Belgium actively promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including access to family planning (FP), in its multilateral cooperation and in its bilateral cooperation.
Policies & funding
Belgium’s federal law on development cooperation (2013) stresses the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights for sustainable development and prioritizes reproductive health and HIV in the bilateral cooperation. At the regional level, SRHR is a priority in the foreign affairs of the Flemish government.
In his 2014-2019 Policy Declaration, the Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation committed himself to supporting SRHR, including family planning. SRHR is also a priority in operational policy documents on health in development.
Answering a parliamentary question in April 2016, the minister reiterated that, despite general cuts in development cooperation, the budget spent for SRHR might even increase. Moreover, in the new strategic note on gender in the Belgian Development Cooperation and consequent action plan towards the integration of the gender dimension, SRHR is one of the four priorities.
Less ODA but more attention for RH / FP
Belgium, is as of 2010 legally bound to meeting the norm of spending 0.7% of its Gross National Income (GNI) on ODA. However, the government of Belgium, as governments of other European countries, chose not to prioritise attaining this goal due to financial constraints. In 2015, Belgium spent USD 1.9 billion in net ODA, which represented 0.42% of its GNI, a fall of 7.8% in real terms from 2014. Nevertheless, Belgium remains the 10th largest Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donor in terms of ODA as a percentage of GNI and within the EU Belgium is the sixth largest governmental EU donor for humanitarian aid.
Belgium’s ODA is decided upon by the parliament through a system of parliamentary budget cycles. As such Belgium does not traditionally make pledges to global initiatives but rather supports RH/FP politically and through its multilateral and bilateral cooperation. Belgium currently has 14 partner countries, including countries with a high unmet need for FP, such as Burkina Faso, Niger, Guinea, Benin, DR Congo, Burundi and Uganda.
Belgium prefers providing core funding to multilateral SRHR and health organizations over earmarked funding. Belgium supports several multilateral organizations with specific attention for SRHR/FP, such as UNFPA, the GFTAM, the WHO and the World Bank. Flanders is supporting the Reproductive Health and Research Department of the WHO. Despite decreasing ODA, Belgium increased its core contribution for UNFPA. This government term alone Belgium dispensed almost €20 million of core contributions to UNFPA. On top of that, Belgium supports UNFPA for implementing SRHR/FP programs in numerous Belgian partner countries, including countries with a high unmet need for FP like Guinee, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Following the overall trend of funding for development cooperation, funding for health, including reproductive health has gone down. However, within the budget the proportion of ODA for RH/FP has increased. Also on the positive side: more than half of the total expenses for health contribute to reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health (RMNCH). These figures illustrate that a considerable share of the investments in global health directly benefit RH/FP, both at the institutional level (e.g. through strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Health), as well as at the level of program and service delivery. The challenge is to reverse the decreasing Belgian support for health (particularly targeting SRHR/FP), despite the budget cuts for development.
During the post-2015 and other international decision making processes, Belgium has been a key supporter of SRHR/FP, and employing strong language and making commitments around SRHR/FP. Belgium’s leading role in the promotion of SRHR is supported by a vocal All Party Parliamentary Group on SRHR and gender equality.
Updated October 2016
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