Policy-making in Belgium

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At the Federal level, at the Ministerial Council of 24 July 2015, a memorandum regarding the division of tasks for the preparation and follow-up of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was approved. This memorandum stipulates that the federal monitoring and implementation in Belgium is to be carried out from the sphere of competence of sustainable development. Concerning the follow-up at the European and international level, the responsibility lies at the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Development Cooperation.

Five lines of action were drawn up by the Federal Institute for Sustainable Development (FISD) in consultation with Minister Marghem (Minister for Sustainable Development). These lines of action serve as a first structured step; however these will be further expanded and modified the coming 15 years.

It concerns the following five lines of action:

  1. Make SDGs known to civil society
  2. Updating and integration of the sdgs in the existing structures of the federal strategy on sustainable development
  3. The implementation of the sdgs via the operation and the policy of the federal public services
  4. The improvement of the coherence between the different policy levels (nssd)
  5. Establishing partnerships

Make SDGs known to civil society

To raise awareness about the SDGs and to better inform all parties, the FISD developed a SDG communication strategy in 2016. The following actions will take place

  • In cooperation with The Shift, 8 SDG Voices were designated to help increase the support for the SDGs in Belgium and to help realise the implementation.
  • We also wish to clarify the importance of the SDGs for the federal public service and highlight the links of the SDGs to their policies. We want to stimulate the federal public services to include this in their internal and external communication. The FISD is investigating how a uniform manner of communication can be developed, with the aim to also maintain the general framework of the SDGs. 
  • The FISD has also developed a logo combining all efforts in Belgium for the realization of the SDGs. In this way, both public and private initiatives can have coherent communication. Moreover, the logo is meant to be seen as a quality label.
  • Finally, this website, which ties in with the previous logo, has been established; the aim of this website is to become a one-stop-shop where interested parties can get informed and participate. In doing so, we aim to create ownership and strive for transparency.

Updating and integration of the sdgs in the existing structures of the federal strategy on sustainable development

Since 1997 the Belgian federal government, via the Act of 5 May, has an institutional framework for sustainable development. In the Act a number of consultation structures are determined:

  • The Interdepartmental Commission for Sustainable Development (ICSD): This is a consultation between all federal public services and with the representatives of the Communities and Regions. The ICSD is the ideal structure to implement the SDGs in the operation and the policy (or policy preparation and execution) of the federal public service in a qualitative, coordinated and integrated manner. The ICSD has been asked to investigate the manner in which the SDGs can be integrated in the current structures, including the Long-term vision sustainable development and the federal plan sustainable development.
  • The Federal Council for Sustainable Development (FCSD). As the advisory body of organisations of civil society, the FCSD has an important role. Not only for the formulation of advice, but also to strengthen the social basis for the SDGs and to co-participate in their implementation in Belgium.
  • The Federal Planning Bureau. Via the federal reports on sustainable development, the Planning Bureau evaluates the federal policies on sustainable development and proposes prospective scenarios. The new international policy framework of the SDGs can and will be utilised in the context of these activities.

The implementation of the sdgs via the operation and the policy of the federal public services

The FISD develops initiatives supporting organisations to integrate sustainable development in their operation and policy. This past year a common methodology was developed for the drafting of annual action plans on sustainable development, among other things. These plans must be drawn up by every federal public service, in accordance with the Royal Decree of 22 September 2004. The SDGs (as well as the LTV SD) are strongly interwoven with this new methodology. A manual was also developed for this. It is not only meant for the federal public services, other public services or other interested organisations are also welcome to make use of this.

Moreover, the developed methodology establishes a strong link with the administrative agreements which are currently being drawn up by each public service. In those administrative agreements a common objective concerning sustainable development (in article 35) has been integrated, incorporating sustainable development at a more strategic level of the organisation.

By merging all elements in a coherent manner, the FISD aims for strong integration of sustainable development and the SDGs in the operation and especially the policy-making of the Federal Public Services.

The improvement of the coherence between the different policy levels (nssd)

The SDGs relate to both federal and regional competencies. A strong spirit of collaboration will be essential in order to implement the SDGs in Belgium in an efficient, coherent and effective manner. With respect to the reporting towards the international level, this shall mainly occur via the Directorate-General for European Affairs and Coordination (DGE) and the intra-federal consultation platform Multilateral Coordination (COORMULTI).

In the field of implementation within Belgium, the cooperation shall be mainly organized within the context of the Interministerial Conference on Sustainable Development (IMCSD). This body groups all competent ministers and has been given the following mandate:

  • Contribute to the implementation in Belgium of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, including by means of a national strategy for sustainable development.
  • Prepare the Belgian contributions to the European and multilateral reporting regarding the execution in Belgium of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.
  • At an administrative level, contribute to the preparation of the viewpoints Belgium will defend at the EU and UN levels regarding the implementation in Belgium of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

Establishing partnerships

To truly integrate the SDGs in Belgium, cooperation with civil society and citizens is necessary. For our fifth line of action we are looking for a way to establish partnerships around the SDGs. At the federal level however, this is still at a very early stage. How can we reach real partnerships, in which a public authority is different from or more involved than solely a financier? Real partnerships require a new approach, from both the public authorities and civil society. And we realise that without real cooperation with the social actors we will not succeed in qualitative and effective implementation of the SDGs. This is one of the challenges for the realisations of this Agenda.