France unveils plans for 2022 goal

Children sit inside a classroom in an innovative school design in Gando, Burkina Faso, in 2004. [Simeon Duchoud/EPA]

The French government recently unveiled a plan to reach its goal of allocating 0.55% of gross national income to development aid by 2022, but French development aid will only start increasing from 2020. EURACTIV.fr reports.

Following a meeting of the Interministerial Committee for International Cooperation and Development (CICID), the government has revealed its action plan to reach its target of allocating 0.55% of gross national income to development aid by 2022.

Emmanuel Macron’s electoral promise, which was supposed to put France back on track with international commitments on international solidarity, remained unheeded in the first budget decisions of his five-year term.

 

Macron's missing billions to fulfill development aid promises

The French budget dedicated to international solidarity is expected to increase by €500 million over the next three years. But the government estimates that €6.4 billion will be needed by 2022. EURACTIV France reports.

France, which like many other developed countries has promised to allocate 0.7% of its GNI to development cooperation, greatly deviated from its goal due to public deficits.  As a result, French aid fell from 0.42% in 2012 to 0.38% in 2016, whilst the United Kingdom and Germany reached their goals.

Targets for 2020

To put an end to this lean period, the French government has put together a set of targets to reach the 0.55% objective. These targets will gradually increase throughout the years from 0.44% in 2018 and 2019, then 0.47% in 2020 to 0.51% in 2021 and will finally reach 0.55% in 2022.

However, this gradual progress greatly displeases civil society, which called for a more immediate effort.

“The government has a plan for international solidarity but it is deliberately unclear on the budgetary means to achieve it and is not planning to increase it before 2020,” said Michael Siegel of Oxfam France.

Macron’s aid promises deemed insufficient

French President Emmanuel Macron announced a “considerable effort” to increase the budget dedicated to development aid from now until 2022. But surprisingly, the budget for 2018 will remain unchanged. And the focus on security enrages NGOs. EURACTIV France reports.

“France can no longer delay its fight against extreme poverty and climate change, which affects millions of people. The budget for development aid needs to significantly increase as of 2019,” several NGO’s* stated in a press release.

For society, already disappointed with the numerous unfulfilled promises of recent years, these objectives are still insufficient. “To accomplish such a significant catch-up over the last two years is simply unrealistic,” said Michael Siegel.

“The push for development aid that we were hoping to see with the president’s support, will in the end take more than a half of the five-year term to become a reality,” said the hub of French NGOs Coordination Sud in a press release.

According to MP Hubert Julien-Laferriere, rapporteur for the aid development budget at the National Assembly, the increase in budget will start from 2019.

“In 2019, there will an extra one billion euros in commitment authorisations, which will allow projects to start. So I think the path towards the objective starts as of 2019,” he told Euractiv.

Among other government decisions, the geographic focus on Africa’s poorest countries, particularly in the Sahel region, as well as other thematic priorities such as gender equality and education, should also allow France to reinforce its grants in its development aid.

More grants

One highlighted shortcoming is that grants as a proportion of French aid have been reduced. At present French grants amount to some €300 million, whereas the OECD estimates that French aid totals around €9 billion.

As a result, French aid is more relevant in middle-income countries such as India, or Vietnam, which are better able to take advantage of loans than the poorest countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Bilateral grants have dropped by 40% in a period of ten years as they have always been subject to an adjustment variable, this means that less developed countries are no longer the main beneficiaries of French aid. Nowadays the main beneficiaries are not countries of the Sahel region and this needs to change. This will be the case from next year,” said Hubert Julien-Laferriere

Therefore, half of the French government grants and two-thirds of the subsidies set up by the French Development Agency (AFD) are supposed to benefit the 19 countries identified as priorities.**

This increase will clearly lead to a rise in grants, as loans are not adapted to priorities such as the Sahel and education. The best-suited instrument for geographic and sector priorities is the grant, there is no doubt about it,” added Hubert Julien Laferriere.

 

Macron's promise on development expenditure broken in 2018 budget law

France adopted its 2018 budget, but expenditure on development aid is well below what Emmanuel Macron had promised. EURACTIV France reports.

 

*Global Health Advocates (Action Santé Mondiale), CARE France, ONE, Oxfam France, Printemps Solidaire.

**Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Chad, Togo.

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