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Belgium's contributions to the UN
Belgium’s contributions to the UN
The success and failure of the United Nations depend on the will of governments to move forward. The Kingdom of Belgium is a founding member of the UN and a staunch defender of the principles of effective multilateralism. We strongly support the UN system, both in terms of political engagement and belief in the Organisation, as well as through sustainable and predictable financial contributions. At the UN Headquarters, Belgian diplomats defend Belgium’s key priorities by representing our nation in UN meetings and conferences. As a member of the European Union, Belgium also coordinates its position with the other 26 member states to ensure unity within the EU’s policy at the UN.
The policies and objectives of Belgian foreign policy and development cooperation are aligned with those of the UN and its specialised programmes, funds and agencies. We aim at enhancing the positive correlation between the three main pillars of the UN: peace and security, development and human rights.
Our mission currently co-chairs the Group of Friends on Decent Work for Sustainable Development, the Group of Friends on Mental Health, the Group of Friends of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Friends of the Elimination of Racism.
1. Peace and Security
The promotion of peace and security requires multifaceted and multidimensional measures in different fields, such as counterterrorism, the situation of children in armed conflict and non-proliferation and disarmament.
Conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding are essential elements of Belgian foreign policy. For instance, Belgium has played a particularly visible role in the negotiations leading to the Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines. Our country continues to pay close attention to the implementation of the Convention, as well as to the more general issues of small arms and light weapons and unexploded war remnants.
Over the past years, Belgium has also contributed to peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Mali.
Our nation’s commitment to building international peace and security is further evidenced by its active membership to the Peacebuilding Commission and its previous presidency of the Country Specific Configuration for the Central African Republic.
Finally, Belgium has served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council six times, namely during 1947-1948, 1955-1956, 1971-1972, 1991-1992, 2007-2008 and 2019-2020. In January 2021 we announced our candidacy to take a seat as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the term 2037-2038.
2. Human Rights
As a founding member of the UN, Belgium is committed to human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Belgium has ratified the major human rights conventions and has established a number of national institutions with a vast mandate in the field of the respect for, and the promotion and protection of human rights.
Our human rights priorities at the international level include:
- Combating impunity and strengthening accountability and the rule of law. To this end, Belgium strongly supports the International Criminal Court;
- Ensuring respect for the physical integrity of every person, including progress towards universal abolition of the death penalty;
- Enhancing equality and countering discrimination, with particular attention to the rights of women, children, and vulnerable persons;
- Promoting decent work, social protection, and respect for international labour standards;
- Working towards inclusive economic growth as a lever to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development;
- Addressing the scourge of racism by advocating for all victims of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance benefitting from the same levels of protection;
- Promoting freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, as a key component of democracy.
Belgium served on the UN Human Rights Council in 2009-2012 and 2016-2018 and we are currently a candidate for the period 2023-2025. Belgium continues to work towards a strong and effective Human Rights Council and for the universality and indivisibility of human rights. Our country aims to ensure that the Council, in addressing human rights violations, deals with both country situations and thematic issues. We believe that a robust system of UN Special Rapporteurs and independent human rights experts is an excellent tool that allows the Council to address human rights situations on the ground. Belgium is therefore committed to cooperating with them and will continue to make every effort to respect the integrity and independence of these procedures. Belgium also fully engages with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism and strives to ensure effective follow-up of UPR recommendations as accepted during its review. We also actively participate in discussions on the review of other countries.
Belgium continues to work on priority issues such as the fight against impunity, the abolition of the death penalty, women’s rights, children's rights and the freedom of expression. Belgium supports strengthening the link between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council where issues, such as violence against women in conflict and the protection of children in conflict areas, overlap. Our country also works on strengthening other institutions that defend human rights, such as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Through non-earmarked contributions to the OHCHR, we seek to safeguard its independence and impartiality. Belgium further supports regional organisations, such as the Council of Europe and the African Union. We insist on joint EU-action in this field and support a strong European diplomacy in the field of human rights. We also strongly value the contribution of civil society organisations, both within the UN institutions and in individual member states.
Belgium’s development policy is built on two central axes: a rights-based approach, and sustainable and inclusive growth. This rights-based approach to development is based on the universality, indivisibility and inalienability of human rights. It includes a focus on fragile states and post-conflict zones, with priority given to the Great Lakes region, and Western and Northern Africa. This geographic focus prevents fragmentation and enables a coherent approach to cross-border issues such as peace, security, regional stability, climate and migration. In addition, our actions are defined by the principles of participation and inclusivity in decision-making, non-discrimination, equality, transparency and accountability. Ultimately, our purpose is to increase the impact of our development cooperation for people and communities.
In 2020, the total amount of Belgian development assistance represented approximately 0.47% of our GNI. Belgium strives to direct at least 50% of its official development aid to the least developed countries (LDCs). Belgium contributes over 100 mio EUR/year to the UN’s humanitarian response that has supported the most vulnerable population groups in many crises, including in Syria, Iraq, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the occupied Palestinian territories, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Belgium’s development coordination focuses on 14 partner countries, and has 20 multilateral partner organisations whose core tasks align with the priorities of our development policy: agricultural and food security (FAO, CGIAR), health (WHO, GFATM, UNAIDS), human rights (OHCHR), gender and women's rights (UN Women), children's rights (UNICEF), good governance and capacity building (UNDP), demography and sexual and reproductive rights (UNFPA), decent work (ILO), migration (IOM), environment (UNEP), together with the World Bank (WB) and the Tax Policy and Administration Topical Trust Fund (TPA TTF). Specific humanitarian organisations (ICRC, UNHCR, OCHA, WFP, UNRWA) are other longstanding partner organisations protected under the Royal Decree of 19 April 2014 on humanitarian aid.
4. Financial Contributions to the UN system
Belgium is an important financial contributor to the UN. The UN’s regular budget (a total of 3,23 billion USD for 2021) and its peacekeeping operations (a total of 6,38 billion USD for 2021-2022) are funded by mandatory contributions from the Member States. On the basis of the “capacity to pay principle”, Belgium’s share in the overall budget of the UN is currently set at 0.82%, making our country the 18th largest contributor. The expenses are paid by the Federal Public Service for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation.
In line with our commitment to an effective multilateralism, Belgium aims to pay its mandatory contributions to the UN in full and on time so that the Organisation can focus on optimal mandate delivery. In recognition of its efforts, Belgium has consistently been part of the UN Secretariat’s regular budget ‘honour roll’.
In addition, Member States also make voluntary contributions to the UN, the specialised organisations, agencies, funds and programs. Belgium is also an important donor in this respect, having contributed approximately 100 million EUR annually in recent years, including to New York-based funds and programmes UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA and UN Women. These grants are largely paid by Federal ministries (essentially the Federal Public Service for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation). They are mostly non-earmarked and take the form of multi-year “core funding” to the supported organisations.