5. Belgium’s delivery modalities and partnerships

Belgium has established financing arrangements that allow its partners to focus on their mandate rather than on implementing Belgian projects. This is achieved by ensuring highly predictable funding and flexible implementation. Multilateral organisations and NGAs greatly appreciate Belgium’s multi-year funding1 and its efforts to make prompt payments at the beginning of the budget year.

This predictability is complemented by flexible implementation. Belgian aid to multilateral development organisations is part of a full-core policy (making contributions to central budgets) combined with increased Belgian representation and involvement in governance bodies at headquarters and in the field (Chapter 2), which enables them to implement their mandate. In line with the 2015 peer review recommendation (Annex A), (OECD, 2015[1]), NGAs’ financing arrangements give them the flexibility to adapt interventions to changing contexts, after discussion with the administration (Box 5.1). In Burkina Faso, for example, Belgian NGOs have been able to adjust their programmes in response to the evolving conflict and security situation.

Reporting mechanisms reinforce this effort to promote mandates by emphasising relevance, results and learning, while limiting transaction costs. As such, NGAs are required to report their performance (rather than the details of activities implemented) as per the format developed in consultation with the administration. Multilateral development agencies, for their part, do not have to provide specific reporting, as Belgium uses standard reports. However, multilateral humanitarian partners that receive funding for country programmes rather than central budgets (Chapter 3) have what some judge as a disproportionate level of administrative compliance requirements, particularly in project submission and reporting procedures.

In addition, Belgium’s domestic political situation and repeated budget cuts have undermined the predictability of support to partners during framework agreement renegotiation with certain multilateral agencies and the transition to CSFs, with annual disbursements falling short of five-year commitments. Forward planning and increased dialogue with partners would enable them to better absorb any further reductions due to potential cuts in the ODA budget.

Recent efforts to include the private sector as a co-operation actor illustrate Belgium’s plural approach to partnerships (Chapter 2). In particular, the promotion of the Business Partnership Facility (BPF) should make it possible to include the “missing middle” of local and international private sectors in Belgian development co-operation, i.e. the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are not eligible for BIO support.2 Through five-year grants, the BPF finances a maximum of 50% of proposed investments, with amounts ranging from EUR 50 000 to EUR 200 000, and gives priority to projects implemented in Africa and in Belgium’s 14 partner countries and territories for direct bilateral co-operation. With the express desire of involving the private sector in implementing Belgian co-operation policy, management of the BPF has been transferred to the King Baudouin Foundation, a private foundation of public utility.

Belgium has embarked on an ambitious process to rationalise and consolidate its engagement with Belgian NGAs around a single regulatory framework (Kingdom of Belgium, 2016[2]). The new modalities are based on:

  • a ten-year accreditation process to select partners that are strong enough to define, implement and monitor the performance of co-operation programmes, while continuing to represent all trends in Belgian society3

  • the development of CSFs that structure interventions and bring NGAs together around shared objectives (Box 5.1).

The progress made demonstrates the value of continuing the rationalisation and consolidation process. However, the DGD still has 85 partners and a few programmes that are funded outside of CSFs; these small quantities of funding risk adding to the monitoring burden.

Financing arrangements for CSFs indirectly include civil society organisations in partner countries and territories: balanced partnerships4 with local organisations are a condition for NGA funding. Direct funding for local actors can now also go through Enabel, whose reform means it can now establish local agreements and contracts with the actors best able to help implement its projects. The agency places great emphasis on strengthening the capacity of civil society organisations in the field, which are predominantly mobilised as service providers. Belgium’s efforts to engage them and support their development are widely recognised by other development co-operation providers.

With the exception of a few ad-hoc multi-actor partnerships – which provide little structure to the various actors’ intervention strategies (Chapter 2) – partnerships between the Belgian administration and external actors each have their own logic and do not fit into a common thematic or geographic strategic framework. That said, establishing country strategies that bring together the interventions of Enabel, NGAs and BIO would make it possible to strengthen the links between each intervention, increase the transparency of Belgian co-operation and facilitate its overall steering.

Belgium has the foundation needed to establish this type of framework at the country level. As illustrated by the recent country background note on Burkina Faso (DGD, 2017[3]), the administration has a good awareness of Belgian actors in the field and their objectives, although this document is not public. It also has extensive experience of dialogue and co-ordination with a wide range of stakeholders. NGA co-ordination efforts around shared objectives can also serve as an example for seeking greater complementarity in partnerships. The drafting of pilot country strategies has been underway since mid-2019, but has not yet been completed because there is no consensus on their format, updating frequency, schedule or political approval.

Belgium actively participates in donor co-ordination mechanisms, both at headquarters and in the field. At headquarters, it actively participates in multilateral mechanisms (Chapters 1 and 2) and in donor exchange networks, both at the strategic and operational levels. For example, Enabel is active within the Practitioners’ Network for European Development Cooperation, a platform for exchange and operational co-operation between Member State agencies, which it has co-chaired with LuxDev since May 2020. Since 2019, the DGD has chaired the OECD’s international donor group on civil society, which meets twice-yearly to discuss common strategy and programming issues related to civil society.

In the field, other development co-operation providers view Belgium as a strategic partner. It is active in delegated co-operation, often alongside its European partners. As observed in Burkina Faso, where the EU has entrusted Belgium to manage the Program to Support the Strengthening of Internal Security in Burkina Faso (PARSIB), it uses this modality to mobilise recognised Belgian public expertise and leverage Belgian co-operation funding (Enabel, 2018[4]). Enabel also works in partnership with other development agencies, including the French Development Agency (AFD) on health in Benin; and the German agency, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on refugees. In an effort to support a common European foreign policy, Belgium is also active in 30 joint EU programming exercises (European Union, 2020[5]). However, Belgium contributes little to pooled funds or other multi-donor funding other than its support for resilience (Chapter 7). Only 2% of Belgium’s country programmable aid contributes to pooled programmes and funding (Annex B, Table B.2). This low figure is due to the policy of contributing to the central budgets of multilateral organisations rather than making targeted contributions, as well as the decision to cease contributions to pooled funds if they are directly managed by partner authorities.

Finally, Belgium is recognised by its peers for its role in co-ordinating development co-operation providers and partner governments. It contributes to and leads aid co-ordination, acting as a leader in sectors where it has high added value and is recognised for its capability to address difficult issues, such as human rights (see next section). Thus, Belgium has been vice-president of the troika of development co-operation providers in Burkina Faso since September 2018, is head of the co-operation leaders group in Benin, and leads several thematic groups in Guinea. This active engagement, so valued by its partners, is at risk from the reduced, and ever declining, number of embassy staff in the field (Chapter 4).

Belgium has made significant efforts to improve the transparency and accountability of its development co-operation to the Belgian public and to partner countries and territories. The quality of its reporting and data published by the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) continues to improve, reaching the “good” category in 2018 (Publish What You Fund, 2018[6]). Partner NGAs are also contractually required to publish their data on this platform. Belgium has improved the frequency of its data publication, but the quality and coverage of the information provided could be improved, in particular by publishing more information on the results achieved.5 Including information about results and evaluations on openaid.be and the Enabel website would give stakeholders access to more strategic information. Enhancing the role of parliament’s Committee on External Relations could also provide an opportunity to strengthen accountability in the use of aid and the strategic decisions made.

In addition to providing information to the general public, Belgium contributes to the information management systems of partner countries and territories in 77% of the cases analysed by the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (Global Partnership) (OECD/UNDP, 2019[7]). Embassies in particular use aid management platforms to report information on Belgian interventions. As mentioned above, the publication of country strategies that cover all Belgian financing channels would strengthen Belgium’s accountability vis-à-vis all stakeholders in the countries in which it operates.

Belgian programming is based on detailed contextual understanding and analysis derived from consultations with civil society and partner governments. In particular, Belgium consults civil society organisations to establish its direct bilateral co-operation programme in 70% of cases (OECD/UNDP, 2019[7]). It also consults the private sector, albeit to a lesser extent: only 20% of Belgian Government co-operation programmes benefit from exchanges with the private sector, despite the introduction of local private sector development as a Belgian strategic priority. The new and systematic involvement of BIO in preparatory missions for all new bilateral co-operation, and the deployment of two regional representatives in Nairobi and Abidjan, has facilitated consultations with the private sector and the inclusion of this theme in direct bilateral co-operation portfolios.

Establishing bilateral co-operation includes reflecting on the added value of Belgian co-operation to the development priorities of partner countries and territories; the opportunities and challenges of potential areas of intervention; and the main economic, governance, human, social and environmental challenges. This is illustrated by the co-operation programme in Burkina Faso. Despite having a strong analytical framework, a lack of disaggregated data means that analyses of vulnerable groups and power relations focus primarily on gender issues (Chapter 2). Similarly, a more refined and systematic analysis of the causes, driving forces and consequences of corruption would support a more comprehensive consideration of corruption risks beyond fiduciary risks (Chapter 4).

Belgium has established several exchange and consultation mechanisms with its partner countries and territories to strengthen their ownership of the support it provides. Belgian interventions are systematically subject to consultations with partner governments on multiple levels – political, steering, reporting and technical – with specific committees.6 The specific agreements on direct bilateral co-operation discussed and signed by representatives of the Belgian and partner governments strengthen transparency and accountability mechanisms between partners.7 In addition, Belgium participated in mutual accountability evaluations in half of the countries where these took place between 2016 and 2017, and in almost three-quarters of its partner countries and territories (OECD/UNDP, 2019[7]).

Nevertheless, the creation of Enabel and the resulting procedural changes have led to some uncertainty about modalities and each actor’s role in consulting partner governments, particularly in identifying and drafting country portfolios. As the administration and the agency have rapidly identified these weaknesses, measures are being adopted to clarify and strengthen the role and involvement of partner countries and territories in Belgian programming (Chapter 4).

Belgian co-operation’s alignment performance seems to be declining. According to the Global Partnership, the share of project objectives that are aligned with partner country and territory priorities fell from 94% to 40% between 2016 and 2018, and stands at just 29% for direct bilateral co-operation countries (OECD/UNDP, 2019[7]). This trend is also reflected in the reduced use of partners’ statistical, monitoring, and financial management systems, which fell from 53% in 2016 to 30% in 2018. This reduced use is partly explained by the fact that country programmable aid – which represents only 20% of bilateral aid (Chapter 3) – is composed almost exclusively of project-type interventions (Annex B, Table B.2).8 When under Enabel’s responsibility, these primarily mobilise Enabel’s instruments and procedures.9

Although Belgium focuses its co-operation on LDCs and fragile contexts, where national systems are often weak, the alignment of other development co-operation providers in these countries is generally stronger on average. While the Belgian administration and its partners are surprised by these results, it will be necessary to encourage reflection among Belgian co-operation actors so as to ensure that partner governments understand alignment ambitions and objectives and that consultations are sequenced to allow partners to influence strategic and programmatic orientations. Moreover, while country portfolios systematically include a capacity-building component,10 it would be worthwhile for Enabel to ensure that this objective is ultimately translated into greater use of country systems, both national and local.

Belgian financing for partner countries and territories is predictable. Government-to-government agreements are established for five-year periods and include a budget commitment. Moreover, disbursements are reliable, with 100% of Belgian public sector funds disbursed over this period (OECD/UNDP, 2019[7]). This is a strong improvement over 2016 (63%, Table 5.1) and places Belgium above the DAC average (88%). The share of development co-operation in the national budgets of partner countries and territories also shows a positive trend (from 35% to 63%), which facilitates their planning and resource management. This predictability is limited however, because only 40% of funds are covered by future spending plans, compared with the DAC average of 65%, and because the medium-term predictability of co-operation has decreased considerably, falling by 20 percentage points since 2016.

Enabel’s recent management reforms have increased its flexibility to adapt priorities and intervention modalities to changing contexts (Chapters 4 and 7), in line with the recommendations of the 2015 peer review (OECD, 2015[1]). This increased flexibility and adaptability, for example, allowed Enabel to adapt its programming in Burkina Faso during the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Enabel was able to redirect funding in the health sector more quickly than would have been possible previously.

Belgium openly and transparently links its aid delivery modalities to its respect for human rights and good governance. Specific agreements between Belgium and partner countries and territories are clear that Belgian aid comes with obligations. Belgium puts conditions on its aid, guided by the rule of law and democratic principles, as well as the good governance of public affairs, determination to tackle corruption, and respect for human rights. Aid can be suspended, terminated or modified in the event of non-compliance. This has happened recently with several government co-operation programmes: bilateral co-operation with the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education was halted after a school in the West Bank was renamed after a terrorist11 (RTBF, 2018[8]); and in 2019 negotiations with the Democratic Republic of the Congo on a new co-operation agreement were made conditional on the announcement of credible, transparent and inclusive elections (FPS Foreign Affairs, 2018[9]). The requirement to respect these principles sometimes necessitates difficult political dialogue, and suspending and rerouting aid are not simple processes to manage. Belgium’s partners, particularly the development co-operation providers it co-ordinates with on the ground, praise Belgium’s political work and its proactive defence of human rights in contexts that can prove complex.


[3] DGD (2017), “Projet de Note de Base” (préparation de la Commission Mixte Belgique-Burkina Faso), Working document [in French], FPS Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Brussels.

[4] Enabel (2018), “Rapport annuel” [in French], Belgian Development Agency, Brussels, https://www.enabel.be/fr/publication/rapport-annuel-2018.

[5] European Union (2020), Welcome to EU Joint Programming, European Union, Brussels, https://europa.eu/capacity4dev/joint-programming-tracker/belgium (accessed on 15 May  2020).

[9] FPS Foreign Affairs (2018), La Belgique continue à s’engager en faveur de la population de la République démocratique du Congo [in French], FPS Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Brussels, https://diplomatie.belgium.be/fr/newsroom/nouvelles/2018/la_belgique_continue_sengager_en_faveur_de_la_population_de_la_rdc.

[2] Kingdom of Belgium (2016), Arrêté royal concernant la coopération non gouvernementale [Royal Decree on Non-governmental Co-operation], http://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/mopdf/2016/09/20_3.pdf#Page27.

[1] OECD (2015), OECD Development Co-operation Peer Reviews: Belgium 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264239906-en.

[7] OECD/UNDP (2019), Making Development Co-operation More Effective: 2019 Progress Report, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/26f2638f-en.

[6] Publish What You Fund (2018), “The 2018 Aid Transparency Index”, Publish What You Fund, https://www.publishwhatyoufund.org/the-index/2018/belgium-dgd/.

[8] RTBF (2018), Alexandre De Croo suspend la coopération avec les écoles palestiniennes [in French], RTBF, Brussels, https://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_alexandre-de-croo-suspend-la-cooperation-avec-les-ecoles-palestiniennes?id=10019279.


← 1. CSFs and programmes are defined for a five-year period and frame agreements with multilateral agencies usually last between three and four years.

← 2. BIO only studies the financing of investment projects above EUR 500 000. This threshold is too high for Belgian and international SMEs.

← 3. The accreditation process is based on a thorough review of the organisations’ management capacity and the required and available expertise. It applies to civil society organisations, federations and institutional actors.

← 4. The partnership strategy and the quality of the partnerships are at the heart of the NGA financing system: the partnership policy must be clear and its objectives formalised in a partnership convention or agreement (memorandum of understanding). The financing of interventions in the South is conditioned to the establishment of a partnership with a local actor.

← 5. In particular, information coverage could be extended to include capital expenditure and disaggregated budgets, contracts awarded, information on regional and local locations, mid-term evaluations and reviews, etc. These items are currently not reported.

← 6. In Burkina Faso, for example, a joint consultation committee (composed of local ministries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the embassy and Enabel) monitors the objectives of the intervention portfolio, reviews the portfolio and decides on possible changes in overall and specific objectives, related indicators and budget shifts above a certain volume. In addition, there is a management and co-ordination committee, review committees (chaired by partner country ministers and held every six months) and periodic sectoral meetings.

← 7. These agreements specify the area, themes, budget, respective obligations, consultation bodies and time frame for implementing government co-operation intervention portfolios.

← 8. In 2019, project-type interventions accounted for 90% of Belgium’s programmable country aid (up 6 percentage points since the 2015 peer review), 4% of budget support (down 4 percentage points since 2015), 4% of technical assistance and 2% of contributions to programmes and pooled funding.

← 9. However, Enabel can use national instruments where relevant and when there are sufficient and adequate guarantees on the performance and sound management of these instruments.

← 10. The “capacity building” budget can be mobilised to benefit partner authorities as well as civil society and the private sector.

← 11. A solution between the two parties was first sought, to no avail. Faced with the impossibility of reaching an agreement, the Belgian Government decided to stop its co-operation with the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education, but without affecting other development co-operation actions.

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