Minister Paul Magnette modernises the Development Cooperation Law

date: 11 December 2012

Today, the Foreign Affairs Committees voted on the bill submitted by Minister for Development Cooperation Paul Magnette, which is intended to modernise the Law of 25 May 1999 on the Belgian Law of International Development Cooperation. This important law, which forms the legal foundation for the principles and methods of Belgian cooperation, was in need of a thorough revision after 12 years in order to be more in alignment with the changing international context and the new challenges with which development cooperation is confronted: the arrival of new players in development funding, the larger role of civil society and the challenges associated with global public goods (access to healthcare, combatting AIDS and other pandemics, maintaining natural resources, etc.).

The need to modernise the law clearly came to the forefront in recent years during sessions of the Parliamentary committees, the States General of Development Cooperation, and from the assessment of the law carried out by the Special Evaluator for Development Cooperation.

Today, development cooperation represents a dual challenge. On the one hand, it is critically important that the aid is allowed to work more effectively. On the other hand, in a context within which the effect of other policy measures on this aid is growing ever larger, it is fundamental that the policy consistency benefiting development cooperation be guaranteed. For example, the situation in which efforts made with regard to development cooperation are undermined by other policy measures, which are sometimes taken within the same countries or institutions, must be avoided. Minister Paul Magnette’s bill must therefore also:

  • make the Belgian official development aid more effective through better alignment with the policy in the receiving countries, which are responsible for their own development; through improved coordination between (among others, the European) donors; and through a more results-oriented approach and the further development of a democratic development policy in the countries, together with the local civil society;
  • make the aid more sustainable, with an integrated approach concerning climate change and with attention paid to the three pillars of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental);
  • strengthen the policy consistency benefiting development cooperation;
  • base Belgian Development Cooperation on an approach that is founded on rights, in which the social-economic and cultural rights (health, education, decent work, housing, food, etc.), civil and political rights (discrimination, freedom of expression, etc.), and the right to development are key points.

Minister Paul Magnette added: “Economic development is an essential element for developing countries to rise up out of poverty and free themselves from dependency upon aid, but of course, not under just any circumstances. I have therefore, based on the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda, put the social economy, the strengthening of local production capacity, local entrepreneurship, fair trade, etc. on equal footing. This approach then considers development cooperation to be more a question of justice than of charity.”