The French budget for official development assistance (ODA) fell for the fourth year running in 2014. The latest cut of 10% since 2013 has left French ODA below the European average. EURACTIV France reports.
The ongoing contraction of French development aid shows no sign of stopping.
The share of French gross national income (GNI) dedicated to development assistance fell to 0.36% ($10.3 billion) in 2014, according to figures published by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) on 7 April.
But the international trend is for increasing sums to be dedicated to development assistance. Aid from Development Aid Committee (DAC) members reached $135.2 billion in 2014, similar to the historic high levels of 2013. Since 2000, official development assistance has risen by 66%.
France is still among the top donors of aid by volume, behind the United States and the United Kingdom, but was also overtaken by Germany for the first time in 2014.
With the second largest European economy, France’s aid donations as a percentage of GNI put it in 10th place in the EU, behind Ireland and Belgium.
“France has once again significantly cut its development aid budget in 2014, which fell by nearly 10% on 2013 levels. It is getting further and further from fulfilling its promise of allocating 0.7% of its gross national income to aid,” said Friederike Röder, Director of the NGO ONE France.
Sources within the French government said that the country’s budgetary difficulties “partly explain this fall”.
Official development assistance from European countries and institutions averaged 0.42% of GNI in 2014, while France donated 0.36% of GNI.
A Commission press release stated that “ODA/GNI ratio saw a decline in France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain and in 11 other EU Member States”. If the EU and its member states continue to donate 50% of the world’s development assistance, Neven Mimica, the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, said “we are still some way from meeting our ambitious targets”.
France is not the only EU country to be singled out by the Commission for its falling donations. Spain, Ireland and Portugal have all greatly reduced their official development assistance, and the Netherlands, which was on track to meet its 0.7% of GNI target this year, has also seen its ODA drop off.
>> Read: French MPs move to protect development assistance commitments (in French)
The UN General Assembly decided in 1970 that 0.7% of GNI should be dedicated to development aid. The commitment was reiterated in 2005 at the Gleneagles G8 summit, where the European members agreed on a target date of 2015.
However, ten years later, progress has been weak. In 2005, the countries of the DAC gave an average of 0.32% of their GNI to developing countries. This percentage fell to 0.29% in 2014, one year before the 2015 deadline. French contributions have fallen from 0.47% in 2005 to 0.36% today. In spite of this decline, the French government has said “we are not abandoning the 0.7% objective and we will continue to show solidarity”.
But the gulf between words and actions is a cause of increasing impatience among NGOs. Philippe Jahshan, President of Coordination SUD, said, “The political choice made by France is incomprehensible and penalises the most vulnerable populations in a year when they should be redoubling their efforts. The gap between words and reality is even less palatable.”