Press Release

University of Antwerp and the Belgian Development Agency conclude cooperation agreement on human rights

The Belgian Development Agency and the University of Antwerp concluded a cooperation agreement to embed human rights even better in the Belgian development projects. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo is very satisfied with this cooperation. "A sustainable inclusive economic growth is not possible without respect for human rights."

The cooperation agreement means that the Belgian development agency will be able to use the expertise of the University of Antwerp to embed human rights even better in the projects of the Belgian governmental cooperation.

Human rights have a central position in the projects of the fourteen partner countries of the Belgian governmental cooperation. Fragile situations in the field of democratization make it necessary to operationalize a rights-based approach. Human rights are also central in the "Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development", which the UN adopted in 2015. This is a comprehensive and universal agenda about the interaction between people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership between the actors involved. An agenda that is adapted to the challenges of today, with increased attention for the environmental dimension and for the basic conditions for development such as human rights, peace and security, good governance and respect for the rule of law.

The University of Antwerp has qualitative and quantitative scientific methodologies to apply a rights-based approach in the projects, with an active participation of the Belgian Development Agency, the authorities in the partner countries and the direct and indirect beneficiaries. The offered activities can vary widely ranging from desk research, field visits, interviews to discussion groups, trainings, workshops and seminars.

Koen De Feyter, founder and inspirer of the research networks "Law and Development" and "localizing Human Rights” at the University of Antwerp, learnt from his experience that there is a great need for capacity building on human rights, both for right holders and for duty bearers. "Ideally, the central focus of a human rights approach should be on improving the dialogue between both parties, who then jointly decide on the human rights policy. The perception about human rights is very diverse and depends on how the social contract is experienced between the government and the citizen.”

The Belgian Development Agency has a thorough knowledge of the various geographical, political and cultural contexts in the different countries. Both organisations bring together their respective knowhow to strengthen and promote the human rights so that the relevance, impact and sustainability of the Belgian development projects can further be improved.

For the Managing Director of the Belgian Development Agency, Carl Michiels, this cooperation is very valuable because it will benefit the partner countries. "We are very pleased that this collaboration with the University of Antwerp is established, because they have a valuable experience which is internationally recognized. We hope that the other Belgian universities join the agreement, because the wider the range of expertise we can offer, the stronger our interventions will be and the better we will be able to offer customised services to the partner countries”.

The Belgian Development Agency has concluded cooperation agreements with over twenty Belgian and regional public services, including the Federal Police, the food safety agency, the Federal Public Service Health, the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance, the Tervuren Museum etc. The agreements with the universities are an excellent addition to these agreements and enhance the credibility of the Belgian development cooperation.