Belgium

Belgium’s development co-operation prioritises least developed countries (LDCs) and fragile contexts, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Belgium’s total official development assistance (ODA) (USD 2.8 billion, preliminary data) decreased in 2023, representing 0.44% of gross national income (GNI).

Find the methodological notes behind the profile here.

Belgium's development co-operation policy is set out in the 2013 Law on Development Co-operation, which identifies as main policy priorities: equal access to basic services, including health, education, food security, and social protection; climate change and environment; gender equality; support to civil society; and private sector development. Belgium's priority countries are evolving in line with its focus on fragility. Belgium focuses its co-operation on LDCs, fragile contexts and humanitarian situations. Its bilateral governmental co-operation prioritises partnerships with fourteen partner countries: Benin, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Belgium is strongly committed to the EU and the multilateral system and actively contributes to ongoing discussions on sustainable finance for development, including the role of international financial institutions in mobilising resources for climate action. Its peers recognise Belgium's dialogue with partner governments on human rights and governance issues. Belgium’s commitment to global citizenship education reflects its focus on addressing global issues.

The overarching objective of Belgium’s development co-operation is to achieve sustainable human development by eradicating poverty, exclusion and inequalities. Social and economic inequality is understood as a key driver of poverty and is one of the priority areas of Belgium’s development co-operation agency, Enabel. In line with this emphasis, Belgium has carried out extensive work on conceptualising inequalities, with a focus on vertical and gender-based inequalities. Belgium has also taken initial steps to embed an inequalities lens in its programming, including by developing ex ante appraisal tools.

The 2023 OECD-DAC mid-term review praised Belgium for its focus on poverty and inequality and continued leadership as an advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Committed to the principles of partnership, the mid-term review found that Belgium empowers multilateral, civil society and private sector organisations to achieve their mandates while striving for increased coherence among channels of delivery. The mid-term review suggested that increased budget flexibility and continued attention to country ownership could increase impact in fragile contexts. The mid-term review noted that Belgium had made progress on six of the ten recommendations, and more limited on the other recommendations. Learn more about Belgium’s 2023 mid-term review [DCD/DAC/AR(2024)3/3] and 2020 OECD-DAC peer review.

Belgium provided USD 2.8 billion (preliminary data) of ODA in 2023 (USD 2.6 billion in constant terms), representing 0.44% of GNI.1 This was a decrease of 0.5% in real terms in volume and a decrease in the share of GNI from 2022. Belgium is not in line with its domestic, international, and EU commitments to achieve a 0.7% ODA/GNI ratio by 2030. Within Belgium's ODA portfolio in 2022, 96.2% was provided in the form of grants and 3.8% in the form of non-grants.2

Belgium ranked 13th among Development Assistance Committee (DAC) member countries for the ODA/GNI ratio in 2023. 2022 was marked by a strong increase in in-donor refugee costs, which became the main sector of bilateral ODA commitments. The increase of in-donor refugee costs in 2022 means that shares of bilateral ODA allocated to other areas may have decreased from 2021 to 2022, even if absolute volumes have not. Belgium stands out for its support to LDCs, with 31.3% of Belgium's gross bilateral ODA committed to these countries, as well as its commitment to gender equality with 66.7% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women's empowerment, as either a principal or significant objective, compared with the DAC average of 43.3%.

Belgium is committed to several international targets and Development Assistance Committee standards and recommendations. Learn more about DAC recommendations.

Belgium provided a higher share of its ODA multilaterally in 2022. Gross bilateral ODA was 48.8% of total ODA disbursements. Eighteen per cent of gross bilateral ODA was channelled through multilateral organisations (earmarked contributions). Belgium allocated 51.2% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2023, Belgium provided USD 72.1 million (preliminary data) of net bilateral ODA to Ukraine to respond to the impacts of Russia's war of aggression, a 6.9% increase from 2022 in real terms. USD 46.9 million of the amount was allocated to humanitarian assistance in 2023, a 6.9% increase from 2022.

In 2022, Belgium provided USD 1.6 billion of gross ODA to the multilateral system, an increase of 13.6% in real terms from 2021. Of this, USD 1.4 billion was core multilateral ODA, while USD 229.3 million was non-core contributions earmarked for a specific country, region, theme or purpose. Project-type funding earmarked for a specific theme and/or country accounted for 4% of Belgium's non-core contributions and 96% was programmatic funding (to pooled funds and specific-purpose programmes and funds).

Fifty per cent of Belgium's total contributions to multilateral organisations in 2022 were allocated to EU Institutions.

The United Nations (UN) system received 21.2% of Belgium's multilateral contributions, of which USD 196 million (57.5%) represented earmarked contributions. Out of a total volume of USD 340.7 million to the UN system, the top three UN recipients of Belgium's support (core and earmarked contributions) were UNOCHA (USD 40.1 million), UNICEF (USD 39.5 million) and UNDP (USD 36 million).

See the section Geographic, sectoral and thematic focus of ODA for the breakdown of bilateral allocations, including ODA earmarked through the multilateral development system. Learn more about multilateral development finance.

In 2022, Belgium's bilateral spending remained stable compared to the previous year. It provided USD 1.3 billion of gross bilateral ODA (which includes earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations). This represented an increase of 1.8% in real terms from 2021.

In 2022, country programmable aid was 21.6% of Belgium's gross bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC country average of 42%. In-donor refugee costs were USD 319.8 million in 2022, an increase of 35.5% in real terms over 2021, and represented 24.4% of Belgium's total gross bilateral ODA.

In 2022, Belgium channelled bilateral ODA mainly through the public sector.

In 2022, civil society organisations (CSOs) received USD 280.1 million of gross bilateral ODA, of which 2% was directed to developing country-based CSOs. Overall, 15% of gross bilateral ODA was allocated to CSOs as core contributions and 6.3% was channelled through CSOs to implement projects initiated by the donor (earmarked funding). From 2021 to 2022, the combined core and earmarked contributions for CSOs decreased as a share of bilateral ODA, from 22.6% to 21.3%. Learn more about the DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid.

In 2022, Belgium's bilateral ODA was primarily focused on Africa. USD 468.9 million was allocated to Africa, in line with policy priorities. USD 75.7 million was allocated to ODA-eligible countries in Europe (of which 83.3% for Ukraine), accounting respectively for 35.7% and 5.8% of gross bilateral ODA. USD 53 million was allocated to the Middle East. Africa was also the main regional recipient of Belgium's earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2022, 29.3% of gross bilateral ODA went to Belgium's top 10 recipients. All, except Ukraine, are among its 14 priority partner countries. The share of gross bilateral ODA not allocated by country was 53.1%, of which 45.9% consisted of expenditures for processing and hosting refugees in provider countries.

In 2022, Belgium allocated 0.13% of its GNI to the least developed countries. Belgium allocated the highest share of gross bilateral ODA (31.3%) to least developed countries in 2022 (USD 411 million), noting that 53.1% was unallocated by income group. Additionally, Belgium allocated 14.5% of gross bilateral ODA to land-locked developing countries in 2022, equal to USD 190.3 million.

Support to fragile contexts was USD 411.7 million in 2022, representing 31.4% of Belgium's gross bilateral ODA. Twenty-five per cent of this ODA was provided in the form of humanitarian assistance, increasing from 22.9% in 2021, while 6.9% was allocated to peace, decreasing from 7.9% in 2021. One per cent went to conflict prevention, a subset of contributions to peace, the same as in 2021. Learn more about support to fragile contexts on the States of Fragility platform.

In 2022, more than half of Belgium's bilateral ODA was allocated to other macro sectors. Investments in other sectors accounted for 51.8% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 578.2 million) with a strong focus on support to refugees in donor countries (USD 321.1 million), administrative costs of donors (USD 79.4 million) and other multisector (USD 66 million). ODA for social infrastructure and services totalled USD 286.8 million, focusing on health and population (USD 105.5 million which accounted for 9.5% of gross bilateral ODA, and decreased by 34.6% from 2019 in real terms). Humanitarian assistance amounted to USD 152.3 million (13.7% of bilateral ODA). Earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations focused primarily on humanitarian support.

In 2022, Belgium disbursed USD 220.7 million in ODA for the COVID-19 response, up from USD 85 million in 2021. Regarding COVID-19 vaccines, Belgium provided USD 19.7 million in ODA for donations of doses to developing countries in 2022, down 35.5% from USD 30.6 million in 2021. All COVID-19 vaccines accounted for donations of doses from domestic supply in 2022.

In the period 2021-22, Belgium committed 66.7% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women's empowerment, as either a principal or significant objective (down from 75.6% in 2019-20), compared with the 2021-22 DAC average of 43.3%. This is equal to USD 458.7 million of bilateral ODA in support of gender equality. Unpacking the gender equality data further:

  • The share of screened bilateral allocable aid committed to gender equality and women's empowerment as a principal objective was 7.7% in 2021-22, compared with the DAC average of 3.9%.

  • Belgium includes gender equality objectives in 43.3% of its ODA for humanitarian aid, above the 2021-22 DAC average of 17.0%.

  • Belgium screens the majority of its bilateral allocable aid activities against the DAC gender equality policy marker (72% in 2021-22).

  • Belgium committed USD 11.5 million of ODA to end violence against women and girls and USD 7.3 million to support women's rights organisations and movements and government institutions in 2021-22.

Learn more about Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls: DAC Guidance for Development Partners and the DAC Recommendation on Ending Sexual Exploitation in Development Co-operation.

In 2021-22, Belgium committed 32.7% of its total bilateral allocable aid (USD 294.5 million) in support of the environment and the Rio Conventions (the DAC average was 35.1%), down from 42.4% in 2019-20. Unpacking the environmental data further:

  • Sixteen per cent of screened bilateral allocable aid focused on environmental issues as a principal objective, compared with the DAC average of 11%.

  • Twenty-five per cent of total bilateral allocable aid (USD 227.7 million) focused on climate change overall, down from 32.1% in 2019-20 (the DAC average was 30.5%). Belgium had a greater focus on adaptation (32.1%) than on mitigation (25.7%) in 2021-22.

  • Nineteen per cent of screened bilateral allocable aid (USD 121.7 million) focused on biodiversity overall, up from 14.8% in 2019-20 (the DAC average was 7.2%).

Learn more about the DAC Declaration on Aligning Development Co-operation with the Goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change [DAC/CHAIR(2021)1/FINAL].

The OECD initiative Sustainable Oceans for All shows that Belgium committed USD 3.6 million in support of the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean in 2022, USD 1.2 million more than in 2021. The 2022 value is equivalent to 0.5% of Belgium's bilateral allocable aid.

In 2022, Belgium:

  • Decided to renounce fiscal exemption on ODA expenditure in its partner countries and territories for new government co-operation portfolios. It does not provide information to the OECD Digital Transparency Hub on the Tax Treatment of ODA.

  • Committed USD 97.2 million (13.6% of its bilateral allocable aid) to promote aid for trade and improve developing countries' trade performance and integration into the world economy.

  • Committed USD 167.7 million (23.5% of its bilateral allocable aid) to address the immediate or underlying determinants of malnutrition in developing countries across a variety of sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, fishing, emergency response and health.

Belgium uses leveraging mechanisms to mobilise private finance for sustainable development. In 2022, Belgium's Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) mobilised USD 47.7 million from the private sector through direct investment in companies and special purpose vehicles and shares in collective investment vehicles. This constituted a 48% decrease compared to 2021.

A share of 81.1% targeted middle-income countries, while 5.4% went to LDCs and other low-income countries (LICs) in 2021-22, noting that 13.6% was unallocated by income.

Mobilised private finance by Belgium in 2021-22 related mainly to activities in banking and financial services (74%), as its top sector.

In 2022, the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) extended USD 125.6 million in the form of private sector instruments (PSI) to developing countries. Of this, loans accounted for 46.3% whereas equities represented 53.7%.

In 2022, USD 17.3 million (13.8%) of Belgium's private sector instruments were allocated to the LDCs and other LICs, while a majority (73.6%) went to middle-income countries and LMICs in particular (61.1%). Moreover, USD 15.9 million were unallocated by income. Belgium's private sector instruments mostly supported projects in banking and financial services (46.3%) and industry, mining and construction (27.1%).

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation monitoring exercise tracks the implementation of the effectiveness commitments. Following the reform of the exercise over 2020-22, the 4th global monitoring round (2023-26) is underway. Information on partner countries' participation in the exercise as well as their progress is available at the Global Dashboard. Belgium's results from the 2016 and 2018 monitoring rounds can be found here.

To help improve the transparency of development co-operation, the OECD provides regular feedback to members on the overall quality of their statistical reporting and works with each member to ensure the data meet high-quality standards before they are published. Regarding DAC/CRS reporting to the OECD, Belgium's reporting in 2022 was submitted very late, and there is room for improvement in terms of the completeness and accuracy of the data.

Total official support for sustainable development (TOSSD) is an international statistical standard that monitors all official and officially supported resources for financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in developing countries, as well as for addressing global challenges. It provides a broad measure of development finance with the objective of increasing transparency and accountability of all external support that developing countries receive. In 2022, activities reported by Belgium as TOSSD totalled USD 3.2 billion, up from USD 2.9 billion in 2021, and Belgium's TOSSD activities mostly targeted SDG 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere, and SDG 8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. Activity-level data on TOSSD by recipient are available at https://tossd.online.

The Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD) of the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation is responsible for development co-operation. It develops strategies according to political orientations and the legal framework, grants funding, and monitors the co-operation programme implemented by autonomous or independent partners. Some contributions to multilateral organisations are under the responsibility of other federal public services (such as Finance). The DGD finances and/or steers some of these contributions politically – such as contributions to the European Commission. Enabel, the Belgian development agency, implements Belgium’s governmental co-operation. Belgium’s development finance institution, the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries, invests directly in private sector projects in developing and emerging economies. Belgium’s whole-of-government co-ordination mechanisms are based on the mobilisation of task forces that bring together key federal departments – sometimes alongside external actors – around specific issues.

The Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation has more than 140 staff, 24% of whom are in embassies abroad. Enabel has about 2 384 staff, 85% of whom are in country offices abroad.

CSOs active in development co-operation, humanitarian assistance and global citizenship education co-ordinate through the following national platforms: Acodev, the Flemish Federation of NGOs; and the National Center for Cooperation and Development (CNCD-11.11.11).

Internal systems and processes help ensure the effective delivery of Belgium’s development co-operation. Select features are shown in the table below.

2023 OECD-DAC mid-term review of Belgium: DCD/DAC/AR(2024)3/3

2020 OECD-DAC peer review of Belgium: www.oecd.org/dac/oecd-development-co-operation-peer-reviews-belgium-2020-026f1aad-en.htm

Belgian Development Agency (Enabel): https://www.enabel.be

Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO): https://www.bio-invest.be

Federal Public Service for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Kingdom of Belgium: https://diplomatie.belgium.be/fr/politique/cooperation-developpement.

Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD) of the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation: https://diplomatie.belgium.be/fr/politique/cooperation-au-developpement-et-aide-humanitaire/qui-sommes-nous/notre-organisation.

Acodev, the Flemish Federation of NGOs: https://www.acodev.be

National Center for Cooperation and Development (CNCD-11.11.11): https://www.cncd.be/?lang=fr

Belgium’s practices on the Development Co-operation TIPs: Tools Insights Practices learning platform

Member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) since 1960.

The methodological notes provide further details on the definitions and statistical methodologies applied, including the grant-equivalent methodology, core and earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations, country programmable aid, channels of delivery, bilateral ODA unspecified/unallocated, bilateral allocable aid, the gender equality policy marker, and the environment markers.

Notes

← 1. DAC members adopted the grant-equivalent methodology starting from their reporting of 2018 data as a more accurate way to count the donor effort in development loans. See the methodological notes for further details.

← 2. Non-grants include sovereign loans, multilateral loans, equity investment and loans to the private sector.

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