According to a study published by the French Development Agency (AFD), 88% of French citizens feel ill-informed about public development aid. Though most of those questioned supported development policy, opposition is growing. EURACTIV France reports.
The annual study of French public opinion towards development policy for the first time reflects the growing importance of climate change to the general public.
80% of French citizens think that climate change represents a real threat to their way of life, and over half believe that the existing measures for combating global warming are insufficient, or non-existent.
80% believe that the fight against climate change should be taken into account in the distribution of development aid, and the majority see the fight against climate change as a golden opportunity to improve the development models of the poorest countries.
Africa was singled out as the priority region for development aid by 41% of the French citizens questioned. This is down from over 60% in 2008, despite the recent crises in Mali and the Central African Republic, and the Ebola crisis, which have served to highlight the importance of Western aid.
Growing recognition of global interdependence
The French appear to be increasingly aware of the extent to which all countries are interdependent, beyond a binary North/South relationship. They recognise that events in developing countries can affect their life in France (78%) and that the growing populations of these countries represent a challenge for the whole of the international community (75%).
Thus, the French believe that improvements to social and environmental standards in developing countries would be good news for the world as a whole. Poor countries are also seen by many as potential partners, particularly in the fight against climate change.
>> Read: French development aid declines
Frustration over lack of information
This new vision of the importance of development aid is, logically, accompanied by a greater desire for information.
88% of French citizens feel badly informed, or very badly informed, about public development aid, and rightly so. Their perception of subjects like the progression of extreme poverty (which has actually been in decline for about a decade), or the supposed deterioration of the social and environmental situation in developing countries, for example, is far from reality.
Rising opposition to development aid
The study shows that the French public would like development aid policies to seek improvements in global equality. They would prioritise peace and stability, equality and social justice, sustainable development and the preservation of the world’s public assets.
The areas prioritised for non-financial aid, by the French citizens surveyed, are the fight against climate change, reducing inequality, and improving social and environmental standards across the world.
The majority of those surveyed think that France should continue to support developing countries, even though opposition to development aid has grown from 20% in 1995 to 27% in 2014.
The Secretary of State for Development and la Francophonie is optimistic about the survey. Annick Girardin said that “at a time when many French people are having difficulty finding work and are sometimes finding it hard to make ends meet, when it is tempting to become more introspective, I find it encouraging that the majority of our compatriots support France’s efforts at solidarity with developing countries”.
Anne Paugam, director of the French development agency AFD, said "the French people today are clearly conscious that what happens in the Southern countries can have impact upon their lives. They realise that the interests of the developing and the developed world converge around the issues of climate disruption, reducing inequality, promoting models of sustainable economic growth... And this vision of an interdependent world is at the heart of the French Development Agency's efforts to find concrete solutions to these challenges".
The proportion of France’s 2015 budget dedicated to international aid will fall by 2.8% to 2.79 billion euro. In real terms this amounts to a reduction of 80 million euro in 2015.
The French development aid fund will continue to fall by 210 million euro between 2014 and 2017.