French development aid slowly increasing

A laborer unloads relief goods to be distributed by the United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) amongst the people who were displaced internally due to war, in Herat, Afghanistan, 13 November 2017. [EPA-EFE/JALIL REZAYEE]

France’s development spending increased in 2017, but after years of successive decline, that has only returned it to 2012 levels. reports.

Following years of decline in the budget for development aid, France increased it by 15% between 2016 and 2017, according to statistics published by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) on 8 April.

This increase in budget brought French aid up to 0.43% of gross national income (GNI), compared to 0.38% in 2016.

UN 0.7% Target

In 2017, as in previous years, only a few EU countries met the UN’s 0.7% target: Denmark, the UK, Luxembourg and Sweden, while Germany, which had met the target in 2016 slipped back under the threshold and spent only 0.66% of its GNI in 2017.

“Although France is still far from its international commitment of 0.7%, it is back on the international scene in terms of development aid. This is all the more crucial as other donor countries are now reducing their commitments. France needs to keep up its efforts and set an example by ensuring that increases in aid go to the countries that need it most,” said Friederike Röder, Head of the French branch of the NGO ONE.

France unveils plans for 2022 goal

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. reports.

The promise by President Emmanuel  to reach a first step of 0.55% of GNI for development aid in 2022 also seems more achievable.

“The one billion euro increase in French development aid is good news. But France should increase its efforts. To fulfill its promise, the government will have to increase its aid by €6 billion by 2022,” said Michael Siegel, spokesperson for Oxfam France on development aid.

However, most French aid is allocated in the form of loans and not grants, a subject of concern to many civil society organisations who say that is not an effective way to combat poverty.

“French aid is characterised by a large proportion of loans, which, when linked with solvency requirements do not benefit the least developed countries. This growing imbalance must be reversed in favour of grants,” said Philippe Jahshan, head of Coordination SUD (a national coordination of French NGOs).

At the global level, the proportion of loans that are counted as aid also raises questions, as loans are largely geared towards middle-income countries.

The OECD therefore calls for a greater concentration of resources towards the world’s poorest states.  “We need to remember that development aid is first and foremost about helping people and countries that need it the most, which have great difficulty attracting conventional financial inflows”, said Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, the DAC Chair.  Gornitzka also added that the DAC should pay attention to the proportion of aid given in loans by donor countries.

Less development aid

The rise in French aid comes at a hard time for global development aid, which after several years of growth fell in 2017 according to the OECD.

DAC member countries ’official figures for development aid amounted to $146.6 billion, a 0.6% drop compared to 2016. This drop is explained by the fact that less money was spent on refugees in donor countries with a 13.6% drop. In-donor refugee costs amounted to 9.7% of total aid, compared to 11% in 2016.

Wealthy countries further cannibalise development budgets to host refugees

Faced with what promises to be a long-term migration crisis, more and more donor countries are using their development budgets to fund their domestic asylum policies, a trend that is set to become increasingly the norm. EURACTIV France reports.

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