British settlers arrived in what was then Belize at the end of the seventeenth century. They found a logwood export business and it thrived. After Guatemala broke away from the United Provinces of Central America in 1838, it claimed British Honduras as an inheritance from Spain. A treaty recognizing Belize’s territoriality was signed between Guatemala and Britain in 1860. British Honduras became a colony of Britain in 1862. British Honduras attained self-government in 1964.
Belize’s road to membership in the United Nations was made difficult by a territorial dispute with its neighbor, Guatemala. The dispute has manifested itself in various incarnations and continues even after a peace agreement in Guatemala after many years of civil war.
Belize started actively seeking independence in 1975, tabling a resolution at the United Nations. Support for Belize’s independence efforts came slowly but surely until Guatemala stood alone. A Security Council- resolution recommending Belize’s admission to the United Nations and a General Assembly resolution admitting Belize to membership in the United Nations were adopted in 1981.
Belize got independence from the United Kingdom on 21 September 1981 and became a member of the United Nations four days later on 25 September 1981.
The population of approximately 321,115 people consists of a mixture of Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo, Spanish, Maya, English, Mennonite, Lebanese, Chinese, and Eastern Indian.
English is the official language of Belize, although Spanish, Creole, Garifuna, and Mayan are widely spoken throughout the country.
Belize’s form of government is a parliamentary democracy with a written constitution. The power of government is legislative, executive, and judiciary. The legislative power is the 37-member National Assembly, the executive power is the 13-member Cabinet, and the power of the judiciary is the Chief Justice and the Puisne Judges.
The Foreign Service
Belize has a relatively small foreign service. The foreign service consists of nine posts – Cuba, London, New York, Brussels, Washington, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Taiwan. Each post functions with at least two diplomats.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belize is headed by a Chief Executive Officer and the work of the Ministry is implemented through four directorates: Policy, Consular and Protocol, Treaties and Legal Affairs, Administrative and Budgetary Control. The Policy, Consular and Protocol Directorates are formed up by a cadre of Foreign Service professionals who are assigned responsibilities either on a geographic or thematic basis as appropriate. Administration and budget management are conducted by the General Services Unit headed by an Administrative Officer and a Finance Officer respectively.
Heads of Mission (Ambassadors, Consul-Generals, Permanent Representatives, High Commissioners), report to and receive direction from the Ministry through the Chief Executive Officer and Directorates. In most cases, their thematic or geographic issues are responded to by Foreign Service Officers and clerical and support staff at Headquarters.
The current process of the Belize/Guatemala Territorial Differendum necessitated the establishment of the Secretariat on Relations with Guatemala. This Secretariat is housed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is charged with servicing and supporting the requirements of related entities such as the Advisory Council on the Guatemala Claim, the Negotiating Team and the Belize Side of the Joint Belize/Guatemala Commission the latter being tasked with implementation of Confidence Building Measures.