Spotlight Initiative Belize launches training and mentorship of court officials

July 3, 2021

BELIZE CITY, Belize — The Spotlight Initiative in partnership with the Magistracy launched the Training and Mentorship of Court Officials at the opening of a series of training for magistrates, social, legal and judicial officers at the University of the West Indies Open Campus (UWIOC), Princess Margaret Drive, Belize City. This training seeks to strengthen Court Officials’ involvement in the hearing of matters dealing with children and families. Recognition is in line with the importance of their role as facilitators of justice for children and families and prioritizing support for their engagement to be more effective, to break the cycle of violence within individual households and children’s lives.

The initiative will be delivered through a two-phased approach that includes face to face training sessions for Court Officials and a coaching component for magistrates. Under the supervision of UNICEF and in collaboration with the Magistrate Court and Family Court, University of the West Indies, Open Campus will develop training modules in the following areas: Best interest of the child adjudication; problem-solving principles and practices in the courtroom;  best practices for the interviewing of children; court room management; matters relating to child victims and children in conflict with the law; use of alternative sentencing; and United Nations Framework on international standards of child rights. Over 70 court officials are expected to be trained in this first round. UWIOC will also develop the framework to guide the implementation of a mentorship programme. Mentorship sessions will enable the magistrates to develop further competence, after the core training, using the competence framework. UWI will provide ongoing coaching and mentorship to magistrates including in the areas of best interest sentencing, interviewing children, understanding child protection issues, utilizing the social inquiry reports, assisting unrepresented minors in court.

The Acting Chief Justice of Belize, Hon. Michelle Arana delivered remarks on behalf of the Judiciary. Madame Arana thanked the courts for having the vision to embrace and prioritize this initiative against the backdrop of a global pandemic. “COVID-19 has exacerbated the risk and undermined children’s access to justice. Our Belizean children are our nation’s most important assets and Belizean families expect us to assist them in resolving all manner of disputes. It is, therefore, our responsibility to equip ourselves with the requisite training and skills to enable us to efficiently and effectively ensure that the rights of women, children and families are duly enforced.”

Ricard Bardia, Head of Operations from the European Union Delegation, joined virtually and shared remarks on behalf of the European Union on Spotlight Initiative. He lauded the partnership with the Judiciary as a critical stakeholder and spoke to the need for an all of society approach to ending the cycle of family and gender-based violence.  “The success of the Spotlight Initiative relies on the strong coordination between all stakeholders and actors at all levels to actively engage in dialogues and knowledge sharing. The Spotlight Initiative exists as an all of society approach to ending family and gender-based violence in all its forms. This broad cross-section of actors is necessary to ensure that the most vulnerable are not left behind.”

UNICEF Representative for Belize, Alison Parker, recognized the launch as a milestone in the work of addressing justice for children and commented on the need for standards among those who engage children as victims and alleged perpetrators. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, children around the world, including in Belize, are faced with increased risks of abuse, violence, exploitation and neglect at unprecedented levels. Standardizing how we execute our respective mandates to protect children is an important call. How we interact with and protect them to ensure they have a second chance in life is crucial to the development of our society.”

These sessions will be conducted in collaboration with the University of the West Indies Open Campus Belize. Dr. Sharmayne Saunders, Head of UWI in Belize, spoke about the partnership. “As a regional partner, we are committed to supporting Belize’s development agenda and so we have worked with UNICEF on several initiatives to assist in developing capacities and supporting institutional strengthening for national stakeholders. This particular initiative is timely as our country continues to grapples to address the issues unearthed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it allows us to support the process of  ensuring  children’s access to justice and the overall protection of their rights.”

At the end of the ceremony, the panel toured UWI to observe the inaugural training sessions underway. This initiative will ultimately seek to strengthen the overall workforce to reduce child protection and family violence issues within the country with the principle of “Leaving No One Behind”.


For more information, please contact:
Malenie Barnes
Spotlight Initiative Programme Officer
Phone: (+501) 610-2977

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