Belgium Report



In terms of administrative structures and policies in place to operationalise Belgium’s eventual Comprehensive Approach, no specific human resources policy exists yet to support its implementation except for some positions on the steering group discussed above. It would be highly advisable for human resources officials in each department concerned to designate in advance competent and available personnel to be ready to join potential task forces. As human resources are very limited and expensive, the departments will probably not provide the needed number or quality of personnel. Information or intelligence produced by assets of the Ministry of Defence (military intelligence) or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (diplomatic missions) are already shared among the departments that are supposed to be most intimately involved in a comprehensive approach. But this is not necessarily the case with information that is generated within other departments.
In terms of early warning, there is no joint integrated cell at the governmental level that could provide any strategic resources to collect, analyse and exploit strategic information. Of course, creating such a cell would pose an issue of subordination, unless it were attached to the Prime Minister’s Office. A second issue would be convincing (or even forcing) departments with relevant personnel to second them to the cell, as they could lose scarce personnel resources in the process.
However, the most important item contributing to WGA operationalisation is the budget. The Strategy Note does not foresee any joint integrated budget if a comprehensive approach is about to be operationalised, and the needed budget will apparently be provided by the participating departments themselves. This would clearly oblige federal departments (and possibly even departments at the regional or community levels) to put aside a certain budget line in their annual budget to cope with any potential operationalisation of a comprehensive approach. As in most countries, budgetary resources are scarce in Belgium, and the temptation to use them for core business activities within each department is very high. Indeed, it is precisely here that one can see what one of the most problematic issues will be, and only time will tell whether the federal government decides to provide a common budget to a specific comprehensive approach after the first experience of operationalising the concept. In any case, efforts should be made to use a joint integrated budget to support a comprehensive approach, as this will be key for avoiding any confrontations with departments that refuse to cooperate in WGA undertakings due to a lack of budgetary resources.
In terms of strategic communication, the Strategy Note highlights the importance of internal and external communication for gaining sufficient consensus among departments and for fostering the desired level of motivation. The plan is to let the communication services within each department coordinate with its counterparts in other departments. If task forces involve several departments, the steering group will play the role of clearinghouse for press material with the help of the press and communication department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Regarding the development of a joint lessons learned process, the Strategy Note provides no clear guidance, so it would presumably be the responsibility of the steering group. Of course, a joint lessons learned process can be pre-defined, but it will only be exercised once initial experiences have been made. The effectiveness and quality of the leadership will mainly depend on the political will to designate the right people within the steering group and task force(s).
Another important enabler could be the development of a new working culture that differs from the traditional siloed one. Apart from the usual cooperation between the ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs, which has been established and reinforced by jointly participating in many missions and operations, the other departments have developed a few coordinating processes especially dedicated to fostering a comprehensive approach to conflicts and crises. For example, since 2006, Belgium’s Royal High Institute for Defence and the Royal Institute for International Relations (AKA the Egmont Institute) have been organising an annual course on security and defence issues that brings together, inter alia, senior Belgian personnel from the ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs, the Interior and Migration, the police and customs forces, the defence industry and NGOs active in development- or security-related matters. In addition to up-to-date and necessary knowledge on security and defence issues, this course also provides a forum for exchanging ideas on these fields and thereby creates an interesting network and common culture.
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