The N-VA on the development cooperation policy memorandum: “Disappointing”

9 November 2020

Minister for Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir’s policy memorandum is disappointing. A nice piece of prose full of great principles, but after reading it, you wonder what the minister is actually announcing. The N-VA is by no means convinced. “It may all sound very nice, but at its core, it is a conservative, paternalistic and not very innovative approach to development cooperation.”

The N-VA hopes that in 2020 we can gradually move toward genuine international cooperation. We must strive for a healthy but, above all, mature relationship with all countries, based on negotiations on an equal footing, peer to peer, with equal rights and obligations for both partners.

Lifting people out of poverty

Depending on the economic, social or societal problems our partners encounter, we can step in and add a development or support component to our collaboration. Our support, whether financial or technical, must be aimed at preparing the country to provide its citizens with legal certainty and protection, develop its own independent private sector and establish a secure environment for economic growth. That is the only way we can structurally lift countries and people out of poverty.

Minister Meryame Kitir: archaic fight against the symptoms

What Meryame Kitir is proposing here is actually archaic development cooperation, which does nothing more than combat symptoms. This is irresponsible, according to the N-VA, and not a sensible use of taxpayers’ money. The world population continues to rise, especially in Africa. Objectives can’t be achieved by just having nice principles and writing cheques. If these societies do not build resilience, independence and resistance, then this will have a detrimental impact on the entire world. Hence the importance of developing a well-founded and well-considered international cooperation policy that breaks away from the paradigm of the Western benefactor and the African recipient.

Don’t just do more, do better

The minister wants more resources for her policy, but without any justification other than “we must do more”. Yes, we must do more, but above all, we need to do better. The N-VA states that such a growth path and budgetary injection must depend on concrete, demonstrable results obtained by her department with increasing efficiency and the will to innovate.

No general principles, but concrete goals

Rather than giving us a lecture on the need to build a better world, the minister should announce that the federal government is working out concrete joint objectives with the partner countries, with clear standards for efficiency, quality and innovation. For example, adding 80,000 additional jobs in our partner countries during this parliamentary term with the help of Belgian international cooperation. The same also applies to our policy on family planning and life planning for women, for the climate transition etc.; so not general principles, but concrete goals.

Lack of a sense of reality

That lack of ambition or sense of reality is reflected in further investment in partnerships that have sometimes been stuck for years and are likely to remain so in the coming years. The N-VA points out that Minister Meryame Kitir’s ambition to respond quickly to needs and crises is impossible if one keeps working with outdated approaches. Very specifically, there is a short-sighted translation of the right to food security as aid (subsidies) for small-scale (family) farmers.

No vision on NGOs

There is similarly a particularly conservative approach to civil society and the right of initiative of NGOs, which are actually funded by the government to the tune of 80%. Here, too, there is clearly a lack of vision on who is actually taking the lead and monitoring quality, effectiveness and efficiency requirements. “Anyone who wants a truly engaged and independent civil society encourages NGOs to mobilise other sources of funding and fulfil their task of actively motivating citizens and businesses to contribute voluntarily,” the N-VA says.

Minister misses the start

“Although the purple-green coalition definitely had the opportunity to develop an innovative and ambitious plan for international cooperation, it seems to have gotten off to a bad start with this memorandum. Without concrete figures and clear projects, it is impossible for parliament to assess whether Minister Meryame Kitir can also structurally substantiate her promises. Hopefully, we can still get some much-needed answers from the minister during the committee meeting,” the N-VA concludes.

How valuable did you find this article?

Enter your personal score here
The average score is