stronger voice in policy: the Freedom of Information Act, the Ombudsman Act, and the Environmental Protection Act. The Guide also provides sample text for letters, complaints, and press releases.

A main goal of the Guide’s author, long-time ELAW partner and BELPO President Candy Gonzalez, was to design a guide that is accessible to the majority of people in Belize. Candy said she pictured something that was “informative but not intimidating or condescending.” Plus, the Guide is free!

Talk about accessible to the public! You can pick up a Guide from BELPO’s office, or from Candy, or download it from the BELPO homepage.

Since its publication, the Guide has received positive reviews and Candy’s supply is running low – a clear indication of the demand that exists in Belize for this simple, yet effective tool. BELPO worked hard to make this valuable information accessible to the public and decided the only thing left was to have the Guide translated into Spanish.  The Spanish version will soon be printed, as will a second run of the English version.

Congratulations to everyone at BELPO. There is something so satisfying about seeing the product of your hard work being used and achieving tangible results! And congratulations to the citizens of Belize, who have embraced this new tool and shown the rest of of us that public participation is possible and it works!

Lauren Ice
ELAW Office Manager