Nearly 13% of Belgian development aid in 2021 was "sham aid" according to NGOs
Belgium spent some €2.186 million on official development aid in 2021, but almost 13 percent of that amount was in fact "sham aid". CNCD-11.11.11, the umbrella organisation of French- and German-speaking Belgian development NGOs, concluded this in its annual report presented to the press on Wednesday.
According to the organisation, Belgium's official development assistance (ODA) may have increased in nominal terms last year (from 2.033 million in 2020 to 2.186 million in 2021), but when compared to gross national income (GNI) it showed a decline from 0,47 percent relative to that GNI in 2020 to 0,46 percent in 2021. This leaves our country well below the 2030 target of 0,7 percent, and below the European average of 0,49 percent.
Moreover, the organisation laments, 12,6 percent of ODA actually consists of "sham aid". This refers to spending which does not go directly to so-called developing countries, such as costs for receiving asylum seekers, which the OECD says can be counted as ODA. These 'non-ODA' costs accounted for some 10 percent of Belgium's development aid in 2021, amounting to €212 million, compared to the international average of 5,2 percent.
Certain expenses artificially inflate the total of Belgian aid: our country is itself the beneficiary and the funds therefore do not go to the countries that need them.
"These are of course legitimate and necessary expenses", but they artificially inflate the total of Belgian aid: our country is itself the beneficiary and the funds therefore do not go to the countries that need them, stresses CNCD-11.11.11 secretary-general Arnaud Zacharie.
Add to this the lump-sum allocations of study fees in function of the number of students from the South studying in Belgium and the cancellation of debts, and so-called "sham aid" amounted to 12,6 per cent of Belgian ODA last year (275 million euros), the organisation says.
In addition, some 1,3 percent of Belgian ODA consists of donations of surplus corona vaccines. Adding that to the three aforementioned categories, the "sham aid" would even amount to 13,8 per cent of Belgium's ODA, accounting for 303 million euros.
On the other hand, the report shows that our country did spend most of its ODA on the most vulnerable countries: those with the lowest development cooperation indices, thus fulfilling an international commitment. "Belgium is courageous and does not take the easy way out", the annual report states.
Photo shows Belgian federal minister for Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir
© BELGA PHOTO HADRIEN DURE