Officially known as the Kingdom of Belgium, Belgium is a constitutional monarchy located in Western Europe. Belgium is bordered by Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg and is approximately 30,500 square kilometers and has a population of around 11 million. Belgium is the seat of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Belgium has had an important position in the United Nations and in contributing to international policy regarding human rights through its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Belgium is a federal parliamentary republic under a limited constitutional monarchy. The Belgian Constitution grants numerous civil and political rights to its citizens including equality under the law, non-discrimination of persons, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Belgian citizens are subject to the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. The branches of government are the executive, legislative, and judiciary. The head of state is the king, Philippe, who has been in power since July 2013. The role of the monarchy in Belgium is symbolic and ceremonial, as the primary purpose the king has is to designate a political leader after an election. The executive branch is headed by the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the king and comes from the political parties that make up the governing coalition within Belgium. Charles Michel is the current Belgian Prime Minister and has served in office since October of 2014.
The main legislative body is the Federal Parliament, which consists of the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate. Members of the Chamber of Representatives serve for a 5-year term and are directly elected by all Belgian citizens over 18. The Belgian Senate is chosen by the regional parliaments and communities within Belgium. In total, the Belgian Parliament consists of 210 members, including 150 members of the Chamber of Representatives and 60 Senate members. Belgium also has a law that requires compulsory voting. The most recent elections in Belgium were in 2014, which resulted in the victory of a center-ight political coalition led by the New Flemish Alliance. Belgian citizens can vote in elections to the European Parliament, the main legislative body of the European Union. The judicial system of Belgium follows the concept of civil law and consists of several different levels, the highest one being the Constitutional Court. Belgium is also a founding member of the ICJ and accepts its jurisdiction as compulsory.
Belgium plays a significant role within the wider context of European and international politics. Belgium is considered a model liberal democracy in an area increasingly defined by disunity. Belgium promotes the ideas of European unity and openness within the international system. One of the main factors that influenced Belgium’s views on its role in the realm of international politics is due to its past political experiences. For example, Belgium was under German occupation during both World Wars and saw first-hand the effects of the Cold War. Due to its experiences during these periods, Belgium developed the belief that unity among nations and international cooperation is necessary to promote international peace and stability. This view of integration is shown through Belgium’s support of and membership in the European Union and NATO.
The Belgian economy is primarily serviced-based. Some of its leading industries include engineering and the production of cars, transportation equipment, and scientific instruments. The current rate of unemployment of Belgium is around 8.5%. Despite having a debt-to-GDP rate of well over 100%, Belgium has a high GDP per capita and saw its GDP increase by 1.8% in 2016. Belgium has sought to attract foreign investment in its economy. In recent years, the Belgian government has implemented economic reforms meant to make its economy a more attractive source for foreign investment.
Belgium joined the UN on December 27, 1945. Over the course of its membership, Belgium was involved in many different capacities within the UN. One example of Belgium’s work within the UN is its role as a non-permanent member of the Security Council on five separate occasions. Belgium contributed UN peacekeeping in South Korea, Somalia, Lebanon, Rwanda, and Sudan. The Belgian delegation to the UN took the initiative in several different areas such as disarmament, international disputes, gender equality measures, and human rights. Belgium also plays an active role on subcommittees such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Belgium has played an increasing role within the UN through its membership in the UN Human Rights Council. Created in 2006, the UN Human Rights Council superseded the earlier UN Commission on Human Rights. The UN Human Rights Council consists of 47 members who serve three-year terms. Belgium was first elected in 2009 and was re-elected to the Council in 2015.
Through its capacity on the human rights committee, Belgium expressed strong support for the Turning Point Strategy put forward by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). This strategy highlights the need for cooperation between civil society organizations (CSOs) and governments to strengthen efforts to fight violent extremism and to prevent further human rights abuses from emerging through governmental efforts to counter extremism.
Belgium also supports stronger efforts in promoting firearm regulations at the international level and views firearm regulations as key in protecting human rights at the international level. In its capacity as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Belgium strongly supported the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and recent efforts by the European Parliament to implement stringent firearms regulations.
Belgium supports resolutions put forward by the Human Rights Committee addressing the plight of the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar and continued efforts by the international community to ensure that the government of Myanmar is taking appropriate steps to ensure that the rights of this community are protected and upheld. These efforts illustrate the fact that Belgium has a strong commitment to the cause of human rights and is prepared to work with the international community in all capacities to ensure the rights of numerous groups are protected.