French aid at a discount, by Eric Chol – L’Express

France must continue to invest in AI by Eric Chol

“France will rise to the challenge of development aid!” assured President Macron, shortly after his first election, during a speech to students at the University of Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso. Commitment made, commitment kept, at least during his first five-year term: while, under François Hollande, aid to poor countries had been cut, it jumped between 2018 and 2022, going from 10 to 15 billion euros. Better still, the Head of State can be proud of having exceeded the objective of 0.55% of GDP set in his presidential program: in 2022, public development assistance (ODA) reached 0.56%. , no longer very far from the famous 0.7% cap set by rich countries in 1970 as part of their duty of international solidarity.

An objective that France had until then never respected, but a new law passed by all political parties in 2021 had revived this hope, by targeting the year 2025 to achieve it.

The then very real dynamic was definitively broken during Emmanuel Macron’s second five-year term. For what reasons ? Because of repeated coups in Africa, the complete derailment of the French budget deficit? What is certain is that, since the summer of 2023, France has drastically reduced its ambitions, first, by postponing the famous threshold of 0.7% to 2030 and then by cutting 742 million the public development assistance budget. “There is nothing surprising, it is the adjustment variable par excellence and, unlike farmers, there are no unions to protest,” notes academic Philippe Marchesin*, specialist of cooperation.

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The executive’s scissors did not come easy: according to calculations by the Focus 2030 think tank, postponing the objective of 0.7% of GDP by five years amounts to a shortfall of 11 billion euros of aid for the most vulnerable countries…

A little more exemplary

As for the financial effort required by Bercy for aid to poor countries, it is 10 times more important than for other budget lines… Enough to fade the image of generous France, which had managed to rise ranked fourth in the world among donors of official development assistance.

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However, despite this imposed diet, France does not intend to give up sounding the trumpet of international solidarity. On April 15, it will host a humanitarian conference in favor of Sudan. In June, it will co-organize, with its African and international partners, an event to launch the “accelerator of vaccine production in Africa” operation.

And, in December, a summit will be held in Paris to replenish the resources of the International Development Association – the financial arm of the World Bank –, with the aim of mobilizing record funds in favor of the most vulnerable countries. vulnerable. Three major international solidarity meetings in 2024 in Paris, which would require a little more exemplary action on the French side.

* French cooperation policy. I’m helping you too, by Philippe Marchesin (L’Harmattan, 2021).