L-R: His Excellency Charles Liu (Ambassador Republic of China (Taiwan), Darrel Bradley (Mayor, Belize City), Carolyn Trench Sandiford (Co-Convener of the Caribbean Association of Planners and President of the Belize Association of Planners), Dr. Cassandra Rogers (Country Representative, Inter-American Development Bank), Dr. Asad Mohammed (Director of the Caribbean Network for Urban and Land Management), and Eleanor Mohammed (President, Canadian Institute of Planners) and Sohel Rana (UN-Habitat).

Unbelizable -The only word which could describe the success of this year’s Caribbean Urban Forum in Belize. The event, held at the Radisson Hotel in Belize City between 17th -19th May 2017.

The welcoming address at the Opening Ceremony was delivered by the Mayor of Belize City, Darrel Bradley. There were 37 presentations and six panel discussions advancing issues of Green Energy, Green Space and Green Economy in the Caribbean region.

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Developing the Green economy is particularly important in Belize as the country is blessed with high biodiversity in its extensive forest and coral reef (the second largest coral reef in the world). Presentations were centered on local economic development and community engagement practices. Green Energy in the Caribbean focuses mainly on developing substitutes such as solar and wind, however, there is increasing appreciation on the need to utilize energy more efficiently especially in the transportation industry. Green energy presentations focused on issues relating to green buildings and energy efficiency. The bulk of the presentation concerned Green Space given that the bulk of the participants are actively involved in aspects of land use planning. Issue of classification of urban spaces, impacts of increasing densities, urban rehabilitation and community renewal, and climate change issues.

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Sohel Rana (UN-Habitat) in short training course on public space assessment and planning. Photo: Belize Association of Planners©

There were several unique presentations on creating cement from sea water, practical engineering solutions for controlling flooding and the usefulness of plants in urban areas. Indigenous issues were also highlighted as one presentation looked teaching the younger generation how to create milpas, a diverse cropping system used extensively in Mesoamerica. Panel discussions also addressed issues such as Cities, Coastal Adaptation, and Climate Change; Challenges to Low-Income Housing and Neighborhood Upgrading; and Inequality, Sprawl and Urban Sustainability.

Of great significance was the formation of a working group to develop and implementation plan for the new urban Agenda of UN-Habitat launched in 2016 and the hosting of a Mayors Forum bringing together municipal leaders from several Caribbean and Latin American countries to discuss issues of mutual interest.

The CUFs are not all work and no play. Participants at the Cultural night were treated to Garifuna drumming and musical performances. An Expo held at the same spot by the Mayor of Belize was part of of the CUF’s public engagement thrust and encouraged citizens to learn more about the urban sector.

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Belizean handicraft at the Expo. Photo: Perry Polar©

Tours were both fun and educational. The City Tour explored Belize City by tour via tourist train while the Water Tour featured “swimming with sharks. The Metro Tour, later called the “beer and shrimp tour” saw a visit to the Belize Brewery company which produces the local Belikin beer and to Captin Hooks’ Bar and Grill an ecologically sensitive shrimp farm/ crocodile sanctuary.

Work is continuing as a production of another book from the CUF is in the works and planning for the next conference has begun.

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