Belgium // Structures

Federal level: In Belgium, the main organisation for gender equality and gender mainstreaming at the federal level is the federal Institute for the Equality of Women and Men (IEWM). The IEWM was established in 2002 as a semi-independent body that is administratively speaking under ministerial control but autonomous in terms of legal action or the provision of advice to government and other public authorities. Currently, the government member in charge of gender-equality policies is the Secretary of State in charge of Fight against Poverty, Equal Opportunities, Disabled Persons, Urban Policy, Scientific Policy, assistant to the Minister of Finance of the Belgian federal government. A specific unit within the IEWM is in charge of gender-mainstreaming processes at the federal level. The institute oversees an Interdepartmental Coordination Group, established by the Gender Mainstreaming Law (2007) and regulated by a royal decree (2010). The group is composed of staff from each ministerial cabinet, federal public service, programmatory public service and the Ministry of Defence, as well as representatives of the IEWM. It aims to coordinate the implementation of the provisions contained in the Gender-Mainstreaming Law in each department. At the federal level, the Equal Opportunities Council has acted as an advisory body for ministries and other organisations (such as the National Labour Council) since 1993.

Regional level: In Belgium, the Regions (i.e. Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia) and Communities have an Equal Opportunity Unit within a ministry in their respective governments. The Flanders, Brussels and Walloon regions, since recently, are most active in the gender-mainstreaming process. They have structures in place that are similar to those at the federal level. In addition to the abovementioned structures, the region of Brussels has created a committee with representatives from each ministry. The region of Flanders also has a commission that gathers representatives from each ministry along with members of civil society organisations. In this respect, they follow the example taken at the federal level, although Flanders invites non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to certain meetings where their contribution is considered to be relevant. The region of Wallonia has a commission on equal opportunities that functions as an advisory board to the Equal Opportunity Unit.

The relationship between the federal and regional level is complex at all aspects of administration. This has not allowed for a joined-up approach to gender equality and has resulted in gender-mainstreaming strategies being developed independently.