This is my second year as Chair of the Board and I want to use this space to thank you all for the opportunity to serve in this position; reflect on the experiences and work that lies ahead; and urge you to become more involved.

I want to start by sharing three questions that have guided my role as Chair over the last two years: “Do we understand the complexity of the responsibility we have assumed? Are we positioned and equipped to handle the job we have assumed? What do we need to put in place?

Two years ago, I accepted to join the Board and subsequently to serve as Chair. Having assumed this responsibility, I came to the scary realization that I did not understand the complexity and enormity of FCD’s work. Our mission is about the environmental protection of the Chiquibul and that may sound simple. However; environmental protection is already complex enough under normal circumstances. Add to that a very rugged terrain, large size and a particularly thorny trans-border situation with questions of national security and international politics and you have a situation that is as rugged as the landscape of Chiquibul to navigate. While we are absolutely clear that our mission is biodiversity conservation and nothing else, we have to work along with stakeholders that are about national security. The Chiquibul is one of the most beautiful natural areas in Belize, with a high level of biodiversity and a major watershed for Guatemala and Belize but it is also one of the most challenging areas to work in. It requires a high level of competency, creativity, clarity, maturity and integrity. We need to keep this in mind and seek to understand the issues as much as possible. That is perhaps most important for Board members who have to make policy and strategic decisions but it is also true for all FCD members. We collectively have taken this awesome responsibility.

Are we positioned and equipped to handle the job we have assumed? And, what do we need to put in place? Again, this might sound as a job for the Board and while the Board must take the lead, it is the job over all members of FCD. Over the course of the last two years we embarked on a strategic planning process and I am proud to say that we have adopted the plan; we also embarked on the elaboration of a tourism enterprise development plan to begin to work towards the financial sustainability of FCD; a revision of what personnel is needed and building the capacity of the Board. These are just some of the accomplishments and just the beginning of getting the job done more effectively, but much is yet to be done. FCD needs adequate office space; we need greater investment and a more supportive policy framework to facilitate our work. The job; however; won’t be accomplished without the greater and wider involvement from the membership and the Board.

Having urged you to become involved I want to end with two related questions or challenges. The first is what mechanisms can we put in place to increase the participation of the membership? FCD is a membership organization, and we cannot take that lightly. If we mean that, then we must create mechanisms for member’s involvement. The second question has to do with youth. How are we to involve young people? Last year, I spoke about FCD’s youth history. Sustainability is not only about finance it is about the extent to which a dream, a philosophy, a mission lives in the minds and hearts of people. One of FCDs sustainability pillars has to be the involvement of young people.

I want to conclude by once again thanking you for the opportunity to serve FCD and to take the opportunity to wish you well in the coming year!

Filiberto Penados PhD


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