The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) conducts periodic reviews of the individual development co-operation efforts of DAC members. The policies, systems and programmes of each member are critically examined once every five to six years, and five members are examined annually.

The objectives of DAC peer reviews are to improve the quality and effectiveness of development co-operation policies and systems, and to promote good development partnerships for better impact on poverty reduction and sustainable development in developing countries. These reviews assess the performance of a given member and examine both policy and implementation. They take an integrated, system-wide perspective on the development co-operation and humanitarian assistance activities of the member under review.

The OECD’s Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD) provides analytical support for each review, and develops and maintains, in close consultation with the Committee, the methodology and analytical framework – known as the Reference Guide – within which the peer reviews are undertaken (OECD, 2019[1]).

The member under review provides a memorandum setting out the main developments in its policies, systems and programmes. The Secretariat and two DAC members who are designated as peer reviewers then visit the member’s capital – in this case, Brussels – to meet with government officials, civil servants and parliamentarians, and representatives of civil society, non-government organisations (NGO) and the private sector.

Contrary to usual practice, the peer review team was not able to complement this broad consultation with a field visit. A visit to Burkina Faso was scheduled to take place at the beginning of March 2020 but had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the team conducted a case study based on documentation and telephone interviews with representatives of Belgian co-operation and other development co-operation providers in Burkina Faso. The review does not cover the period immediately after the COVID-19 outbreak due to the timing of these consultations.

The report – which contains the main findings and recommendations of the DAC and the Secretariat’s analytical report – was discussed at the DAC meeting on 14 October 2020. At this meeting, senior Belgian officials responded to questions formulated by the Committee.

The peer review took into account Belgium’s political and economic context, which shapes the kingdom’s development co-operation policies and systems. The review period coincided with an unprecedented political period for the country: since October 2014, Belgium has been governed by a coalition of four political parties comprising French-speaking and Flemish liberals, Christian democrats and Flemish nationalists. The Flemish nationalist party, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) – a heavyweight in the executive and a hardliner on immigration – effectively withdrew from the government in December 2018 to oppose the signing of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. In the absence of political agreement on a governing majority, the government only dealt with day-to-day business from that time until 19 March 2020 when the Federal Parliament agreed to give the minority coalition full powers to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Belgium has good welfare outcomes, thanks to its moderate but steady economic growth and efficient tax and benefit system. Economic growth averaged around 1.7% over the review period, against a backdrop of strong employment growth (OECD, 2020[2]).The repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic for the Belgian economy could reverse this positive trend, however, with the economy contracting by an estimated 7.9% in 2020.

The Directorate-General for Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD) is responsible for development co-operation and is part of the Federal Public Service (FPS), Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Co-operation. The DGD manages 56% of development aid disbursements, while the remaining 44% primarily come from contributions to the budget of the European Union, local or regional authority budgets, funds for refugees in Belgium and debt relief. Enabel, the Belgian development agency, implements Belgium’s international development policy in 14 partner countries and territories and provides its expertise to other donors. The Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) invests in private sector projects in developing and emerging countries, either directly or through investment funds and/or financial institutions.

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