Minister sets out France’s development policy achievements and challenges
Paris, 7 July 2015
Only a year ago, the Republic’s very first development and international solidarity act was adopted. A landmark in the extensive overhaul of our international solidarity policy begun in 2012, this framework and estimates act responded to demands from all development players for coherence, effectiveness and transparency. As part of an international drive combining the protection of the planet with the fight against poverty, this act has made all aspects of sustainable development the ultimate goal of our development policy.
One year on, the time has come to make an initial assessment of it and discuss the way forward for it in this pivotal year, which must bring about a more sustainable world.
Beyond the semantic change between “cooperation” and “development”, which places emphasis on a goal more than an instrument, the act sets a new framework based on the fight against poverty and on the three – economic, social and environmental – aspects of sustainable development. It promotes values upheld by our country: the promotion of human rights, peace and stability, the rule of law, equitable and job-rich economic development, human development and environmental protection, corporate social and environmental responsibility, and decent work.
The act sets out geographical priorities and reaffirms the priority given to Sub-Saharan Africa and the southern shore of the Mediterranean: 16 priority poor countries (PPPs) are the prime focus of French aid. France is concentrating half of its donations and two-thirds of those from the French Development Agency [AFD] on these priority countries.
Given the challenges which still need to be faced, be it in the areas of health, the environment or education, official development assistance – i.e. state aid – could not meet these on its own, even if it were increased ten- or fifteen-fold.
The act passed last year advocates new approaches which involve innovation and open the field to groupings of public, private and voluntary-sector players, those from non-governmental organizations, local authorities etc. to respond more effectively to needs.
Over the past year, many commitments have already been implemented: differentiated partnerships and sectoral priorities are clearly emerging. The involvement of development players in development has increased, as much at decision-making as operational level. All instruments are being mobilized: donations, budget assistance, subsidized and non-subsidized loans, sovereign and non-sovereign loans, equity stakes, guarantees, technical assistance, innovative financing and the development of economic partnerships in all relevant sectors.
The 2014 development act is enabling France to be in the vanguard. With nearly €8 billion of assistance in 2014, it remains the world’s fourth-largest donor. It shoulders its responsibilities on the climate, in the Sahel, in the CAR and in dealing with Ebola. This is a necessary investment in order to carry weight when it comes to the challenges which directly affect French people but whose solutions lie in collective action beyond our borders.
In the absence of monitoring tools, development assistance has in the past been criticized for being opaque, which has fuelled rumours sometimes based on its use. Thanks to the development act, Parliament now has the task of monitoring and evaluating this policy. Using a scoreboard of indicators, the government must both report on what is being done on the ground and report back to the people’s representatives.
The act advocates ongoing consultation between development players. A permanent consultation body for discussing French development policy, the National Council for Development and International Solidarity (CNDSI), has been created. The body includes elected representatives, union and employer representatives, researchers, non-governmental organizations and businesses, and it has met four times in one year.
Support, consultation and coordination with civil society and the research world is now conducted systematically.
A tool for the general public, transparence-aide.gouv.fr, has been put online so that not only French citizens but also the beneficiaries of aid can be clearly and fully informed about every project under way and the sums allocated.
The act passed last year enables France to be at the heart of the development drive. 2015 is a pivotal year for all those involved in international solidarity. In July, the international community is meeting in Addis Ababa to find new development financing solutons. In New York in September, the overall framework of policy is being redefined by all countries, with the adoption of sustainable development goals for the planet. In December, the international community meets again to reach a first global agreement on the climate.
By setting sustainable development as a goal of French development policy, the July 2014 act demands long-term vision on the projects funded. Several instruments have been created:
A sustainable development rating enables all projects to be analysed from this perspective.
A goal of 50% of finance with “climate co-benefits” has been set.
In 2014, 53% of the AFD’s financing abroad went towards combating climate disruption, and €2.8 billion was also invested abroad and in Overseas France in development projects with a positive impact on the climate.
Businesses – particularly those in the social and solidarity economy but also those which innovate to increase their societal impact – are recognized by the act as essential players in development policy.
It is legitimate, under certain conditions, for aid to support responsible economic players who venture to create new, innovative models combining profit with societal and ethical impact. These models, often jointly created with players from civil society or the research world, are present on the ground as close as possible to development projects. Consultations on their support within the CNDSI have been organized. Among other things, they highlight the need to double this protective support so that partners can work towards common goals in a climate of trust.
In Article 8, the act mentions that, in the framework of the societal responsibility requirement, businesses are asked to establish risk management procedures aimed at identifying, preventing or mitigating the social and environmental damage which may result from their activities in partner countries.
France has been very active on these issues for about 15 years. In national but also international bodies, it helps highlight “operational” issues like the implementation of extra-financial reporting and the establishment of national points of contact.
Respect for decent work in value chains is a crucial issue of globalization and its malfunctions, as Rana Plaza unfortunately showed in April 2013.
The development and international solidarity act is an invaluable tool for our foreign policy. It gives our action meaning and purpose, encourages everyone’s participation in forging new solidarity, and is in harmony with the goal of a zero-carbon and zero-poverty world.