Developing partnerships is at the heart of Enabel’s new philosophy. Can you tell us what this philosophy consists of?
This new approach is part of the framework which our supervising Minister has provisioned for Enabel’s mandate. The underlying idea is twofold: On the one hand, better incorporate cooperation in Belgium’s foreign policy in a global approach that combines diplomacy, development, defence and security. On the other hand, showcase expertise of both Belgium’s public institutions and universities. Under this framework, Enabel is no longer just a cooperation actor but a facilitator who brings together competences. And in view of mobilising these competences faster, we activate the Framework Cooperation Agreements that we have concluded with a series of public actors and universities.
We have already done so about fifty times and we do not plan on stopping. Such agreements are mutual: We can rely on our partners’ competences whilst our partners can also rely on ours for their own activities..
Institutional actors who rely on Enabel to achieve their own activities? Can you explain this please?
For instance, we have a partnership with the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp. The ITM recently called upon us for a project in the fight against trypanosomiasis in Congo. Because of our many cooperation projects in Congo, we have indeed established long-term relations with a range of actors in the field in the regions where the ITM must carry out control activities. Rather than starting from scratch and create its own network the ITM decided to rely on Enabel for that part of its assignment and it entrusted 3.5 million dollars to us for the purpose. That way the ITM uses its budget cleverly and it can invest more in other aspects of its assignment. For Enabel, this is an occasion to consolidate its existing network. It is a win-win.
And Enabel can also mobilise outside expertise?
Indeed! Actually, what we do is more than just mobilise expertise: We try to combine expertise and develop comprehensive solutions in the countries where we intervene. For instance, we have just concluded a partnership agreement with the Antwerp Port Authority for developing the Port of Cotonou in Benin. This Agreement should make it possible to turn the Port of Cotonou into a secure economic area and to transform it into an economic hub for Benin. The management aspect for which the Port of Antwerp
intervenes is only one component of a comprehensive programme. There is also a security aspect, where the Belgian Defence intervenes in securing the waters surrounding the Port. Finally, Belgian Customs provide technical support to the customs authorities of Benin. Such a project contributes to our partner countries’ development objectives and also helps Belgium position itself as an expert in these areas in West Africa.
The European Union actually plans to entrust us with more such assignments in the region. For the Port of Antwerp it is also an excellent deal, since it can boost its international fame and presence. Besides, through operational collaboration the ties between Belgium and the countries of West Africa can be intensified in terms of security and customs management.
"Rather than working on its own and develop its own network, the Institute of Tropical Medicine decided to rely on Enabel. That way the ITM uses its budget cleverly and it can invest more in other aspects of its assignment. For Enabel, this is an occasion to consolidate its existing network. It is a win-win."
Another important aspect of your work is that efforts are pooled with activities financed by external donors such as the European Union.
IIndeed. This is beyond our facilitator role: The idea is that the efforts of Enabel and of its partners are pooled. For instance, we now work with KU Leuven and UC Louvain on a Call for Proposals for agricultural development and research projects in Rwanda and Benin. The targeted research activities must strengthen or speed up agricultural innovation and transformation, whilst paying key attention to climate change.
KU Leuven and UC Louvain provide their proven expertise in scientific research and agricultural surveying and Enabel complements this academic work with its expertise in managing agricultural projects and steers the whole of the project.
This joint action is financed by the EU and indirectly involves the partnership with the Climate and Development Cooperation research platform KLIMOS.
You also work with Belgian institutions such as the Social Security Federal Public Service. Why do such institutions participate in international cooperation projects?
Besides strengthening the image of Belgium in social security management, which is primarily a foreign affairs policy objective, the institution can develop its own competences. The Social Security FPS for instance intervened in Rwanda to support a social security reform there. The list of occupational diseases needed to be updated and questions related to coverage against disability risks needed to be addressed. By the way, this assignment is financed with budgetary means of Enabel. For the experts of the Social Security FPS this new implementation enabled them to enrich their methodology and their approach, which, eventually, benefits the management of social security in Belgium.
Another example is the Federal Police’s participation in many assignments in Africa, particularly in Burkina Faso where we support the Burkinabe state to optimise its security services as part of the fight against terrorism. Police officers who participate to this kind of assignments, in Burkina Faso or elsewhere, told us that these experiences have taught them to develop new security approaches which they can apply in other countries in Africa.
So, we learn from exporting our expertise and thus enrich our practices. So, the benefits of development cooperation are not limited to partner countries: Eventually, Belgium is benefiting too.