The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its early figures for development assistance spending across donor countries in 2020. These figures offer the first tangible evidence of the global pandemic’s impact on EU development aid spending. In absolute terms, EU 2020 aid increased by 7.8% (72.7 billion USD) compared to 2019. However, this rise is mainly the result of a fall in Gross National Income (GNI) prompted by the global pandemic. For the nineteen DAC EU Member States, this represented 0.5% of their ODA/GNI ratio – still far below the longstanding international commitment of 0.7%. The EU institutions’ ODA rose by 25.4% in real terms.
In the Flemish government agreement for 2019-2023, the government is committed to combating sexual and gender based violence, with particular attention for the prevention of forced marriages, honour-related crimes and female genital mutilation. Sexual health should equally receive the needed attention. In Flanders’ international cooperation the government is also quoted as being committed to projects that improve equality between the sexes, with a special focus on women’s education and the promotion of SRHR.
The promise of 0.7%
The new Flemish government will contribute to the realisation of the SDG Agenda 2030 in developing countries. Belgium currently spends only 0.4% of its GNI on development cooperation, despite the legal obligation of 0.7%. In the coming legislature, the Flemish government promises to make further efforts to finally reach the 0.7% standard at Belgian level.
Flanders' bilateral cooperation plans
The Flemish government is to continue its bilateral cooperation with Malawi and Mozambique, whereas cooperation with South Africa will be reoriented from development to “strong political-economic diplomatic cooperation”. The new Flemish Prime Minister Jambon also expressed the intention to set up a new cooperation with one or more countries in the North and East Africa region. The future partner country is said to be selected based on its current cooperation with the EU in the fight against human trafficking and illegal migration. The new government is thus joining the trend of using development cooperation funds for the management of migration flows.
Should we be counting on the private sector?
In addition, the new government is looking at the private sector to step in with development cooperation through public-private partnerships. Public funds are only deemed needed where private partners cannot bear the risk (alone), or when they fail to deliver a suitable solution. The call for private sector support for development should not come at the cost of social sectors, including SRHR, as these are traditionally dependent on ODA support. Mechanisms seeking to mobilise private sector resources are primarily focused on non-social sectors such as infrastructural projects. Moving away from traditional ODA support and towards private sector mechanisms thus brings a real risk of reducing donor investments in sectors such as health, education and SRHR.
Finally, the government sets out to move part of the development cooperation resources towards more Flemish emergency aid. Increasing support for humanitarian aid is welcome, but it should not come at the cost of development cooperation, which could help prevent disasters from happening in the first place.
The European Council elected Belgian prime minister Charles Michel as President of the European Council. The president presides over and drives forward the work of the European Council and is the European Union’s principal representative on the world stage. He is elected for the period from 1 December 2019 until 31 May 2022. But who is Charles Michel and what is his track record on SRHR and gender equality?
To date, no fundamental change in governance has been seen, Perspective 2030, the Belgian coalition of NGOs monitoring the realisation of the 2030 Agenda of which Sensoa is a member, stated. The coalition published a critical report that took stock of Belgium’s efforts since signing on to the Agenda in 2015.
The federal development aid for health and reproductive health increased from €141 million in 2015 to €146 million in 2016. The support is still well below the level of 2014 though. €164 million was spent on these sectors in 2014. The total expenditure of the Directorate-General for Development (DGD) increased with 11.8% in 2016. This means the federal government is investing relatively less in development aid for health and reproductive health because the proportion of aid dedicated to these sectors decreased from 14% in 2015 to 12.7% in 2016. Sensoa discussed these results in an analysis of the federal development aid for health and reproductive health.
Thursday May 11th, Federal Parliament, Belgium. MPs played ‘snakes and ladders’, a life-size game on the health and rights of girls worldwide. The MPs were the pawns in the game and found themselves confronted with the obstacles girls in developing countries face.
There are about 1 billion girls in the world, many of which face discrimination and inequalities. Each year 16 million girls between 15 and 19 give birth. Complications related to pregnancies and delivery are the 2nd most important cause of death for girls in that age group. Every year 3 million girls run the risk of mutilation and every day 39,000 girls are subject to child or forced marriage.
The Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda want girls’ health and rights to be high on the political agenda. They call upon the Belgian development cooperation to continue focusing on this particular group.
As part of the She Decides-Initiative, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo visited Benin and Senegal, partner countries of the Belgian Development Cooperation. In Benin, the Minister signed two programmes promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights.
During a She Decides visit to Benin and Senegal, the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo announced an increase of his support to the UNFPA and International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
On the eve of the international conference She Decides in Brussels, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo launched Body & Rights, a bilingual (French/Dutch) website with an e-tutorial on sexual and reproductive health and rights.