Today, the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) announces the figures for Official Development Assistance (ODA) for the past year. The most important donors for international cooperation are represented in this Development Assistance Committee.
In 2020, the total development assistance of DAC countries exceeded $161 billion, representing 0.32% of their combined Gross National Income (GNI). This is an increase of 3.5% compared to 2019 and is mainly due to additional efforts as a result of the Covid-crisis. Belgium is keeping pace with this OECD trend, seeing its ODA increase to $2.290 billion, representing 0.47% of GNI.
Reliable, solidarity-based donor
Belgium remains a stable and reliable donor. Despite the fact that 2020 was a particularly difficult year in economic terms and that Belgium's gross national income (GNI) also suffered greatly, official Belgian development aid increased by almost 3% in real terms. This puts Belgium in the top 7 of solidarity countries within the EU.
In recent years, such increases were mainly due to the cost of receiving refugees in Belgium. At the peak of the refugee crisis in 2016, that share was more than 16% of total ODA. By 2020, this drops below 6%.
These figures reflect Minister of Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir's commitment to international solidarity, even in difficult budgetary times. It is an important step in the framework of a growth path for development cooperation that has been outlined in the coalition agreement. Moreover, Belgium is sending out an important signal to its partners and the wider international community. "Even in difficult times, we must dare to invest in international solidarity. Just as no one is safe from the coronavirus until we are all safe, we will not get out of the crisis if economic recovery remains uneven," said Minister Kitir.
Dam against poverty
Covid-19 highlights the need for international solidarity: For the first time in years, global poverty is rising. The World Bank estimates that the pandemic will push more than 120 million people into absolute poverty. The economic impact is particularly noticeable in Africa: 30 million children risk falling into extreme poverty. Moreover, due to the limited availability of vaccines in most developing countries, an uneven recovery is looming. On top of that comes the climate crisis. This is also exacerbating inequality. Broad access to qualitative basic services such as health care and a strongly developed social protection system have proven their worth as a dam against the devastating impact of the pandemic. Development aid remains a crucial lever to make this happen.
Focus on Least Developed Countries
For Minister Kitir, specific programmes on social protection and climate are high on the agenda. The focus is on the most affected populations in Central Africa and the Sahel region. Belgium is - more than other DAC members - committed to the least developed countries and fragile states. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and Rwanda are the main partners of the cooperation.
Multilateral cooperation and the strength of civil society
Belgium is a staunch defender of multilateralism, which is also reflected in the aid. Also in 2020, more than half will be channeled through multilateral organizations. Flexible, predictable funding enables humanitarian organizations to intervene immediately in case of disasters and acute crises. Earlier, the OECD already praised Belgium's choice for its strong focus on the role of a critical and decisive civil society in the partner countries. This remains essential at a time when civil society is under great pressure in many countries. With almost one-fifth of Belgian ODA, non-governmental organizations are key drivers of Belgian cooperation.
Over the past year, significant efforts have been made to increase transparency, both for our partners and the Belgian public. Increasing the impact of aid is a priority. All information about interventions financed by the Directorate General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid can be consulted on https://openaid.be/en.