Chetumal Bay lies on the border between Mexico and Belize. To the east of the bay, Ambergris Cay (in Belize) connects the Belize Barrier Reef to the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico). The north of the island is Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve. Here, the barrier reef comes very close to the east side of the island. Image courtesy of NASA.
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Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1862. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992 and the two countries are involved in an ongoing border dispute. Both nations have voted to send the dispute for final resolution to the International Court of Justice. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Current concerns include the country's heavy foreign debt burden, high crime rates, high unemployment combined with a majority youth population, growing involvement in the Mexican and South American drug trade, and one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Central America.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.



Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico

Geographic coordinates

17 15 N, 88 45 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean


total: 22,966 sq km

land: 22,806 sq km

water: 160 sq km

country comparison to the world: 151

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Massachusetts

Land boundaries

total: 542 km

border countries (2): Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 276 km


386 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm in the north, 3 nm in the south; note - from the mouth of the Sarstoon River to Ranguana Cay, Belize's territorial sea is 3 nm; according to Belize's Maritime Areas Act, 1992, the purpose of this limitation is to provide a framework for negotiating a definitive agreement on territorial differences with Guatemala

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)


flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south


highest point: Doyle's Delight 1,124 m

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

mean elevation: 173 m

Natural resources

arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 6.9% (2018 est.)

arable land: 3.3% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.4% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 2.2% (2018 est.)

forest: 60.6% (2018 est.)

other: 32.5% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

35 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

approximately 25% to 30% of the population lives in the former capital, Belize City; over half of the overall population is rural; population density is slightly higher in the north and east

Natural hazards

frequent, devastating hurricanes (June to November) and coastal flooding (especially in south)

Geography - note

only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean

People and Society


noun: Belizean(s)

adjective: Belizean

Ethnic groups

Mestizo 52.9%, Creole 25.9%, Maya 11.3%, Garifuna 6.1%, East Indian 3.9%, Mennonite 3.6%, White 1.2%, Asian 1%, other 1.2%, unknown 0.3% (2010 est.)

note: percentages add up to more than 100% because respondents were able to identify more than one ethnic origin


English 62.9% (official), Spanish 56.6%, Creole 44.6%, Maya 10.5%, German 3.2%, Garifuna 2.9%, other 1.8%, unknown 0.3%, none 0.2% (cannot speak); note - shares sum to more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one answer on the census (2010 est.)

major-language sample(s):
The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information. (English)

La Libreta Informativa del Mundo, la fuente indispensable de información básica. (Spanish)

Spanish audio sample:


Roman Catholic 40.1%, Protestant 31.5% (includes Pentecostal 8.4%, Seventh Day Adventist 5.4%, Anglican 4.7%, Mennonite 3.7%, Baptist 3.6%, Methodist 2.9%, Nazarene 2.8%), Jehovah's Witness 1.7%, other 10.5% (includes Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, Church of Jesus Christ, Muslim, Rastafarian, Salvation Army), unspecified 0.6%, none 15.5% (2010 est.)

Demographic profile

Migration continues to transform Belize's population. About 16% of Belizeans live abroad, while immigrants constitute approximately 15% of Belize's population. Belizeans seeking job and educational opportunities have preferred to emigrate to the United States rather than former colonizer Great Britain because of the United States' closer proximity and stronger trade ties with Belize. Belizeans also emigrate to Canada, Mexico, and English-speaking Caribbean countries. The emigration of a large share of Creoles (Afro-Belizeans) and the influx of Central American immigrants, mainly Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans, has changed Belize's ethnic composition. Mestizos have become the largest ethnic group, and Belize now has more native Spanish speakers than English or Creole speakers, despite English being the official language. In addition, Central American immigrants are establishing new communities in rural areas, which contrasts with the urbanization trend seen in neighboring countries. Recently, Chinese, European, and North American immigrants have become more frequent.

Immigration accounts for an increasing share of Belize's population growth rate, which is steadily falling due to fertility decline. Belize's declining birth rate and its increased life expectancy are creating an aging population. As the elderly population grows and nuclear families replace extended households, Belize's government will be challenged to balance a rising demand for pensions, social services, and healthcare for its senior citizens with the need to reduce poverty and social inequality and to improve sanitation.

Age structure

0-14 years: 32.57% (male 66,454/female 63,700)

15-24 years: 19% (male 39,238/female 36,683)

25-54 years: 37.72% (male 73,440/female 77,300)

55-64 years: 6.18% (male 12,235/female 12,444)

65 years and over: 4.53% (male 8,781/female 9,323) (2020 est.)

This is the population pyramid for Belize. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends. <br/><br/>For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 52

youth dependency ratio: 44.4

elderly dependency ratio: 7.6

potential support ratio: 13.1 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 23.9 years

male: 23 years

female: 24.8 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 172

Birth rate

21.62 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 65

Death rate

3.99 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 213

Net migration rate

-0.98 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 143

Population distribution

approximately 25% to 30% of the population lives in the former capital, Belize City; over half of the overall population is rural; population density is slightly higher in the north and east


urban population: 46.2% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 2.3% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

23,000 BELMOPAN (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.07 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.95 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.94 male(s)/female

total population: 1 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality ratio

36 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 104

Infant mortality rate

total: 11.4 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 12.64 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 10.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 129

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 75.56 years

male: 73.96 years

female: 77.24 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 118

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 98.6% of population

total: 99.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 1.4% of population

total: 0.8% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

1.12 physicians/1,000 population (2017)

Hospital bed density

1 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 98.8% of population

rural: 95.3% of population

total: 96.9% of population

unimproved: urban: 1.2% of population

rural: 4.7% of population

total: 3.1% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

<200 (2020 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years

male: 13 years

female: 13 years (2020)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 19.3%

male: 12.7%

female: 28.5% (2019 est.)


Environment - current issues

deforestation; water pollution, including pollution of Belize's Barrier Reef System, from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff; inability to properly dispose of solid waste

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 21.23 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 0.57 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 0.55 megatons (2020 est.)


tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)

Land use

agricultural land: 6.9% (2018 est.)

arable land: 3.3% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.4% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 2.2% (2018 est.)

forest: 60.6% (2018 est.)

other: 32.5% (2018 est.)


urban population: 46.2% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 2.3% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 66

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 101,379 tons (2015 est.)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 11.4 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 21.2 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 68.4 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

21.734 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Belize

former: British Honduras

etymology: may be named for the Belize River, whose name possibly derives from the Maya word "belix," meaning "muddy-watered"

Government type

parliamentary democracy (National Assembly) under a constitutional monarchy; a Commonwealth realm


name: Belmopan

geographic coordinates: 17 15 N, 88 46 W

time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the decision to move the capital of the country inland to higher and more stable land was made in the 1960s; the name chosen for the new city was formed from the union of two words: "Belize," the name of the longest river in the country, and "Mopan," one of the rivers in the area of the new capital that empties into the Belize River

Administrative divisions

6 districts; Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, Toledo


21 September 1981 (from the UK)

National holiday

Battle of St. George's Caye Day (National Day), 10 September (1798); Independence Day, 21 September (1981)


history: previous 1954, 1963 (preindependence); latest signed and entered into force 21 September 1981

amendments: proposed and adopted by two-thirds majority vote of the National Assembly House of Representatives except for amendments relating to rights and freedoms, changes to the Assembly, and to elections and judiciary matters, which require at least three-quarters majority vote of the House; both types of amendments require assent of the governor general; amended several times, last in 2017

Legal system

English common law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent only: yes

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor Froyla TZALAM (since 27 May 2021)

head of government: Prime Minister Juan Antonio BRICENO (since 12 November 2020); Deputy Prime Minister Cordel HYDE (since 16 November 2020)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister from among members of the National Assembly

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister

Legislative branch

description: bicameral National Assembly consists of:
Senate (14 seats, including the president); members appointed by the governor general - 6 on the advice of the prime minister, 3 on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and 1 each on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Better Business Bureau, non-governmental organizations in good standing, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee; Senate president elected from among the Senate members or from outside the Senate; members serve 5-year terms
House of Representatives (31 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 5-year terms)

Senate -  last appointed 11 November 2020 (next appointments in November 2025)
House of Representatives - last held on 11 November 2020 (next to be held in November 2025)

election results: Senate - all members appointed; composition - men 9, women 5, percent of women 35.7%
House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - PUP 59.6%, UDP 38.8%, other 1.6%; seats by party - PUP 26, UDP 5; composition -  men 27, women 4, percent of women 12.9%; note - total percent of women in the National Assembly 20%


Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court of Judicature (consists of the Court of Appeal with the court president and 3 justices, and the Supreme Court with the chief justice and 10 justices); note - in 2010, Belize acceded to the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court of appeal, replacing that of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London

judge selection and term of office: Court of Appeal president and justices appointed by the governor-general upon advice of the prime minister after consultation with the National Assembly opposition leader; justices' tenures vary by terms of appointment; Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the governor-general upon the advice of the prime minister and the National Assembly opposition leader; other judges appointed by the governor-general upon the advice of the Judicial and Legal Services Section of the Public Services Commission and with the concurrence of the prime minister after consultation with the National Assembly opposition leader; judges can be appointed beyond age 65 but must retire by age 75; in 2013, the Supreme Court chief justice overturned a constitutional amendment that had restricted Court of Appeal judge appointments to as short as 1 year

subordinate courts: Magistrates' Courts; Family Court

Political parties and leaders

Belize Progressive Party or BPP [Patrick ROGERS] (formed in 2015 from a merger of the People's National Party, elements of the Vision Inspired by the People, and other smaller political groups)
People's United Party or PUP [Johnny BRICENO]
United Democratic Party or UDP [Dean Oliver BARROW]
Vision Inspired by the People or VIP [Hubert ENRIQUEZ]

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Lynn Raymond YOUNG (since 7 July 2021)

chancery: 2535 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008-2826

telephone: [1] (202) 332-9636

FAX: [1] (202) 332-6888

email address and website:

consulate(s) general: Los Angeles, New York (consular services temporarily suspended beginning 18 December 2020)

consulate(s): Miami

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d’Affaires Leyla MOSES-ONES(since August 2021)

embassy: Floral Park Road, Belmopan, Cayo

mailing address: 3050 Belmopan Place, Washington DC  20521-3050

telephone: (501) 822-4011

FAX: (501) 822-4012

email address and website:

Flag description

royal blue with a narrow red stripe along the top and the bottom edges; centered is a large white disk bearing the coat of arms; the coat of arms features a shield flanked by two workers in front of a mahogany tree with the related motto SUB UMBRA FLOREO (I Flourish in the Shade) on a scroll at the bottom, all encircled by a green garland of 50 mahogany leaves; the colors are those of the two main political parties: blue for the PUP and red for the UDP; various elements of the coat of arms - the figures, the tools, the mahogany tree, and the garland of leaves - recall the logging industry that led to British settlement of Belize

note: Belize's flag is the only national flag that depicts human beings; two British overseas territories, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands, also depict humans

National symbol(s)

Baird's tapir (a large, browsing, forest-dwelling mammal), keel-billed toucan, Black Orchid; national colors: red, blue

National anthem

name: Land of the Free

lyrics/music: Samuel Alfred HAYNES/Selwyn Walford YOUNG

note: adopted 1981; as a Commonwealth country, in addition to the national anthem, "God Save the Queen" serves as the royal anthem (see United Kingdom)


Economic overview

Tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner in this small economy, followed by exports of sugar, bananas, citrus, marine products, and crude oil.

The government's expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, initiated in September 1998, led to GDP growth averaging nearly 4% in 1999-2007, but GPD growth has averaged only 2.1% from 2007-2016, with 2.5% growth estimated for 2017. Belize’s dependence on energy imports makes it susceptible to energy price shocks.

Although Belize has the third highest per capita income in Central America, the average income figure masks a huge income disparity between rich and poor, and a key government objective remains reducing poverty and inequality with the help of international donors. High unemployment, a growing trade deficit and heavy foreign debt burden continue to be major concerns. Belize faces continued pressure from rising sovereign debt, and a growing trade imbalance.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$2.43 billion note: data are in 2017 dollars (2020 est.)

$2.83 billion note: data are in 2017 dollars (2019 est.)

$2.78 billion note: data are in 2017 dollars (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 191

Real GDP growth rate

0.8% (2017 est.)

-0.5% (2016 est.)

3.8% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 176

Real GDP per capita

$6,100 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2020 est.)

$7,300 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2019 est.)

$7,300 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 162

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1.854 billion (2017 est.)

Credit ratings

Moody's rating: Caa3 (2020)

Standard & Poors rating: CCC+ (2020)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 10.3% (2017 est.)

industry: 21.6% (2017 est.)

services: 68% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 75.1% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 15.2% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 22.5% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 1.2% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 49.1% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -63.2% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

sugar care, oranges, bananas, maize, poultry, rice, sorghum, papayas, grapefruit, soybeans


garment production, food processing, tourism, construction, oil

Labor force

120,500 (2008 est.)

note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel

country comparison to the world: 179

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 10.2%

industry: 18.1%

services: 71.7% (2007 est.)


revenues: 553.5 million (2017 est.)

expenditures: 572 million (2017 est.)

Public debt

99% of GDP (2017 est.)

95.9% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 17

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Current account balance

-$143 million (2017 est.)

-$163 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 92


$710 million note: data are in current year dollars (2020 est.)

$1.1 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2019 est.)

$1.07 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 186

Exports - partners

United Kingdom 27%, United States 24%, Spain 6%, Jamaica 5%, Ireland 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

raw sugar, bananas, fruit juice, fish products, crude petroleum (2019)


$900 million note: data are in current year dollars (2020 est.)

$1.2 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2019 est.)

$1.16 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 193

Imports - partners

United States 36%, China 13%, Mexico 12%, Guatemala 10% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, cigarettes, recreational boats, natural gas, cars (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$312.1 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$376.7 million (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 167

Debt - external

$1.315 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$1.338 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 162

Exchange rates

Belizean dollars (BZD) per US dollar -

2 (2017 est.)

2 (2016 est.)

2 (2015 est.)

2 (2014 est.)

2 (2013 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 19.3%

male: 12.7%

female: 28.5% (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 82


Electricity access

electrification - total population: 99.5% (2018)

electrification - urban areas: 98.2% (2018)

electrification - rural areas: 100% (2018)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 18,500 (2019)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 4.74 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 177

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 254,919 (2019)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 65.3 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 181

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: Belize’s fixed-line tele-density and mobile penetration is lower than average for the region, due to insufficient competition, underinvestment in services, and lax standards; mobile accounts for 90% of all phones; operator aims to provide cheaper prices and customer retention through investment in broadband to over 80% of premises and LTE infrastructure; operator launched safe cities project to fight crime; government distributed tablets to students to promote e-learning; submarine cable to Ambergris Caye enables FttP service in San Pedro; importer of broadcast equipment from the United States (2020)

domestic: 5 per 100 fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity approaching 65 per 100 persons; mobile sector accounting for over 90% of all phone subscriptions (2019)

international: country code - 501; landing points for the ARCOS and SEUL fiber-optic telecommunications submarine cable that provides links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; satellite earth station - 8 (Intelsat - 2, unknown - 6) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

8 privately owned TV stations; multi-channel cable TV provides access to foreign stations; about 25 radio stations broadcasting on roughly 50 different frequencies; state-run radio was privatized in 1998 (2019)

Internet users

total: 188,900 (2021 est.)

percent of population: 47.08% (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 179

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 29,600 (2019)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 7.58 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 151


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 28

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 1,297,533 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 3.78 million mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 6

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 2

under 914 m: 3 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 41

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 11

under 914 m: 29 (2013)


total: 3,281 km (2017)

paved: 601 km (2017)

unpaved: 2,680 km (2017)

country comparison to the world: 160


825 km (navigable only by small craft) (2011)

country comparison to the world: 70

Merchant marine

total: 813

by type: bulk carrier 54, container ship 1, general cargo 428, oil tanker 70, other 260 (2021)

country comparison to the world: 29

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Belize City, Big Creek

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Belize Defense Force (BDF): Army, Air Wing; Belize Coast Guard (independent from the BDF, but under the Ministry of Defense) (2021)

Military expenditures

1.5% of GDP (2020 est.)

1.2% of GDP (2019)

1.2% of GDP (2018)

1.3% of GDP (2017)

1.3% of GDP (2016)

country comparison to the world: 85

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Belize Defense Force (BDF) has approximately 1,300 active personnel; approximately 300 Belize Coast Guard (2021)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the BDF's inventory is limited and consists mostly of UK- and US-origin equipment (2021)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service; laws allow for conscription only if volunteers are insufficient; conscription has never been implemented; volunteers typically outnumber available positions by 3:1; initial service obligation 12 years (2021)

Military - note

the BDF was established in 1978 from the disbanded Police Special Force and the Belize Volunteer Guard to assist the resident British forces with the defense of Belize against Guatemala; the BDF traces its history back to the Prince Regent Royal Honduras Militia, a volunteer force established in 1817

the British Army has maintained a presence in Belize since its independence; as of 2021, the presence consisted of a small training support unit that provides jungle training to troops from the UK and international partners

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Guatemala persists in its territorial claim to approximately half of Belize, but agrees to the Line of Adjacency to keep Guatemalan squatters out of Belize's forested interior; both countries agreed in April 2012 to hold simultaneous referenda, scheduled for 6 October 2013, to decide whether to refer the dispute to the ICJ for binding resolution, but this vote was suspended indefinitely; Belize and Mexico are working to solve minor border demarcation discrepancies arising from inaccuracies in the 1898 border treaty

Trafficking in persons

current situation: human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims and Belizeans abroad; Belizean and foreign women, men, and girls and LGBTI persons, mainly from Central America, are sex trafficked in bars, nightclubs, hotels, and brothels; men, women, and children from Central America, Mexico, and Asia may migrate voluntarily to Belize seeking work and then are subjected to forced labor in restaurants, shops, domestic work, and agriculture; foreign child sex tourists exploit children in tourist areas

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List — Belize does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so; authorities initiated more trafficking investigations, convicted a trafficker, screened for potential trafficking victims during labor inspections, and continued to implement a 2018-2020 national anti-trafficking action plan; anti-trafficking training was provided to the anti-trafficking police unit, immigration officers, prosecutors, judges, prison officials, and social workers; however, the government did not initiate any new trafficking prosecutions and continued to apply victim identification procedures inconsistently; corruption and official complicity in trafficking remained concerns, but no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees were reported (2020)

Illicit drugs

Belize is a transit country for illegal drugs, mainly cocaine, originating from countries in South America; low domestic drug consumption problem outside of recreational cannabis