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Suzanna Moorehead, chairman of the DAC, the development committee of the OECD, presented the results of the peer review of Belgian development cooperation. The peer review is one of the most important assessment tools on international level with regard to development cooperation. It examines the way in which OECD-DAC members comply with their international obligations and encourages them to integrate the best practices of other members into their own operations. The report indicates that Belgian development cooperation has made significant progress in a number of areas. The Minister of Development Cooperation, Meryame Kitir, welcomes this review and plans to integrate the report's recommendations into her policy as soon as possible.
The peer review is an intensive process that started in June 2019 and lasted for just over a year. Switzerland and Luxembourg were the assessors, supported by the OECD DAC Secretariat. A group of 7 examiners met all Belgian development actors, including the Communities and the Regions, just before the Covid-19 pandemic. Assessing the Belgian development cooperation in the field required flexibility and creativity, as the traditional field visit was replaced by virtual meetings with Belgian development actors in Burkina Faso, a partner country of Belgian Development Cooperation.
Based upon different indicators, the OECD team examined in particular the development and reforms which took place since the last peer review in 2015 and the way the previous recommendations were implemented.
Belgium scores by focusing on least developed countries and fragile situations
The report commends Belgium for its international commitment to the least developed countries and fragile states. Our country is more generous, for instance, than the average DAC country when it comes to providing official development assistance to these countries. The report also underlines our commitment to gender equality, more specifically in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Within the European Union, Belgium was also the driving force to put digitization on the development agenda.
The report emphasizes that our country strongly defends multilateralism and was actively involved in the reform of the United Nations in order to strengthen its legitimacy, representativeness and effectiveness. Belgium is also a loyal and committed partner at the European level.
Belgian humanitarian aid is highly appreciated, whether it is our strategic advocacy in bodies such as the Security Council or our efforts to ensure flexible and predictable funding, which enables humanitarian organizations to take immediate action in the event of disasters and crises. Innovative initiatives such as the "Humanitarian Impact Bonds" and the organization of a "hackaton" for the development of a digital tool that can support emergency operations were praised as well.
Challenges for the future
The peer review also points out some challenges for the Directorate General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD). More in particular, Belgium is asked to draw up an overall strategic framework to steer the work of our partners and to enhance coordination in view of a "whole-of-government approach".
Furthermore, Belgium is called upon to develop unambiguous country strategies and, within these, to clarify the order of thematic priorities, including towards partners in the field, so that they can act within the set strategic line. It also points to the international commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on development aid and the need for a pragmatic roadmap, especially in difficult economic COVID-times.
As development work has evolved significantly, the DAC recommends - when it comes to human resources management - to better align available skills and chosen competence profiles with the strategic priorities.
From recommendations to policy
The peer review gives donors such as Belgium a better insight into the challenges and opportunities ahead. "I can identify with the conclusions of this objective evaluation and I am determined to take these recommendations into account when drawing up our development policy for the coming years", says Minister Kitir. "Belgium is fully committed to the internationally established sustainable development agenda and the drafted recommendations will give rise to a number of reorientations and adjustments where necessary”.
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