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Demographics and Population Control!

December 08
14:04 2019

Demographics and Population Control!

“While the role of population in world affairs may seem self-evident, it’s relevance to state power and national security is often far from obvious.”

–Nicholas Eberstadt, Population Change and National Security, Foreign Affairs Magazine, 1981

The Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States posits that the state as a person of international law should possess four qualifications; (1) a permanent population; (2) a defined territory; (3) a government; and (4) the capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

Of these four things, it is the permanent population (people) that is the most important. This is so because it is people who establish states and thus it is people who exercise influence over the other three qualifications.

Belize has not been paying enough attention to its population and we are now beginning to feel the effects of our neglect. Since 1981, Belize’s birth rate has seen a sustained decline and the government of Belize has not done anything to address the issue. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) asserts that the government of Belize has made no policy intervention regarding population growth or the level of fertility of Belizean women.

According to the United Nations, in 1981 Belize had 41 births per 1,000 of population but in only 37 years (2018) our birth rate has declined by almost half to just 21 births per 1,000 of population. If that is not bad enough, the projections are that our birth rate will decline even further to a mere 9 births per 1,000 of population by the end of this century.

Just four years after our independence, the concept of “planned parenthood” entered our lexicon when in 1985 there emerged the Belize Family Life Association. The BFLA’s website states that the impetus for the creation of the BFLA was the concern “about the incidence of teen pregnancy and the overall quality of family life in Dangriga.”

However, just two months after formation, the BFLA joined the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation which was created in 1971 to represent the Caribbean family planning associations at the Councils of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

The IPPF has a chequered history and its motives remain under sustained scrutiny across the globe to this day. The BFLA on the other hand has been a worthy partner in Belize’s development for the most part, save for its abortion services, which might be a central feature in its “planned parenthood” matrix.

Belize is a country rich in natural resources and it is not inconceivable that larger more powerful nations would set out to influence the demographics of Belize so as to control her natural resources. The linkages between the rise of BFLA and our shrinking birth rate has not be fully examined but when it is, we may find that it was all a part of a carefully choreographed foreign-directed plan.

The concept of “planned parenthood” in Belize was underpinned by a well thought out propaganda campaign. The objective of that campaign was to devalue the role of the Belizean housewife! They first detached the Belizean woman from the Belizean man by convincing women that they were being used only as baby factories and that they should liberate themselves from being “barefoot and pregnant.” It worked; today if a woman has more than three children she is looked upon with scorn; “lawd datti deh one only cud breed!”.

Apart from numbers, another dimension of our population that should concern us is its composition. Since 1981 our demographic makeup has changed significantly but notwithstanding this fact, some have suggested that we look at the Canadian model to address our population challenges. The Canadian model was predicated upon inward migration.

In the 1980s we did just that at the behest of foreign powers and where did that get us? Inward migration of course cannot be completely ruled out but it must be managed. The problem we have here is that inward migration may be one of the most acceptable options to our politicians After all there is nothing a politician loves more than readymade voters who have an unbreakable sense of loyalty to those who facilitated their “papeles”.

Thirty eight years after our independence, Belize does not have a coherent migration policy nor does it have a refugee policy which factors in the national security implications of these two demographic forces. It is incredible when you consider the fact that huge inflows (even when it trickles in) of migrants can create instability from a national security perspective: not just internally but externally as well. Recently it was Ukraine’s ethnic Russian population that was used by Russia as pretext for war in the Crimea.

Population is widely viewed as an independent variable in a country’s national security equation. In fact you will recall that during the scare campaign leading up to the ICJ referendum the talking heads for the Yes camp pointed to the “size” of Guatemala to make the point that our national security arrangements were inadequate to deal with a belligerent Guatemala thus the ICJ was the only option.

Demographics is one avenue through which states project themselves abroad or maintain themselves at home. Belize clearly has no extraterritorial ambitions but it does have a duty to maintain itself at home. Without a healthy, educated and patriotic population Belize will face a deteriorating national security posture and even greater economic outlook.

Since the number one reason our women give for not having “lots” of children is an economic one, the government should really examine how it can incentive the process. We would do well to learn the lessons of Singapore.

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