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Taiwan’s soft power helps Belize City rejuvenate its old Downtown

Taiwan’s soft power helps Belize City rejuvenate its old Downtown

Secretary General of the TaiwanICDF, Amb. Timothy T. Y. Hsiang, was invited to an opening ceremony held on June 29 for the new Yarborough basketball court, one of the physical components of the Belize City House of Culture and Downtown Rejuvenation Project (Project) implemented jointly by the International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF) and the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoTCA) of Belize. A large audience from the local community was present at the event, as were Mr. Yashin Dijon, CEO of the MoTCA, Ms. Tracy Taegar Panton, minister of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade, and Commerce, and Ms. Joan Tillett, principal of Wesley College.

Yarborough Green is one of the few public spaces in the old Downtown area of Belize City where citizens can enjoy leisure activities, but it had been poorly maintained for years. Recognizing this area, which extends to the south of the House of Culture and encompasses the Yarborough Green and the historical Yarborough Cemetery, as an important living space for the locals, the project components include physical improvement to the Yarborough Green. The new basketball court is one such component, designed so that citizens and students of the nearby Wesley College can play sports even in bad weather. To support the Project, some local elites donated new basketballs and sports equipment at the opening ceremony.

“Years ago, we sent a participant to a TaiwanICDF workshop on community development,” said Ms. Panton in the opening speech. “The person came back to Belize City with a dream to help promote the Project. Thanks to the TaiwanICDF loan and technical advice from the Taiwanese experts, the project sites are one by one coming to realization.”

The Project is the first community development project in Belize in which Taiwanese experience played a key role since concept formation. To rejuvenate the old Downtown of Belize City, government officials and local residents have been working together with Taiwanese experts with the vision to turn this area into an eco-museum. The cultural heritage sites and historical buildings to be restored or reconstructed include colonial icons such as the Government House and St. John’s Cathedral, both of which are more than 200 years old. Meanwhile, public space will be improved for local residents to enjoy a better living environment. The Project emphasizes community participation through activities such as percussion summer camps, history competitions for middle school students and oral history training, with an aim to cultivate among citizens a sense of identity and the importance to preserve local cultural heritage.

With its expected impact on inclusive and sustainable tourism, a key element in the UN Sustainable Development Goal 11, the Project was chosen and showcased by the Technical University of Berlin as a case study at the 9th World Urban Forum held in Kuala Lumpur this February. The lecturer shared with participants from both the public and private sectors in urban development and cultural tourism the value of Taiwan’s soft power in helping its partner country achieve development goals.

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  • Date:2018/8/3