OECD welcomes French plans to increase and better target foreign aid

Macron 2018 Council

Mr Emmanuel MACRON, President of France. Copyright: European Union Event: European Council – June 2018 (Day 2)

This article is brought to you in association with OECD.

The OECD welcomes France’s recently announced plans to increase its foreign aid flows, particularly in the form of grants, and prioritise the most fragile countries, commitmentsthat respond to recommendations made in a new DAC Peer Review of France.

The Review, released today after being presented to the French government in July, said that having started increasing aid in 2017 following a five-year decline, France now needed to increase the share of grants compared to loans in line with its ambitions to support fragile and least-developed countries. France said in August that it would raise its official development assistance (ODA) budget for 2019 and would treble the amount of aid provided as grants.

“We are pleased to see France restoring its ODA levels and reaffirming its ambition for further increases. We encourage France to focus on its stated priorities and to be cautious not to prioritise security and immigration policies over development and humanitarian objectives,” said OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Chair Charlotte Petri Gornitzka.

The Review welcomes France’s setting out of a clear strategic framework and priorities for development co-operation, its improvement of staff management at the French development agency and its adoption of innovative financing instruments. It underlines, however, that care should be taken to ensure aid stays focused on fighting poverty and inequality and is not diverted to cover needs related to domestic policy and security or regulating migration flows.

French ODA rose by 15% in 2017, more than any other official donor, to reach USD 11.36 billion, or 0.43% of gross national income (GNI). This restores French ODA to its 2012 levels following a steady decline in its ODA to GNI ratio from 0.45% to 0.38% over 2012-16. For comparison, the average ODA/GNI ratio for DAC donors was 0.31% in 2017, and five donors have reached the UN target of 0.7%. The plan for EUR 1 billion extra in aid for 2019 responds well to the Review’s call for France to move towards its 2022 goal of 0.55% ODA/GNI.

The Review underlines France’s leading role in international stability, through its part in maintaining security, particularly in the Sahel. France has also prioritised the environment and biodiversity, and pledged to provide EUR 5 billion in climate finance by 2020.

The top five recipients of French aid in 2015/16 were Morocco, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Jordan, all middle-income countries. France allocated just 14% of its bilateral ODA to its 19 priority countries, and only 19% of its bilateral ODA went to least-developed countries compared to an average of 37% for DAC members. This may be partly explained by the fact that France relies heavily on loans, which were for 45% of gross bilateral ODA in 2016.

The Review says France fully implemented three and partially implemented another 11 of 17 recommendations from its 2012 Peer Review. The three recommendations not implemented include increasing the share of grants to loans and raising the humanitarian aid budget.

Each DAC member is reviewed every five years to monitor its performance, hold it accountable for past commitments and recommend improvements. Reviews use input from officials in the review country and partner countries – Niger and Morocco for this Review – as well as civil society and the private sector. Read more on DAC Peer Reviews.

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