Belgium actively promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including access to family planning (FP), in its multilateral and 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 prioritises reproductive health and HIV in its bilateral cooperation. At the regional level, SRH/FP has been a priority in the foreign affairs of the Flemish government.
SRH/FP is also a priority in operational federal policy documents on health and on gender in development. This has been further confirmed by the Belgian answer to the COVID-19 pandemic: the Directorate for Development Cooperation developed a ‘response strategy note’, which included a specific note on integrated health care, including SRH care and access to FP.
Belgium has been a frontrunner for SheDecides, the international initiative that was launched early 2017 and seeks to promote women’s rights and SRH/FP worldwide. The country hosted the pledging conference in March 2017 and as part of the country’s contributions to SheDecides, the government decided to spend €36 million in core funding to UNFPA between 2017-2020. After an initial support for SRH/FP in new partner countries through earmarked multilateral support for UNFPA country programmes in 2017 and 2018, Belgium is more structurally prioritising SRH/FP in its bilateral cooperation. This is done through the inclusion of a ‘SheDecides’-programme in promoting SRH/FP and gender equality into new bilateral cooperation agreements. Following the launch of SheDecides, Belgium also started to support UNFPA’s Supplies Programme and IPPF Member Associations in African countries suffering from the impact of the re-instatement of the USA ‘Mexico City Policy’.
Drop in overall financial support for SRH/FP is offset by increased support for SRH/FP in Belgium’s bilateral cooperation
In 2017, which marked the SheDecides movement, Belgium’s funding to SRH/FP stood at an unprecedented €24.6 million high. In 2018 funding through all SRH/FP streams dropped to €21.2 million, and in 2019 it dropped €18.5 million, mainly due to a drop in earmarked multilateral funding for SRH/FP.
Belgium’s funding for bilateral, government-to-government, cooperation on SRH/FP comes in addition to these €18.5 million. Currently Belgium has 14 partner countries, including countries with a high unmet need for FP, such as Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Benin, DR Congo, Burundi and Uganda. In the most recent multi-annual bilateral cooperation programmes with Guinea, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Benin, SRH/FP is one of 3 priorities. Currently in its start-up phase, with about €2.4 million spend in 2019, the expenditures on SRH/FP in these countries are projected to increase substantially, up to €14.8 in 2020, and €21.4 in 2021.
In addition to these direct expenditures on SRH/FP, more than half of Belgium’s total expenses for health contribute to reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health (RMNCH). These figures illustrate that a considerable share of the investments in health directly benefit SRH/FP, both at the institutional level (e.g. through strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Health), as well as at the programmes and service delivery level. The challenge for Belgium will be to also ensure sustained support for health, as this sector has suffered from budget cuts during the 2014-2019 legislation.
Budget cycles and core support
Belgium’s ODA is decided upon by the parliament through a system of parliamentary budget cycles. As such, Belgium traditionally supports SRH/FP politically and mainly through its multilateral and bilateral cooperation. This support may however be impacted in the next legislative period, which may bring serious budget cuts, given the economic crisis the pandemic has created.
Belgium prefers providing core funding to multilateral SRH/FP and health organisations over earmarked funding, in order to respect the agencies’ decision-making. Belgium supports several multilateral organisations with specific attention for SRH/FP, such as UNFPA, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFTAM), UNAIDS, UNICEF, the WHO and the World Bank. The regional government of Flanders is supporting the Reproductive Health and Research Department of the WHO as well as UNAIDS.
Belgium has been a key supporter of SRH/FP internationally. In addition to making commitments around SRH/FP, the country champions the employment of progressive language in UN processes. Belgium’s leading role in the promotion of SRHR is supported by a vocal All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on SRH/FP and gender equality, the ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’.
- In English:
- In Dutch:
- Het recht op gezondheidszorg waarmaken voor een duurzame ontwikkeling (2018)
- De Belgische bijdrage aan de wereldwijde strijd tegen hiv/aids (2008)
- De Belgische Ontwikkelingssamenwerking op het gebied van Seksuele en Reproductieve Gezondheid en Rechten (2007)
- Beleidsnota Het recht op gezondheid en gezondheidszorg (2006)
- Wet betreffende de Belgische Ontwikkelingssamenwerking (2013)
- Beleidsverklaring Ontwikkelingssamenwerking (2014-2019)
- Gender in de Belgische Ontwikkelingssamenwerking (2016)
- In French:
- Réaliser le droit aux soins de santé pour un développment durable (2018)
- La Coopération belge au Développement dans le domaine de la Santé et des Droits Sexuels et Reproductifs (2007)
- Le droit à la santé et aux soins de santé (2008)
- La contribution belge à la lutte internationale contre le VIH/SIDA(2006)
- Loi relative à la Coopération [belge] au Développement IDA (2013)
- Exposé d’Orientation Politique Coopération au développement (2014-2019)
- Le genre dans la Coopération belge au développement (2016)
Updated January 2021
Beyond 2020 Roundtable: European donor support to SRHR and FP... January 12, 2021
Rights under pressure September 14, 2020
- European Institutions
- United Kingdom