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Development Aid: How France Wants To Make It More Efficient

was a promise from candidate Emmanuel Macron: to design a new policy for development aid for France. This new policy is emerging through the “programming law relating to solidarity development and the fight against global inequalities”. After three days of intense debate, the deputies completed, on the night of February 19 to 20, the examination at first reading of the law and of some 660 amendments tabled.

The solemn vote on the text in the National Assembly took place on March 2, before the Senate in turn considered it. The accelerated procedure having been declared last December, a single reading in each assembly followed by a joint committee should suffice. Suddenly, the government hopes for an adoption by the summer.

“This law, which revises that of 2014, has also been a demand of civil society for many years. We are satisfied because it places France on the international solidarity agenda, ”says Louis-Nicolas Jandeaux, official development aid expert at Oxfam France. “And we were very afraid that she would be sacrificed in this difficult context of the Covid pandemic,” he admits.


The Covid-19 pandemic and its health, economic and social consequences that it disperses across the world have shaken societies. Global inequalities have widened. The most vulnerable fall into poverty. Far from the promises of “a world after”, “the competition of powers has lost none of its brutality, but it has gained new ground. Including the very people where international cooperation is more necessary than ever, ”observes Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs who carries this law. “It’s time to choose the world we really want, and start building it with our partners of goodwill. This is why we have chosen a diplomatic relaunch of solidarity, but without naivety. Because the way out of the pandemic crisis will be played out where it started, on the international scene, ”he continues.

“Do more and better”

This bill redraws public aid from France and makes development an essential pillar of France’s foreign policy. In the spirit, it is a question of fighting against poverty and global inequalities, of protecting global public goods and of promoting “a model of united, humanist and progressive development”.

The government can argue that it has already done a lot: French official development assistance (ODA) reached 10.9 billion euros in 2019 and 12.8 billion in 2020. Emmanuel Macron was committed to this that it reached 0.55% of gross national income (GNI) at the end of the five-year term in 2022, against 0.37% when he arrived at the Élysée. This will be done in 2022. The bill has acted and programmed it.

The Grail of 0.7%

On an amendment voted unanimously, this bill also goes further. “For the first time, the objective of increasing official development assistance to 0.7% of GNI is set in stone,” rejoices Hervé Berville, LREM rapporteur before the National Assembly. “This unanimous vote marks a historic moment after fifty years of broken promises on this objective by most of the rich countries, including France”, underlines Louis-Nicolas Jandeaux. Yes, we have to go back to 1970, when the OECD countries then agreed to devote 0.7% of their national wealth to the development of the poorest countries. Only Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom had reached or even exceeded this target in 2019. Thanks to this bill, France will reach it by 2025. “It is a first victory, a great victory. It gives momentum and places France as a leader in international solidarity, ”says Louis-Nicolas Jandeaux.

“While England made the choice to reduce their aid, that Germany made the choice to stabilize it, we made the choice to increase our aid to face global challenges”, insists Hervé Berville. To reach 0.7%, NGOs estimate that the annual budgetary effort would be of the order of 4 to 5 billion euros per year.

A change of paradigm and method

The text redefines the objectives, the means and the modalities of intervention of the French international development policy. In short, it is a refoundation and a new vision. ODA will now be directed to the most vulnerable countries, taking into account cross-cutting themes and priority sectors: environment and climate, gender equality, health, education, crisis management, access to human rights, food security, management. some water.

“This text embodies the desire to move from development aid to partnerships and recognizes civil society organizations, diasporas, private companies, local communities as key players in this partnership policy, on all subjects, explains Hervé Berville. It is no longer a question of doing for the partners of the South, but with them. The challenges are common: health, climate change… ”For his part, Louis-Nicolas Jandeaux is pleased with“ the marked improvement in the taking into account of civil society, from the North as well as from the South, in particular with the amendments made to article 1 ”.

While the bill deals with the amount of aid with set targets, it also deals with the quality of the aid. This requires greater transparency on the resources committed, the results observed and the evaluation of the impact of the actions carried out. The text provides for the creation of an independent evaluation commission attached to the Court of Auditors. “Each year, the government will have to present a report to Parliament on the objectives achieved and the impacts in order to have a debate on development policy. It will be a key moment, ”explains Hervé Berville. This commission also meets the criterion of aid accountability and will also have the task of sharing studies and analyzes on the aid deployed. “This commission brings transparency and credibility with respect to our partners”, underlines Hervé Berville who specifies that “the Treasury has already budgeted 2 million euros for this year for its operation. ”

The issue of ill-gotten gains taken into account

Amendment voted unanimously, the text introduces the principle of restitution of “ill-gotten gains” to the population of the countries concerned. A request made for a long time by NGOs such as Transparency International and Sherpa. The proceeds from the sale of confiscated property to representatives of foreign countries convicted of money laundering, corruption or embezzlement must therefore be returned to the despoiled populations. To manage this money, a budgetary mission will be created within the APD mission, attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bercy. “It will absolutely be necessary that the civil society of these countries be involved”, insists Hervé Berville. He hopes that the first case of restitution is that linked to Teodorin Obiang Nguema (son of the President of Equatorial Guinea). “We need projects that are not white elephants but that change people’s lives,” he adds.

Compared to the previous law of 2014, the analysis report of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (Cese) noted in September 2020, progress with “the integration of a programmatic component with financial objectives until 2022, but also the inclusion of France’s solidarity-based development policy in the United Nations 2030 Agenda, and in an unprecedented effort in terms of accountability and evaluation of development aid. Progress has also been noted in the area of ​​local governance with the creation of local development councils with ambassadors ”. However, given the delay in examining this law, the programmatic aspect has lost its effect; it now only covers the period 2021-2022. Another notable progress, highlighted this time by Coordination Sud, by Olivier Bruyeron, “is the fact that the gender approach is no longer just a thematic objective, but indeed transversal to this policy”. He regretted, however, that the text was not clearly aligned with the criterion of the OECD Development Assistance Committee set at 85%.

Progress remains to be made

NGOs, and Oxfam in particular, are calling for more ambitious targeting. “This text promises progress, particularly with official development assistance targeted at the poorest countries. On the other hand, we are asking for more precise targeting in the loan / grant portion for the least developed countries, which should benefit mainly from grants, ”explains Louis-Nicolas Jandeaux.

From high to low

While this bill has been the subject of many debates and extensive consultation, the very vertical aspect of the development policy deployed leaves doubt about the ability to leave a place and a listening of all the actors and organizations. civil society, research or the private sector. Everything starts with the President and the Presidential Council for Development which passes above the Interministerial Committee for International Cooperation and Development (Cicid), which precisely has the function of defining French development policy. “The president sets his strategy, the Cicid, the main orientations and Parliament, with the government, the overall strategy. All this comes down to the level of local development contracts. Each ambassador in developing countries must implement a roadmap, adapted to his country and its priorities, ”explains Hervé Berville.

Ambassadors, pilot of the plane

Ambassadors become the true leaders of ADP. “The law gave them for the first time this role of pilot of the plane of development policy. Each year they have to bring together a local development council, with everyone around the table, the country’s partners, NGOs, businesses, ”he adds.

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