Belgium will need more flexibility in aid programmes to meet poor-country goals


08/09/2015 - Belgium is making a laudable push to direct more development aid to the poorest countries, but to deliver on this it needs to set firm deadlines, make its aid programme more flexible, and should reverse a decline in overall aid, according to an OECD Review.


The latest DAC Peer Review of Belgium notes that the country sent 35% of its official aid to least-developed countries in 2013 – above the donor average – and has promised to raise that to 50%, with a focus on North, West and Central Africa. Achieving this will be difficult without changes to the way Belgian aid is budgeted, programmed and delivered. Lighter procedures, increased budget flexibility and more delegation of responsibility to developing country partners would help Belgium make good on its goals.


Overall, Belgian aid is set to continue declining in the years ahead following government budget cuts in 2015, placing a UN target for donors to provide 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) in official development assistance further out of reach, the Review warned.


“Belgium’s pledge to send half its aid to the neediest countries sets a strong example for others. But this now needs to be translated into reality,” said OECD Development Assistance Committee Chair Erik Solheim, presenting the Review. “Belgium is taking significant steps to increase the scale, impact and quality of its aid. Future reforms should focus on speeding up processes, so Belgium can respond more quickly to changing needs, get the right expertise to the right places, and strengthen synergies with NGOs and other partners.”


Belgium provided official aid of USD 2.4 billion in 2014, equivalent to 0.45% of GNI, according to provisional data. That is up slightly from USD 2.3 billion in 2013 and well above an average of 0.29% of GNI for OECD Development Assistance Committee members. It marks a substantial decline, however, from a 2010 peak of USD 3 billion (0.64% of GNI).


The Review said Belgian aid could fall to 0.38% of GNI by 2019 given the budget cuts.


Belgium was one of nine countries that met a UN target in 2013 to send 0.15-0.20% of GNI to least-developed countries, sending 0.16%. The top recipients of its aid are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, Rwanda and West Bank and Gaza Strip.


Each DAC member is reviewed every 5 years as a way to monitor its performance, hold it accountable for past commitments and recommend improvements. A Review uses input from officials in the country under review and in a partner country – Rwanda for this Review of Belgium – as well as civil society, the private sector and other development providers. Read more about DAC Peer Reviews


The 2015 Review found that Belgium had fully implemented nine and partially implemented five of the 17 recommendations made in the last Review in 2010. Two recommendations were not implemented, notably one on defining a budgetary plan to meet the 0.7% target.


An embeddable version of the report  is available, with information about downloadable and print versions, and an interactive data visualisation of Belgium’s aid versus other donors.


For further information, or to speak to the report’s author, journalists are invited to contact Catherine Bremer in the OECD Media Office (+33 1 45 24 80 97.)


Working with over 100 countries, the OECD is a global policy forum that promotes policies to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.



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