Summit for Democracy: Belgium is committed to democracy and the rule of law
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo is participating today in the Summit for Democracy hosted by the White House at the invitation of US President Joe Biden. Both nationally and internationally, Belgium continues to defend democracy and the rule of law.
"After the fall of the Iron Curtain, we were lulled into a false sense of security. We thought that democracy would become easier, that it would be the obvious choice. But we forgot that it was never going to be like that. Liberal democracy is not the easy answer, but it is the right one because it allows everyone to have a say in the direction we take as a country and as a society," said Alexander De Croo.
"Liberal democracy is not about having a strong leader, but strong leadership based on diversity and inclusion. A democracy seeks nuanced answers to complex questions. The greatest enemies of democracy are oversimplification and divisive, black-or-white thinking. This is also what makes democracy fragile," the Prime Minister said during his speech at the Democracy Summit.
Lowering the voting age and the Human Rights Council
In the framework of the Democracy Summit, our country has made a series of concrete commitments to bolster democracy, both at the national and international levels. These include lowering the voting age to 16 in European elections, the launch of the online participation platform on modernising democratic principles in our institutional structure and citizens' panels on the future of Europe. At the Parliament’s initiative, the federal government is also working on a transparency register to better identify external actors who want to influence politics.
At the international level, Belgium is freeing up budgets, via Belgian Development Cooperation, for strengthening the civil society in its partner countries and finances international NGOs active in the defence of human rights. Belgium is also a candidate for a new mandate at the United Nations Human Rights Council (2023-25) and will increase its contribution to the general funding of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights by 25%.
Overview of commitments
At the domestic level:
- Adopt a national action plan to combat racism.
- Implement the new national action plan to combat gender-based violence (adopted on November 26, 2021)
- Launch a participatory process through the creation of an online citizen platform on modernizing, increasing the efficiency and deepening the democratic principles of the State.
- Lower the voting age to 16 for the European Parliament elections.
- Ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents (Convention 205)
- Ratify the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority (Protocol 207)
At the multilateral level:
- Remain committed to promoting and protecting human rights, the rule of law and democracy through inter alia the Belgian fiduciary fund, established in the Council of Europe in 2018 and provided with additional funding in December 2020 (2 million EUR).
- As a member of the Team Europe Democracy Initiative, promote democracy and human rights worldwide in a common European endeavor. Together with the European Commission and its European Union partners, strengthen networks and joint programming of European democracy support and increase the availability of expertise and data on democratic backsliding and effective democracy support activities in the coming years.
- Launch, through its development cooperation, a call for proposals to enhance civic space in Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda (1,95 million EUR).
- Increase, through its development cooperation, the multi-annual core funding for 2021-2024 to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) by 25% (compared to 2017-2020) (10 million EUR). In addition, provide earmarked funding for 4 OHCHR country offices (Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinee, Palestine, and Uganda) (4,75 million EUR)
- Finance, through its development cooperation, international human rights NGOs (1,585 million EUR).
- In 2022, provide earmarked funding, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to OHCHR’s Rule of Law and Democracy Section (600,000 EUR) and its project ‘Harnessing the digital potential for human rights’ (300,000 EUR).
- In addition, the federated entities in Belgium will also continue supporting various multilateral organizations.