Belgium’s development co-operation prioritises least developed countries (LDCs) and fragile contexts, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa. Total official development assistance (ODA) increased slightly in 2021 (USD 2.6 billion, preliminary data) representing 0.46% of gross national income (GNI). ODA increases exceeded COVID-19 vaccine donations.

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. In addition to tackling fragility, other policy priorities include a stronger focus on private sector development, climate change, digital for development and human rights-based approaches. Belgium’s priority countries are evolving in line with its focus on fragility: since 2015, six middle-income countries have been removed from Belgium’s list of priority countries, while two fragile states have been added.

Belgium is a strong multilateral player and has succeeded in mobilising the international community on issues such as conflict prevention, mainly in Central Africa and the Sahel; gender equality, especially sexual and reproductive health and rights through the “She decides” initiative; and children’s rights. Belgium is also recognised by its peers for its dialogue with partner governments on human rights and governance issues. The importance that Belgium attaches to addressing global issues is also reflected in its commitment to global citizenship education. Belgium is currently developing a multilateral strategy.

The 2020 OECD-DAC peer review praised Belgium for its voice in support of the LDCs and fragile contexts, and its efforts to be a strong humanitarian partner. Committed to the principles of partnership, the review found that Belgium empowers multilateral, civil society and private sector organisations to achieve their mandates. The peer review suggested that Belgium strengthen the management of its development co-operation policy, reinforce the humanitarian-development-peace nexus and improve the management of human resources. Learn more about Belgium’s 2020 OECD-DAC peer review. Belgium’s next mid-term review is planned for 2023.

Belgium provided USD 2.6 billion (preliminary data) of ODA in 2021,1 representing 0.46% of GNI. This was an increase of 2.3% in real terms in volume and a decrease in the share of GNI from 2020. Belgium is not meeting its domestic and European Union (EU) commitments to collectively achieve a 0.7% ODA/GNI ratio by 2030. Within Belgium’s ODA portfolio in 2020, 95.6% was provided in the form of grants and 4.4% in the form of non-grants.2

Belgium ranks 11th among Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members for ODA/GNI ratio in 2021. Belgium’s ODA budget has remained relatively stable over the last five years, after years of decline from 2010 to 2015. Belgium stands out for its commitment to humanitarian issues, with 76.5% of bilateral ODA commitments channelled through multilaterals to humanitarian assistance, as well as its strong commitment to the environment, with 45.3% of bilateral allocable ODA commitments supporting the environment as a principal or significant objective.

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

Belgium’s shares of bilateral and multilateral ODA were roughly equal in 2020. Gross bilateral ODA was 49.2% of total ODA. Fifteen per cent of gross bilateral ODA was channelled through multilateral organisations (earmarked contributions). Belgium allocated 50.8% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2020, Belgium provided USD 112.3 million of gross bilateral ODA for the COVID-19 response, representing 9.5% of its total gross bilateral ODA. Less than 1% of total gross bilateral ODA was provided as health expenditure within the COVID-19 response.

In 2020, Belgium provided USD 1.4 billion of gross ODA to the multilateral system, an increase of 11.1% in real terms from 2019. Of this, USD 1.2 billion was core multilateral ODA, while non-core contributions were earmarked for a specific country, region, theme or purpose. Project-type funding that is earmarked for a specific theme and/or country accounted for 12.4% of Belgium’s non-core contributions and 87.6% was programmatic funding (to pooled funds and specific-purpose programmes and funds).

Eighty nine per cent of Belgium’s total contributions to multilateral organisations in 2020 was allocated to European Union institutions, the United Nations (UN) system and the World Bank Group.

The UN system received 21.7%, mainly through both core and earmarked contributions. Out of a total volume of USD 303.3 million to the UN system, the top three UN recipients of Belgium’s support (core and earmarked contributions) were: the UNOCHA (USD 68.1 million), the WFP (USD 32.8 million) and the UNDP (USD 27.6 million).

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

In 2020, Belgium’s bilateral spending declined compared to the previous year. It provided USD 1.2 billion of gross bilateral ODA (which includes earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations). This represented a decrease of 0.7% in real terms from 2019.

In 2020, country programmable aid was 19.1% of Belgium’s gross bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC country average of 49.7%. In-donor refugee costs were USD 134.3 million in 2020, a decrease of 5.6% in real terms over 2019, and represented 5.6% of Belgium’s total gross ODA.

In 2020, Belgium channelled bilateral ODA mainly through the public sector and NGOs. Technical co-operation made up 2.9% of gross ODA in 2020.

In 2020, civil society organisations (CSOs) received USD 295.3 million of gross bilateral ODA. Eighteen per cent of gross bilateral ODA was allocated to CSOs as core contributions and 7.1% was channelled through CSOs to implement projects initiated by the donor (earmarked funding). From 2019 to 2020, the combined core and earmarked contributions for CSOs increased as a share of bilateral ODA, from 23.8% to 25.1%. Learn more about ODA allocations to and through CSOs, civil society engagement in development co-operation and the DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid.

In 2020, Belgium’s bilateral ODA was primarily focused on Africa and the Middle East. USD 464.1 million was allocated to Africa and USD 74.1 million was allocated to the Middle East, accounting respectively for 39.5% and 6.3% of gross bilateral ODA. USD 50.4 million was allocated to ODA-eligible countries in America. Asia and the Middle East were the main regional recipients of Belgium’s earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2020, 30.1% of gross bilateral ODA went to Belgium’s top 10 recipients. All except Yemen are among its 14 priority partner countries. The share of gross bilateral ODA that was not allocated by country was 49.0%, mainly due to core contributions to CSOs and expenditure for in-donor refugees.

In 2020, least developed countries received 35.4% of Belgium’s gross bilateral ODA (USD 415.8 million). This is above the DAC country average of 24.4%. Belgium allocated the highest share of gross bilateral ODA (35.4%) to least developed countries in 2020, noting that 49.0% was unallocated by income group. Belgium allocated 1.1% of gross bilateral ODA to small island developing states in 2020, equal to USD 12.4 million.

Support to fragile contexts reached USD 387.6 million in 2020, representing 33.0% of Belgium’s gross bilateral ODA. Thirty per cent of this ODA was provided in the form of humanitarian assistance, slightly increasing from 28.6% in 2019, while 7.7% was allocated to peace, a decrease from 8.8% in 2019. Less than 2% went to conflict prevention, a subset of contributions to peace, a level similar to 2019.

Learn more about support to fragile contexts on the States of Fragility platform.

In 2020, social infrastructure and services was the largest focus of bilateral ODA. Investments in this area accounted for 31.6% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 370.4 million), with a strong focus on support to education (USD 144.2 million), health and population policies (USD 102.7 million), and government and civil society (USD 64.0 million). ODA for other sectors totalled USD 421.4 million, with a focus on refugees and asylum seekers in donor countries (USD 134.3 million). Bilateral humanitarian assistance amounted to USD 199.8 million (17.1% of bilateral ODA). Earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations focused on humanitarian assistance in 2020.

In 2020, Belgium did not commit any bilateral ODA to the mobilisation of domestic resources in developing countries. Belgium committed USD 179.1 million (19.8% of its bilateral allocable aid) to promote aid for trade and improve developing countries’ trade performance and integration into the world economy in 2020.

In 2020, Belgium committed 73.1% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women’s empowerment, as either a principal or significant objective (down from 77.9% in 2019),3 compared with the 2020 DAC country average of 44.6%. This is equal to USD 583.9 million of bilateral ODA in support of gender equality. The share of screened bilateral allocable aid committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment as a principal objective was 3.8%, compared with the 2020 DAC country average of 4.8%. Interventions in economic infrastructure and water and sanitation focus less on gender than other sectors. Belgium screens most activities against the DAC gender equality policy marker (88.5% in 2020). Learn more about ODA focused on gender equality, the DAC Network on Gender Equality and the DAC Recommendation on Ending Sexual Exploitation in Development Co-operation.

In 2020, Belgium committed 45.3% of its total bilateral allocable aid (USD 409.1 million) in support of the environment and the Rio Conventions (the DAC country average was 38.8%), up from 40% in 2019. Nine per cent of screened bilateral allocable aid in 2020 focused on environmental issues as a principal objective, compared with the DAC country average of 10.8%. Thirty-two per cent of total bilateral allocable aid (USD 290.5 million) focused on climate change overall, similar to 2019 (the DAC country average was 34%). Belgium had a greater focus on adaptation (33.9%) than on mitigation (27.5%) in 2020. Learn more about climate-related development finance and the DAC Declaration on Aligning Development Co-operation with the Goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The OECD initiative Sustainable Oceans for All shows that Belgium committed USD 15.4 million in support of the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean in 2020, 37.8% more than in 2019. The 2020 value is equivalent to 1.7% of Belgium’s bilateral allocable aid. Learn more about development co-operation in support of a sustainable ocean economy and the data platform on development finance for a sustainable ocean economy.

Belgium provides resource flows to developing countries beyond ODA and makes use of leveraging instruments to mobilise private finance for development.

Belgium uses its official development finance to mobilise private finance for development. In 2020, the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries mobilised USD 13.9 million from the private sector through direct investment in companies and special purpose vehicles, syndicated loans, shares in collective investment vehicles, and simple co-financing.

A share of 41% targeted middle-income countries and 39% the LDCs in 2020, noting that 20% was unallocated by income.

Private finance mobilised by Belgium in 2020 related mainly to activities in the banking and financial services (76%); industry, mining and construction (20%); and agriculture, forestry and fishing (3%) sectors. Moreover, 2% of Belgium’s total private finance mobilised was for climate change mitigation and/or adaptation.

Learn more about the amounts mobilised from the private sector for development.

The Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD) of the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Co-operation 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. Contributions to multilateral organisations are under the responsibility of other Federal Public Services (such as Finance). The DGD politically steers some of these contributions – such as contributions to the European Commission. Enabel, the Belgian development agency, implements and co-ordinates the Belgian international development policy. 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.

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 Features of Belgium’s systems for quality and oversight.

Explore the Monitoring Dashboard of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.

2020 OECD-DAC peer review of Belgium:

Belgian Development Agency (Enabel):

Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO):

Federal Public Service for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Kingdom of Belgium:

Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD) of the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation:

Acodev, the Flemish Federation of NGOs:

National Center for Cooperation and Development (CNCD-11.11.11):

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

Member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee 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.


← 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.

← 3. The use of the recommended minimum criteria for the marker by some members in recent years can result in lower levels of aid reported as being focused on gender equality.

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