- Belgium is highly committed to its role in the UN-system and remains a firm believer in and supporter of multilateralism.
- Belgium supports that EU Member States should speak more with one voice in the UN system to reinforce political credibility.
- Human rights remain a major priority for Belgium in Geneva, and it is working hard to prepare its candidacy for the Human Rights Council elections next year. ● Other priorities are health and autonomous weapons, on which it is chairing a working group tasked with formulating recommendations for a legal and normative framework on the use of autonomous weapons.
On 2 November 2021, YPFP Brussels welcomed H.E. Marc Pecsteen, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Belgium to the United Nations in Geneva, to discuss Belgium’s role in the UN and the other Geneva-based institutions. The event was organized and moderated by Fiona De Cuyper, Ambassador Series Officer with the Programmes Team of YPFP Brussels. The event was held under Chatham House Rule.
Belgium remains a firm advocate for multilateralism, which is demonstrated by its extensive engagement with the UN system and its commitment to the EU. Belgium attaches great importance in making the EU Member States speak with one voice on as many issues and in as many international fora as possible. This is also why it emphasizes that national statements of the Member States should always reinforce the EU statements. This, in turn, reinforces the EU’s position of agenda setter in the UN and its power of being a convincing force towards other UN-members.
Three issues are situated particularly high on Belgium’s agenda in Geneva, namely human rights, health, and autonomous weapons. Human rights are the biggest priority for Belgium, and it is working hard on its candidacy for the Human Rights Council elections next year. It attaches great importance in working together to not let other UN-members dilute the importance and vocabulary of human rights as such and its main areas of interest with regards to human rights remain Central Africa and the Middle East. Belgium also works on raising awareness on socio-economic rights as opposed to purely political rights as it is convinced that by disregarding socio-economic rights, we leave the door open for conservative countries to impose their agendas. Secondly, when it comes to health, Belgium is a firm supporter of the COVAX-program and has contributed significantly. It also supports the EU’s proposal for a pandemic treaty and is working on convincing resisting UN-members. The ultimate goal of this treaty is to ensure translation of pandemic rules into national legal systems. Thirdly, with regards to autonomous weapon systems, Belgium is chairing a working group that focuses on developing recommendations for normative and legal frameworks on the use of autonomous weapon systems by the end of the year. It emphasizes the need for a clear definition on what is allowed and what is not as the systems behind autonomous weapons can have other, positive uses, but caution is required as autonomous weapons can have far-ranging consequences for the way we wage wars.
Written by Fiona De Cuyper, Ambassador Series Officer, YPFP Brussels