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Monday, 20 September 2010

Development: Increased assistance and effectiveness

Last Thursday Belgian Development Minister Charles Michel was smiling as if he had just got a good report: “I feel like a student who passed his first-term exams, thanks to the political support and the support of all the stakeholders.”
The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is composed of 32 industrialized countries, recently commended Belgium for its reforms in development assistance. Every four or five years the overseas development programme of each member state is subjected to a peer evaluation. The previous two evaluations in 2001 and 2005 had not been very positive. Since then, however, Belgium has set things straight. “Belgium can be proud of its generosity towards development aid,” said DAC President, Eckhard Deutsche, especially during this period of economic crisis. In 2009, Belgium contributed USD 2.6 billion on official development assistance, amounting to 0.55% of its gross national income, and is further committed to increase this figure to 0.7% this year, although there are doubts about the exact timeframe. At that point, Belgium will join the club of five countries that have already reached this objective.
Greater resources required
The DAC President continued by pointing out that “Belgium is approaching 0.7 as a result of recent debt write-offs. It is possible that these will be less significant in the future and that it will therefore be necessary to increase resources for development.” According to the OECD report, Belgium has managed to increase aid effectiveness by streamlining its procedures. The report also commends agreements made between the ministry and universities and NGOs, which has led to greater impact.
However, several areas still require attention: “There is still a lack of a shared vision among all actors,” according to Mr Deutsche, “due to the large number of different levels of authority in Belgium! All that costs money. More power should be put in the hands of those on the ground, and their practical experience should be used to greater advantage. In addition, given that Belgium’s special focus is on a “fragile” area like the Great Lakes Region, it should include all ministries in order to create a more comprehensive programme that addresses peace and security, development, institutional capacity and poverty reduction.”
What would happen if Belgium broke up? “That would certainly lead to reduced effectiveness,” added Deutsche. “In Germany we have 16 federal states that are involved in development, but policies are not coordinated, which causes problems for the recipient countries, having to deal with a multitude of different agencies in the health sector, for example. This kind of fragmentation is counterproductive!”

Source: Revue de presse de l'Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie

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