Today, the Council of Ministers approved at first reading a draft law submitted by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo that will thoroughly redesign the Belgian development policy. The new legal framework is closely aligned with the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. According to Minister Alexander De Croo, “this is the concluding step of a particularly far-reaching reform of the Belgian development agency over the last few years”.
Over the last few years, the Belgian development agency has been thoroughly reformed. During that process, the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) was reformed and the Belgian Development Agency (BTC) was transformed into the Belgian development agency Enabel. A number of new emphases were also made in terms of content, including a more prominent role for the private sector, new ways of financing and digitalization as a lever for development. The new legal framework confirms this turnaround.
Partnerships are central
Central to this bill are the partnerships our country wants to establish in order to achieve measurable results. A good example is the partnership which Minister Alexander De Croo established with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp and the Belgian development agency Enabel to eradicate sleeping sickness in 10 years.
The new law will ensure a legal anchoring of the two axes that have been guiding the Belgian development policy in recent years: (1) a rights-based approach that focuses on respect for human rights and (2) sustainable and inclusive economic growth through the development of a strong private sector as a driving force for sustainable development.
Important role of the private sector
The new Belgian development policy also focuses much more on involving the private sector in realizing the sustainable development goals. The private sector and free entrepreneurship are indeed important engines of progress and human development. Our country invests through BIO in local companies in our partner countries abroad, but this bridge between the development world and the business world must also be built domestically. One and a half years ago, more than a hundred Belgian companies and organizations endorsed the Belgian SDG Charter and the sustainable development goals. This partnership with the private sector is now being furthered. For example, companies that want to invest in developing countries will be eligible for financial support in the future.
The use of new, innovative forms of financing is an important novelty as well. Last year, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross, our country launched the world’s first Humanitarian Impact Bond. This innovative financing mechanism bridges the gap between private investors, donor countries and the Red Cross. The Belgian government only reimburses the pre-financing of private investors when they reach the results which were defined at the onset. This form of result-oriented and cost-efficient work must be further embedded into the Belgian development policy in the coming years.