Will Belize Get a People’s Constitution? Prospects and Challenges

By Dylan Vernon (PAST WORK #4, first published in IDEAS Voices in the Field on 31 October 2022)

Belize is embarking on its second constitutional review process since independence. While the review has cross-partisan support, preliminary criticisms about the composition of the People’s Constitution Commission, the body entrusted with the review, highlight the challenge of designing a membership approach that is transparent and representative yet manageable. Nevertheless, for the reform process and a potential referendum to succeed, the Commission must see itself not as a body of elite constitutional drafters but as a facilitator of a truly consultative process to ascertain and represent the aspirations of the Belizean people – writes Dr. Dylan Vernon


With the passage of the People’s Constitution Commission Act in October 2022, Belize became the latest Commonwealth Caribbean state to commit to a comprehensive process of constitutional reform. This is Belize’s second such effort since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. Two decades after the 1999 Political Reform Commission’s (PRC) final report and 41 years after independence, Belizeans have another opportunity to forge a totally new rule book for the state. The People’s Constitution Commission (PCC) is mandated to “draft and guide the process of promulgating a new Constitution for Belize or amendments to the Belize Constitution.”… Read the rest...

High Time for the Republic of Belize

By Dylan Vernon, (PAST WORK #3, 6 March 2022)

Replacing the British monarch with a Belizean head of state should ideally be just one part of a comprehensive process of constitutional reform and nation-building. However, this does not negate the imperative that doing so has its own intrinsic and independent value that goes beyond mere symbolism. It is unfinished decolonisation pure and simple.

THIS coming weekend’s visit of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge is an opportune reminder of the need to hasten our inevitable transition to the Republic of Belize. It is incredible that 40 years after independence the hereditary monarch of our former imperialist colonizer is still our constitutional head of state. It is a most egregious if symbolic indicator that there is much unfinished business in our decolonization process. The visit is part of the platinum jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and ostensibly to shore up monarchical sentiment in the Commonwealth Caribbean – especially after Barbados became a republic in November 2021.  Belize should be next!

Hopeful Signs?

There are a few hopeful signs that Belize could be soon if not next. In July 2021, the National Assembly enacted an amendment to the Governor-General (Conditions of Service) Act that limited the tenure of the new Governor-General to a single seven-year term.… Read the rest...

Political Clientelism and Democracy in Belize: From My Hand to Yours (UWI, 2022)

by Dylan Vernon, (PAST WORK #2, April 2022)

In Political Clientelism and Democracy in Belize: From My Hand to Yours, Dylan Vernon revisits the modern political history of Belize from 1954 to 2013 through the unique analytic lens of the often unspoken but ubiquitous political clientelism, in which politicians provide resources and services to people in return for political support. Presenting Belize as an illustrative and critical case of rampant and damaging political clientelism in the Commonwealth Caribbean, Vernon methodically examines how clientelist politics took root in Belize during the nationalist period and why it expanded exponentially after independence in 1981. He explores and exposes the varied interactions between the widespread day-to-day practices of entrenched clientelist politics, the multiple actors involved and, importantly, the deleterious implications for the quality of democracy and people’s livelihoods. Available from UWI Press, Amazon,  and from Brodies in Belize

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Republic Confusion in Belize

By Dylan Vernon, (PAST WORK #1, March 2022)

OBSERVING debates around whether Belize should become a republic, it’s clear that there is still a deep lack of understanding of the term itself. The tendency in Belize to place a negative spin on the term ‘republic’ persists – due, in part, to the often-ethnocentric association by some Belizeans of ‘republic’ with Latin American autocracies in the last century. 

So What is a Republic?

Let’s leave the other pro and con arguments aside for a minute and ask what really is a republic? In a basic civics class students (should) learn that a republic is a form of government in which the people and their elected representatives hold supreme power. So, monarchies and states that have a monarch as head of state (like Belize) are, by definition, not republics. In 2022, over 75% of all the independent states in the world are republics, including the United States, most of Europe, most of the Commonwealth and all of Latin America. Four of the 12 independent Commonwealth Caribbean states are republics, with Barbados being the newest republic in the region and the world in 2021.

Like Barbados, by simply replacing the British monarch with a selected Belizean as head of state, Belize would become a republic – while remaining in the Commonwealth.… Read the rest...