1. In 2000 Belgium's official development assistance (ODA) totalled USD 812 million, equivalent to 0.36% of gross national product (GNP). That figure places Belgium 6th among the Members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), while in absolute terms Belgium ranks 15th. These results represent an appreciable advance over the 1999 position.
2. The DAC reviewed Belgium's development co-operation policies and programme on 9 May 2001. The Chair of the DAC, Jean-Claude Faure, summarised the main conclusions:
Since the last DAC review in 1997, the Belgian aid system has undergone major legislative changes. Since 1999 the Law on Belgian International Co-operation has clarified the notion of "international co-operation", whose goal is defined as sustainable development, partnership and relevance to development. The law provided that bilateral aid should be concentrated on
25 countries (or regional country organisations), five sectors and three cross-cutting themes. In addition, multilateral co-operation and indirect co-operation via non-governmental partners were further clarified. The new Belgian government deepened its approach in the note on international policy "La qualité dans la solidarité. Partenariat pour le développement durable", submitted to Parliament in April 2000.
A number of major challenges remain: consolidating the reforms under way within DGCI and CTB, achieving greater policy coherence, applying measures to combat poverty, in particular anchoring the policy in country and sectoral strategies consistent with the strategic frameworks for combating poverty (CSLPs), and introducing an internal evaluation system in DGCI and CTB. In this regard, the possibility of transfers of responsibility for aid from the federal government to the communities and regions, as indicated by the federal government in October 2000, caused concern to DAC Members, at a time when the international community is looking for increased policy consistency, better co-ordination and integration of strategies, and greater effectiveness in the field and has resolved to take steps to strengthen these aspects of co-operation policy.
Among the administrative reforms, a public corporation - Coopération technique belge (CTB) - was set up in late 1998 to implement government-to-government co-operation. The policy-framing and planning functions, in contrast, were entrusted to the Direction générale de la coopération internationale (DGCI), in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and International Co-operation. A new function of special evaluator, attached to the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and reporting directly to Parliament, was also instituted.
The legislative and administrative reforms, placing considerable demands on the aid administration, are part of the follow-up by the federal government to the recommendations put forward by the parliamentary monitoring commission since 1997. The new law and the measures taken since 1998 are a response to these recommendations. The DAC welcomes the fact that the international consensus on the main thrusts for ODA and the relevance criteria set by the Committee are reflected there.
Headway has been made elsewhere too, in particular targeting bilateral aid on the least developed countries and other low-income countries, refocusing multilateral assistance on a smaller number of international organisations, defining appropriate policies to promote sustainable development and poverty alleviation, implementing strategies for conflict prevention and to promote the rule of law, and encouragement for the private sector, in particular through the establishment of a new corporation for promoting investment in developing countries, BIO.
3. The Development Assistance Committee made a number of recommendations. The Belgian authorities should in particular:
Take advantage of any improvement in the budget situation to continue to increase the volume of aid and bring it progressively towards the target of 0.7% of GNP, as in the Belgian authorities' stated intention.
Opt, in the event that the sharing of responsibility for Belgian aid is pursued, for a minimal approach ensuring that the federal administration retains the powers and resources, in co-operation matters, to secure consistency, effectiveness and impact in the field.
Pursue their efforts to enhance the scope of the reforms under way and ensure greater stability and institutional effectiveness in DGCI and CTB, while maintaining a separate budget for international co-operation within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Reaffirm the statutory priority for poverty alleviation as a fundamental objective and prepare country strategies on the basis of the strategic frameworks for combating poverty (CSLPs) and the sectoral approach.
Increase the proportion of bilateral assistance going to the priority countries and continue to refocus their multilateral operations on a smaller number of international institutions.
Associate DGCI more closely in defining the positions that Belgium upholds in the governing bodies of the Bretton Woods institutions.
Speed up the establishment of BIO and ensure that its procedures and criteria for intervention give due priority to combating poverty.
Avoid dispersal of indirect co-operation and ensure that it is more fully in line with the priorities and poverty alleviation programmes defined by the partner countries.
Provide for DGCI and CTB to develop an internal monitoring and assessment system whose findings can be taken into account.
Devote more systematic attention to achieving more consistency between co-operation policy and other policies that may have adverse affects for developing countries, possibly leading to the introduction of special arrangements for that purpose.
During the review, the Belgian Delegation was led by Mr. Eddy Boutmans, State Secretary for Development Co-operation. The examining countries were Denmark and Luxembourg.
The Main Findings and Recommendations arising from the DAC review will be available as from next week on the DAC/OECD internet site at http://www.oecd.org/dac . A full record of the review will be published in the DAC Journal.
Journalists seeking to obtain further information or to meet participants are invited to contact Helen Fisher, Media Relations Division (tel. 33 1 45 24 80 97).