Belgium

Belgium’s development co-operation prioritises least developed countries (LDCs) and fragile contexts, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa. Belgium’s total official development assistance (ODA) (USD 2.7 billion, preliminary data) increased in 2022 due to an increase in its bilateral aid, and represented 0.45% 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. In addition to tackling fragility, other policy priorities include a stronger focus on social protection, 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 promotes complementarity and synergies among the various actors in the field (governmental, non-governmental organisations, academics, the private sector).

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 2.7 billion (preliminary data) of ODA in 2022 (USD 2.8 billion in constant terms), representing 0.45% of GNI.1 This was an increase of 7% in real terms in volume and an increase in the share of GNI from 0.43% in 2021. 2022 marks the second year of increase after five years of a stable budget. 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 2021, 95.9% was provided in the form of grants and 4.1% in the form of non-grants.2

Belgium ranks 13th among Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members for ODA/GNI ratio in 2021. Belgium stands out for its support to LDCs, with 34.8% of Belgium’s gross bilateral ODA committed to these countries compared to the DAC country average of 22.9%, as well as its commitment to gender equality and biodiversity with 67.9% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women’s empowerment, as either a principal or significant objective and 17% of total bilateral allocable aid focused on biodiversity, compared with the DAC average of 6.5%.

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

Belgium provided almost an equal share of its ODA bilaterally and multilaterally in 2021. Gross bilateral ODA was 51.4% of total ODA. Fifteen per cent of gross bilateral ODA was channelled through multilateral organisations (earmarked contributions). Belgium allocated 48.6% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2022, Belgium provided USD 68.9 million of gross bilateral ODA to Ukraine to respond to the impacts of Russia’s war of aggression, of which USD 45.8 million was humanitarian assistance (preliminary data). In 2021 it provided USD 3.9 million.

In 2022, Belgium provided USD 167.1 million in ODA for the COVID-19 response. Regarding COVID-19 vaccines, donations of excess doses to developing countries accounted for USD 19.8 million of ODA in 2022. In 2020 and 2021, Belgium’s total bilateral support for COVID-19 response was USD 112.3 million and USD 90.3 million, respectively.

In 2021, Belgium provided USD 1.5 billion of gross ODA to the multilateral system, an increase of 0.7% in real terms from 2020. Of this, USD 1.3 billion was core multilateral ODA, while non-core contributions were earmarked for a specific country, region, theme or purpose. Project-type funding earmarked for a specific theme and/or country accounted for 20.3% of Belgium’s non-core contributions and 79.7% was programmatic funding (to pooled funds and specific-purpose programmes and funds).

The majority of Belgium’s total contributions to multilateral organisations in 2021 was allocated to EU Institutions.

The UN system received 21.3% of Belgium’s multilateral contributions, through a roughly equal share of core and earmarked contributions. Out of a total volume of USD 319.6 million to the UN system, the top three UN recipients of Belgium’s support (core and earmarked contributions) were UNOCHA (USD 50.9 million), UNDP (USD 36.4 million) and UNICEF (USD 30.6 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 2021, Belgium’s bilateral spending increased compared to the previous year. It provided USD 1.4 billion of gross bilateral ODA (which includes earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations). This represented an increase of 9.1% in real terms from 2020.

In 2021, country programmable aid was 22.8% of Belgium’s gross bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC country average of 45.2%. In-donor refugee costs were USD 250.7 million in 2021, an increase of 74.8% in real terms over 2020, and represented 18.3% of Belgium’s gross bilateral ODA.

In 2021, Belgium channelled bilateral ODA mainly through the public sector. Technical co-operation made up 2.7% of gross ODA in 2021.

In 2021, civil society organisations (CSOs) received USD 309.1 million of gross bilateral ODA. Fifteen per cent of gross bilateral ODA was allocated to CSOs as core contributions and 7.2% was channelled through CSOs to implement projects initiated by the donor (earmarked funding). From 2020 to 2021, the combined core and earmarked contributions for CSOs decreased as a share of bilateral ODA, from 25.1% to 22.6%. 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 2021, Belgium’s bilateral ODA was primarily focused on Africa with USD 538 million allocated to the region accounting for 39.3% of gross bilateral ODA in line with policy priorities. USD 75.5 million was allocated to the Middle East, accounting for 5.5% of gross bilateral ODA and USD 45.4 million (3.3%) was allocated to America. Africa was also the main regional recipient of Belgium’s earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2021, 30.7% of gross bilateral ODA went to Belgium’s top 10 recipients. All except Syria are among its 14 priority partner countries. The share of gross bilateral ODA that was not allocated by country was 50.8%, with 36% of this unallocated bilateral ODA spent on refugees in the donor country.

In 2021, the least developed countries (LDCs) received 34.8% of Belgium’s gross bilateral ODA (USD 476.9 million). This is greater than the DAC average of 22.9%. Belgium allocated the highest share of gross bilateral ODA (34.8%) to least developed countries in 2021, noting that 50.8% was unallocated by income group. Belgium allocated 19% of gross bilateral ODA to land-locked developing countries in 2021, equal to USD 260.3 million. Belgium allocated 0.9% of gross bilateral ODA to small island developing states (SIDS) in 2021, equal to USD 12.4 million.

Support to fragile contexts reached USD 486.3 million in 2021, representing 35.5% of Belgium’s gross bilateral ODA. Twenty-three per cent of this ODA was provided in the form of humanitarian assistance, decreasing from 28.2% in 2020, while 7.9% was allocated to peace, decreasing from 9.2% in 2020. One per cent went to conflict prevention, a subset of contributions to peace, the same as in 2020.

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

In 2021, close to one-third of Belgium’s bilateral ODA was allocated to social infrastructure and services. Investments in this area accounted for 27.8% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 431.1 million), with a strong focus on support to health (USD 147.7 million), education (USD 123 million) and government and civil society (USD 85.9 million). ODA for economic infrastructure and services totalled 3.2% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 49.1 million), focusing on business (USD 18.6 million), communications (USD 15.5 million) and transport and storage (USD 12.9 million). Bilateral humanitarian assistance amounted to USD 225.1 million (14.5% of bilateral ODA). In 2021, earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations focused on emergency response, education and environment protection.

In 2020-21, Belgium committed 67.9% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women’s empowerment, as either a principal or significant objective (down from 68.9% in 2018-19, compared with the 2020-21 DAC average of 44.4%). This is equal to USD 585.9 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 5.6% in 2020-21, compared with the DAC average of 4.5%. Belgium includes gender equality objectives in 56.2% of its ODA for humanitarian aid, compared with the 2020-21 DAC average of 17.5%. Belgium screens the majority of activities against the DAC gender equality policy marker (81.2% in 2020-21). 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 2020-21, Belgium committed 37.5% of its total bilateral allocable aid (USD 397.8 million) in support of the environment and the Rio Conventions (DAC average of 34.3%), down from 42.3% in 2018-19. Unpacking the environmental data further:

  • Eight per cent of screened bilateral allocable aid focused on environmental issues as a principal objective, compared with the DAC average of 11.3%.

  • Twenty-six per cent of total bilateral allocable aid (USD 281.6 million) focused on climate change overall (the DAC average was 29%), down from 33.8% in 2018-19. Belgium had a larger focus on adaptation (30.5%) than on mitigation (23.2%) than in 2020-21.

  • Seventeen per cent of total bilateral allocable aid (USD 135.3 million) focused on biodiversity (compared with the DAC average of 6.5%), up from 14.5% in 2018-19.

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 10.9 million in support of the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean in 2021, down from USD 16.4 million in 2020. The 2021 value is equivalent to 0.9% 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.

In 2021, Belgium also:

  • Committed USD 0.6 million of bilateral ODA to the mobilisation of domestic resources in developing countries, amounting to 0.1% of its bilateral allocable aid. Regarding the payment of local tax and custom duties for ODA-funded goods and services, Belgium has renounced 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 153 million (13.2% of its bilateral allocable aid) to promote aid for trade and improve developing countries’ trade performance and integration into the world economy in 2021.

Belgium uses leveraging mechanisms to mobilise private finance for sustainable development. In 2021, its DFI, the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO), mobilised USD 91.7 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.

In 2020-21, 88% of mobilised private finance by Belgium targeted middle-income countries and 6.5% LDCs and other low-income countries (LICs), noting that 5.6% was unallocated by income. During the same period, the top beneficiary region of this financing was Asia (Excluding the Middle East) (75.9% of the total).

Mobilised private finance by Belgium in 2020-21 mainly benefited activities in the banking & financial services sector (87.6%). Furthermore, over this period, 9.5% of Belgium’s total mobilised private finance was for climate action.

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

In 2021, Belgium’s DFI Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) extended USD 167.1 million in the form of private sector instruments. Of this, loans represented 51.9%, whereas equities accounted for 48.1%.

In 2021, USD 27.3 million (16.4%) of Belgium’s private sector instruments were allocated to the LDCs and other LICs, with a majority of 71.6% received by middle-income countries and lower middle-income countries in particular (55.7%). Moreover, USD 20.1 million were unallocated by income, mostly including equity investments to collective investment vehicles with a regional focus.

Belgium’s top three recipients were Indonesia, Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, together accounting for 31.3% of Belgium’s private sector instruments to developing countries in 2021.

In terms of sectoral distribution, 51.6% of Belgium’s private sector instruments were extended in support of projects in the banking and financial services, followed by industry, mining, construction (33.6%) and energy (13.1%). A share of 12.1% of this financing focused on climate change mitigation and/or adaptation.

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 Belgium’s 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.

The Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development co-operation has more than 150 staff, 24% of which are in embassies abroad. Enabel has about 1 500 staff, 88% of which 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.

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation monitoring exercise tracks the implementation of the effectiveness commitments. Following a reform of the exercise during 2020-22, the 4th global monitoring round (2023-26) has resumed. More detailed results for Belgium based on the 2016 and 2018 Monitoring Rounds can be found here. Monitoring profiles for other providers are available here.

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/en/policy/development_cooperation

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/en/policy/development_cooperation/who_we_are/our_organisation/dgd

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: https://www.oecd.org/development-cooperation-learning?tag-key+partner=belgium#search

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 2019 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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