Belgium country profile - SDGs and the environment

Briefing Published 02 Dec 2020 Last modified 02 Dec 2020
6 min read
Photo: © Photo by Antoine Petitteville on Unsplash
Belgium focuses on all SDGs, working through overarching strategies and initiatives to address interlinkages and enhance cooperation within and between the various governments (De Croo, 2017a). In Belgium, SDG actions are a shared responsibility between the federal state, the communities (Flemish, French and German-speaking) and the regions (Wallonia, Flanders, and Brussels-Capital).

The Belgian Constitution lays down that every federal entity should pursue sustainable development objectives in its social, economic and environmental dimensions, taking into account solidarity between the generations. The federal entities are on an equal footing but have powers and responsibilities in different fields.

Belgium is focusing on all SDGs, working through overarching strategies to address interlinkages. The country’s action towards SDGs with an environmental dimension lies primarily in SDGs 2, 3, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14 and 16.  

Progress towards the 2030 Agenda relies on a variety of existing sustainable development strategies adopted by the respective levels of government. At the federal level, the strategy encompasses a Long-term Vision (LTV, approved in 2013) and the Federal Plan for Sustainable Development (approved in 2008). At the regional level, key strategic frameworks include: the 2nd Walloon Sustainable Development Strategy (approved in 2016); the Flemish Vision 2050 (a long-term strategy for Flanders, approved in 2016) and Focus 2030 (Flanders’ goals for 2030, preliminarily approved in 2018); the Brussels-Capital Region’s Regional Sustainable Development plan (approved in 2013); and the German-speaking Community’s second regional development plan (approved in 2014).

To achieve the NSDS and promote coherence in the implementation of sustainable development policy in Belgium, an Interministerial Conference for Sustainable Development (IMCSD) was established in 2012 and revitalised in 2015. The IMCSD is mandated to follow up implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Belgium (UN DESA, 2017). The updated NSDS was approved in 2017, following a civil consultation process with the relevant stakeholders. It provides the umbrella framework for the main government stakeholders at both federal and federated levels to combine their efforts to achieve the SDGs. The NSDS sets out how the various authorities in Belgium should cooperate and link their strategies to ensure they are coherent with the SDGs (UN DESA, 2017).

The Federal Institute for Sustainable Development (FIDO-IFDD) is the main institution with responsibility for SDG actions. In collaboration with the Ministry for Sustainable Development, FIDO-IFDD has developed several pathways for SDG implementation.

Flanders adopted a decree for sustainable development in September 2008. The first Flemish strategy for sustainable development was developed in 2006, largely based on the thematic priorities of the European Sustainable Development Strategy (EU SDS). The second Flemish strategy for sustainable development was adopted on 29 April 2011. In March 2016, the Flemish government presented its new strategic outlook for the future: ‘Vision 2050: A long-term strategy for Flanders’. Vision 2050 is designed around seven transition processes: the circular economy, smart living, Industry 4.0, lifelong learning and a dynamic professional career, caring and living together in 2050, transport and mobility, and energy. Implementation of these transition priorities will be cross-sectoral and undertaken in collaboration with innovators, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders. A new governance model was developed, inspired by transition management principles. In 2018, a preliminary set of 49 Flemish goals — based on the SDGs — was agreed by the Flemish government. This set of 2030 goals for Flanders, called ‘Focus 2030’, will be measured by a set of region-specific indicators.

In 2013, the Walloon government adopted a decree on the Walloon sustainable development strategy which foresees the development of such a strategy and determines its key elements. Based on the decree — and following a first strategy adopted in October 2013 — the second Walloon sustainable development strategy was adopted on 7 July 2016. This aims to put some transition paths in place and contribute to implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. A public consultation on the LTV and action plan (first and fourth chapters of the strategy) was undertaken in 2016. In parallel, the public was invited to post commitments on the website or to identify projects that contribute to the action plan priorities and thus to the transition to sustainable development in Wallonia.

The Brussels-Capital Region has undergone profound changes and is now facing new challenges, such as rapid demographic growth, employment, training and education, poverty, environment, mobility and internationalisation. Between 13 January and 13 March 2017, the Brussels government held a public inquiry into the new draft of the Regional Sustainable Development Plan. It sets priorities to make the Brussels-Capital Region more attractive, more inclusive socially and economically, more competitive, more creative in research, and greener and more efficient in its use of energy and resources. Since 2007, through its ‘Agenda Iris 21’ programme, Brussels Environment (the environmental administration in Brussels-Capital) has provided financial and methodological support to municipalities and public centres for social assistance (CPAS) implementing local Agenda 21 projects.

In the German-speaking Community, the Regional Development Concept was conceived as a long-term strategy for the German-speaking government. The process was initiated in May 2008 with a comprehensive stocktaking and regional analysis to examine the Community’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges. The mission statement was published as REK (the Development Concept) volumes 1 and 2. In April 2011, the third volume detailed the initial implementation phase of the REK, comprising 16 main projects and 48 sub-projects (Living East Belgium – 2025).

Belgium launched the ‘SDG Charter for International Development’ to unite the private sector, civil society and the public sector around the SDGs and international development. More than 100 companies and organisations have signed up to the Charter. Civil society made a significant contribution to Belgium’s VNR, issuing coordinated advisory opinions on the draft review (UN DESA, 2017).

The Interfederal Statistical Institute (IIS) is responsible for systematically tracking progress on SDG actions. As a first step, the IIS selected the two most relevant, measurable, and available indicators per SDG ( ). The SDG indicators database will be upgraded to include more indicators from the list defined at the UN level. The NSDS established a reporting mechanism on the SDGs, with reports made to the parliament and civil society twice per government term. Civil society was also invited to report its own 2030 Agenda initiatives (UN DESA, 2017).

The Belgian NSDS action plan identified several priority themes including sustainable food (SDG 2), sustainable building and housing (SDG 11), and sustainable public procurement (SDG 16) (De Croo, 2017b).
Submitted to the UN in 2017, the Belgian VNR also highlights areas of further action, including water (SDGs 6 and 14) and air quality (SDG 3), energy intensity and renewable energy (SDG 7) and reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (SDG 13). The Belgian government is now looking into ways to address these areas (De Croo, 2017b).

Belgium submitted a VNR to the UN in 2017.

Belgium has identified the need for a detailed mapping of all gaps in SDG action at all levels of its federal system. Furthermore, the Federal Planning Bureau (FPB) uses the Federal Sustainable Development Reports to evaluate federal policies on sustainable development, as well as presenting foresight scenarios (FPB, 2017). At the regional level, Wallonia has published its first SDG implementation report, adopted by the Walloon government in April 2017. It includes an inventory of the Walloon strategies and plans that contribute to achieving the SDGs, an analysis of 70 selected indicators and a set of good practices by Walloon public institutions, civil society and the private sector. Flanders is currently developing a framework of indicators for its ‘Focus 2030: A 2030 objectives framework for Flanders’.


De Croo, A., 2017a, High-Level Political Forum – Belgian National Statement, Kingdom of Belgium ( accessed 25 October 2017.

De Croo, A., 2017b, High-Level Political Forum 2017 –Presentation Belgium's Voluntary National Review, Kingdom of Belgium ( accessed 25 October 2017.

FIDO-IFDD, 2017, ‘Over het beleid’, Federaal Instituut voor Duurzame Ontwikkeling, Belgium ( accessed 12 October 2017.

FPB, 2017, Concrétiser les objectifs mondiaux de développement durable - Rapport fédéral sur le développement durable 2017, Federal Planning Bureau, Belgium ( accessed 16 November 2019.

Kingdom of Belgium, 2017, Pathways to Sustainable Development – First Belgian National Voluntary Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda, Brussels, Belgium   (  accessed 20 November 2017.

UN DESA, 2017, ‘Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform – Documents and Reports’, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New York, USA ( accessed 20 November 2017.


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.


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