Chapter 1. France’s global efforts for sustainable development

France is a leading player on the global stage for promoting international stability and sustainable development. Since 2015, the country has strongly supported efforts to promote, implement and encourage accession to the Paris Agreement. However, France still does not possess a mechanism or the means to guarantee policy coherence. In the economic field, France has made progress in the fight against corruption and illicit capital flows: the 2016 law known as “Sapin II” requires large businesses, including financing bodies such as the French Development Agency (AFD), to adopt a mechanism for preventing corruption. Resources for and means of raising public development awareness are meagre in comparison with other countries, and there is still work to be done if all stakeholders are to take development co-operation priorities and outcomes on board and communicate them clearly.

    

Efforts to support global sustainable development

Peer review indicator: The member plays an active role in contributing to global norms, frameworks and public goods that benefit developing countries

France plays a leading role on the global stage in promoting international stability and sustainable development. This was demonstrated in its Voluntary National Review at the first High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2016. Since its adoption in December 2015, France strongly supports efforts to promote, implement and encourage accession to the Paris Agreement and has increased its finance to combat climate change.

The Orientation and Programming Law on Development and International Solidarity Policy (LOP-DSI), approved on 7 July 2014, makes sustainable development the cornerstone of French development policy. The policy’s three key components are economic, social and environmental. On the world stage, France promotes international stability, climate, education, gender equality and health. In his speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2018, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, emphasised that “France is back at the core of Europe because there can be no French success without European success” (Macron, 2018). He called for a European strategy on migration, digital technology, defence, development, finance and investment. France also views its international co-operation responsibilities from this European perspective.

France sets a good example on sustainable development and international stability

France made a strong commitment to sustainable development at the four main summits held in 2015. At the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai in March 2015, France played an important role by linking those risks to climate change adjustment policies. At the 2015 UN Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, it put forward a modern view of development financing. At the United Nations Summit for Sustainable Development, France endorsed this convergence of agendas of development and protection of the planet by adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Finally, it achieved a major diplomatic success with the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change in December 2015 (MEAE, 2017).

France undertook a voluntary national review of its implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the first High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2016 (MEAE, 2016). The review highlighted French strengths, and in particular the high standard of living and quality of life, inclusive social security systems, implementation of the Paris Agreement, green growth and increased political transparency. However, the review also highlighted the challenges facing France in reducing social, educational and gender inequalities. France is currently drawing up a roadmap for implementing the SDGs. This is to be piloted by the Interministerial Representative for Sustainable Development under the authority of the Prime Minister, and is expected to be finalised in 2019.

France has been a pillar of United Nations peacekeeping operations. In 2016 and 2017, it was among the top five financial donors and made the second most important European contribution in terms of personnel, mostly through its participation in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) (UNDPKO, 2017). The strong link between development and security is reinforced in the crisis zones where France intervenes. For example, France has spearheaded the fight to prevent terrorism and maintain security in the Sahel region and has a total of 4 000-strong force on the ground in Mali, Chad, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso as part of Operation Barkhane (Ministry of the Armed Forces, 2018). However, although France is a committed donor in terms of alleviating crises and maintaining stability, its focus on preventing crises and reducing vulnerabilities is weaker.

France prioritises funding for climate issues, the environment and biodiversity

France has used all its efforts, actors and policies to promote climate-related funding as a central element of its development activities. Since 2015, it has played a major role in promoting, implementing and encouraging accession to the Paris Agreement. Rémy Rioux, the Chief Executive Officer of AFD (the French Development Agency), has been appointed Chairperson of the International Development Finance Club (IDFC). This club brings together 23 national, regional, and international development banks to debate important issues, including climate change, so they can speak with one voice at international development and climate fora1 (see Box 5.1 in Chapter 5). The Energy Transition for Green Growth Act, adopted in April 2015, set a target to increase the share of renewables to 32% of France’s final energy consumption by 2030. It aims to reduce that share to 50% of 2012 levels by 2050. This makes France a legitimate bearer of the universal message of the Paris Agreement (JORF, 2015).2

The conclusions of the CICID (Interministerial Committee on International Co-operation and Development), issued in February 2018, confirmed that AFD’s activities would be “100% compatible with the Paris Agreement” (MEAE, 2018a). They stressed that France would only support low-carbon development projects through funding and support for public policies which speed up ecological transition and end reliance on fossil fuels. At the One Planet Summit held in Paris in December 2017, France reiterated its commitment to allocating EUR 5 billion by 2020 to combating climate change, which includes increasing the share of financing dedicated to climate change adaptation to EUR 1.5 billion.3 France also committed to unlocking EUR 700 million for promoting solar energy in developing countries through the International Solar Alliance (Laborde and Imbach, 2018).

France is one of the first OECD countries to have developed a dedicated biodiversity co-operation strategy. Set up in 2010, the National Biodiversity Observatory is now incorporated into the new French Biodiversity Agency. France has also tripled its official development assistance (ODA) earmarked for biodiversity, especially in the context of major water transport and sanitation projects funded by AFD. In addition, France has been working to conduct an ambitious review of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and to ensure greater funding for projects that reflect the joint aims of combating climate change and protecting biodiversity.4

Policy coherence for sustainable development

Peer review indicator: Domestic policies support or do not harm developing countries

The international challenges and commitments that are likely to be affected by national laws and policies are taken on board and are well co-ordinated at interministerial level, especially financing climate change action. However, France still does not have a mechanism in place to ensure policy coherence. In the economic field, France has made progress in combating corruption and illicit capital flows: the 2016 law, known as “Sapin II”, requires large enterprises, including funding bodies such as AFD, to adopt a mechanism for preventing corruption.

Policy coherence for development is central to legislation, but there is no body which ensures policy coherence for sustainable development

Since 2010, France has adopted six policy coherence priorities enshrined in the 2009 European Consensus: trade, migration, foreign investment, food security, social protection and climate change. The General Secretariat for European Affairs has been striving to ensure the coherence of French policies at the European level and the coherence of European policies as a whole.

Article 3 of the LOP-DSI of 2014 explicitly refers to the importance that France attaches to the coherence of its development policies, although the act itself makes no provision for any monitoring, review or accountability mechanism (JORF, 2014). The act created a 54-member National Council for Development and International Solidarity (CNDSI), which is organised into eight groups representing similar stakeholders: non-government organisations (NGOs), economic actors, research institutes and universities, employers, local government, parliamentarians, trade unions and – a unique feature of the CNDSI –foreign experts.5 The discussions that took place during the mid-term review of France’s development co-operation in 2015 established that ensuring policy coherence for development fell within the council’s remit.6 The CNDSI was consulted on the draft conclusions of the Interministerial Committee on International Co-operation and Development (CICID) in advance of meetings held in November 2016 and February 2018. Nonetheless, consultation is ad hoc and the CNDSI is not systematically invited to debate inter-ministerial sector strategies, such as the strategy on tax and development put forward by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MINEFI) and MEAE in 2017. In short, the CNDSI has neither the capacity nor the means to ensure a long-term monitoring role of France’s policy coherence for development; however, French authorities could more systematically draw upon its consultative role.

France should also strengthen the mainstreaming of the SDGs across all its public policies, even if sustainable development is already integrated in a number of its policies and legal texts. The Interministerial Steering Committee on the implementation of the SDGs, headed by the Interministerial Representative for Sustainable Development, answers to the Prime Minister. The committee could ensure coherence and officially monitor French development policies, though this does not currently occur.

Development policy coherence is evident in France’s funding assigned to climate change action, agriculture and (perhaps rather debatably) migration. At a meeting organised by AFD and the OECD in late 2017 on policy coherence within the global economy, the AFD CEO, Rémy Rioux, emphasised the need to develop new financial instruments to support the Paris Agreement and to ensure that national contributions fully comply with it. Through the International Development Finance Club, which he chairs, Mr Rioux advocates partnerships among development banks in order to mobilise resources in addition to ODA to combat climate change (see Box 5.1 in Chapter 5).

Progress in reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) increasingly contributes to the promotion of sustainable development in France and has begun to eliminate the effects of trade distortion,7 which have been detrimental to developing countries in the past (Chatignoux, 2018). Two of the six participatory projects proposed to the French food authorities in 2017 concerned dealing with challenges relating to food and responsible investment by French businesses in developing countries (French Republic, 2017).

Furthermore, two centres for examining asylum applications (or “hotspots”) were set up in Niger and Chad in 2017 in order to identify nationals with a right to asylum and to relocate them to France, thereby avoiding their need to take the dangerous route through Libya and the Mediterranean. The centres are set up by local governments and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) so that asylum applications can be made prior to a person’s arrival on French territory (OFPRA, 2017). However, in addition to the risks for those rejected, 8 the selection effort is minimal in relation to demand. The French positive response rate to asylum seekers in 2017 was 30%, less than the 45% average for the 27 countries cited in the Commitment to Development Index (Center for Global Development, 2017).

In the field of education, examiners noted a lack of synergy including in the overseas action strategy of France in respect for education, vocational training, insertion in developing countries, and the activities of Campus France, which assists foreign students wishing to study in France. Imputed student costs, for example, do not figure in the MEAE education strategy, although they represent an important share of French ODA (Chapter 3).

Although not strictly a policy coherence matter, there is great awareness of international development within ministries, as the following two examples demonstrate:

  • In June 2016, the Ministry for the Armed Forces and AFD signed a framework agreement to put existing co-operation on a formal footing. That framework agreement advocated consultation and information exchange between AFD and various elements of the armed forces and enshrined the principle of ensuring prompt support in the delicate post-crisis phase.

  • The International Migration and Development Action Plan 2018-2022 is the culmination of an interministerial effort involving close co-operation with local governments and civil society (MEAE, Ministry of the Interior, French Development Agency, Expertise France, 2018).

These co-operative efforts have been established to confront major challenges. A secure environment is a necessary condition for poverty reduction, but France needs to ensure that it does not subordinate development aid to issues related to security, domestic policy or regulation of migratory flows.

Coherence is improving in business and finance

France has policies in place that comply with international standards and co-operation in the financial field, especially in relation to information exchange. In 2011, the Financial Action Task Force considered that France’s system for combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism was highly effective (FATF/OECD, 2011). As a result, there has been no further monitoring of France in this respect.9

In 2014, however, a review by the OECD Working Group on Bribery of France’s implementation of the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials found that France did not comply sufficiently with the convention. Despite some progress – such as the creation of the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office, the general protection afforded to whistle-blowers and a substantial increase in penalties for active bribery of a foreign public official – the Working Group was concerned by the lack of initiative on the part of the French authorities on cases where French enterprises were implicated in instances of foreign bribery (OECD, 2014). The 2016 law on transparency, the fight against corruption and the modernisation of economic life (known as the “Sapin II” law), gave new impetus to French action, in particular by creating the Agence Française Anticorruption (French Anti-Corruption Authority). This agency requires large enterprises – including financing bodies such as AFD10 – to put an anti-corruption mechanism in place. The first Judicial Convention of public interest introduced by the Sapin II law was signed in November 2017 when the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office found HSBC bank guilty of misrepresenting its assets to the tax authorities (Michel, 2017).11

In March 2018, France adopted a due diligence law for parent and ordering companies in reaction to the Rana Plaza catastrophe in Dhaka. This aims to ensure that companies assume responsibility for activities affecting the entire supply chain, and goes beyond traditional instruments of corporate social responsibility that are applied on a voluntary basis. France also complies with the OECD Guiding Principles for Multinational Enterprises. The 2017 Peer Review of the National Contact Point12 underlines the efforts made by France to incorporate the principle of responsible behaviour by French enterprises into the action plans of embassies and economic services forming part of the diplomatic network (OECD, 2018a). Activities have been conducted in this field with French enterprises in Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Colombia (OECD, 2018a). At the same time, AFD has set out its official approach to corporate responsibility and has just reviewed its current policy in order to improve it. In this connection, AFD followed good donor practice in 2016 by setting up a mechanism that enables those who are affected socially or environmentally by a project funded by the agency to lodge a claim (AFD, 2017).

Global awareness

Peer review indicator: The member promotes whole-of-society contributions to sustainable development

The French public is aware of sustainable development issues. Resources for and means of raising awareness are increasing, though they are meagre in comparison to other countries. There is still some work to be done before all stakeholders – including the French Administration, non-state actors, NGOs, academia, the private sector and territorial authorities – take development co-operation priorities and outcomes on board and communicate them clearly.

Despite being informed, the public is not engaged with French development policies

According to the AFD barometer established in 2016, 54% of French nationals have heard of the SDGs, and 70% are in favour of France providing funding and technical expertise to certain developing countries; however, 77% think that France is already providing sufficient aid to developing countries (Kraus and Dubrulle, 2016). These results reflect those of the Eurobarometer, which found that almost half (49%) of the French public is familiar with the SDGs, which is more than the European average (40%) (European Commission, 2017). Although French citizens are relatively well-informed, they need to be more involved when it comes to funding global public goods and sustainable development, especially given the French objective of increasing ODA to 0.55% of gross national income by 2022.

The failure to adopt results-based management is a lost opportunity for raising public awareness of the French Administration’s strategic objectives (Chapter 6). In order to follow up on the various international pledges made in 2015, AFD commissioned a research project to understand more about the political and civil society basis for the consensus surrounding development policy which has formed in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany (de Cazotte, 2017). This will allow France to work out possible action plans for building public support (Box 1.1).

The biennial reports required under the LOP-DSI and submitted to Parliament enable ministries and agencies to be accountable to parliamentarians (MEAE, 2017). In addition, the Cross-cutting Policy Document (DPT) on “French policies for development” (MEAE, 2018b), and parliamentary questions in the context of the finance law, are an annual opportunity to communicate the strategy for and resources allocated to development co-operation. Certain NGO networks, such as Coordination SUD, regularly invite parliamentarians to meetings to make them aware of their problems and to co-ordinate positions. This advocacy is especially difficult in that parliamentarians have, for a long time, been critical of the “dual opacity – both budgetary and statistical – of ODA”, a challenge which will be addressed by MP Hervé Berville in his role of modernising French development aid – a role conferred on him by President Macron in February 2018 (de Grandi, 2018). It is worth noting that France invited Coordination SUD to contribute to the discussions and analyses of this peer review by submitting an alternative review by civil society of the achievements of French development and solidarity policy (Coordination SUD, 2017).

Though awareness-raising resources have increased, approaches are still low-key and scattered

From 2012 to 2016, France allocated 0.05% of its gross ODA to development awareness and education – a much lower share than Germany (0.52%) and the average for the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) member countries over the same period (0.20%). However, this assistance has now been stepped up and reached USD 11.38 million in 2016. This is the highest amount since 2008, the year in which France began to notify these flows, which are normally channelled through national NGOs in developing countries (OECD, 2018b).

It is predicted that 20% of the AFD budget for financing French NGOs will be allocated to activities in the public interest, including global educational projects. An interministerial roadmap is being drawn up to improve public awareness that is involving the private sector and civil society (MEAE, 2017), as outlined in the conclusions of the 2016 CICID.

A partnership between the Agency for the Teaching of French Abroad and AFD is strengthening links between schools and local AFD agencies. During the European Year for Development in 2015, 10 citizenship and international solidarity educational projects were selected to receive a European subsidy (SGAE, 2015). AFD is notably attempting to reach the general public more effectively through events such as music festivals, the Global Partnership for Education in Dakar and the 8th World Water Forum held in Brasilia in March 2018.

Box 1.1. The search for public opinion consensus: what lessons for France?

The research commissioned by AFD in late 2016 aimed to raise awareness of development issues. It was based on a broad range of consensus indicators, which enabled a comparison with the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. France could learn several potential lessons from that study in its search for political and social drivers of public consensus. According to the author of the report, France should introduce the following measures:

Engagement of civil society:

  • strengthen the dialogue with civil society about sustainable international development, allowing stakeholders to have considerable input

  • consider creating an independent, non-partisan French platform bringing together all stakeholders involved in supporting official development assistance policy.

Public opinion:

  • get a better grasp of public expectations of public and private development assistance; identify target populations and devise appropriate positive messages which can be taken up by the various actors

  • link public support to domestic concerns so as to situate development issues against a background which is meaningful to French people, and rethink messages, emphasising universal development in partnership

  • involve the media and social networks in disseminating development messages and publicise individual and collective local initiatives with them.

Communication and influence:

  • put out a jargon-free, modern message about French development assistance stripped of instrumental and technical concepts and rooted in the reality of activities undertaken by France and its stakeholders.

Credibility and legitimacy of institutions:

  • make development one of the strengths of foreign affairs policy, on par with security, and a clear indicator of France’s international stature

  • put forward a medium-term budget plan to be debated in Parliament, which aims to better meet European ODA pledges.

Source: de Cazotte, H. (2017), Chercher l'accord sur l'aide publique au développement: Royaume-Uni, Allemagne et États-Unis, AFD, Paris.

References

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de Grandi, M. (2018), “Les nouvelles ambitions de l'aide publique au développement française”, Les Échos, 23 February 2018, (in French) www.lesechos.fr/monde/enjeux-internationaux/0301331274253-les-nouvelles-ambitions-de-laide-publique-au-developpement-francaise-2156177.php (accessed 26 February 2018).

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Laborde, X. and R. Imbach (2018), “L’Alliance solaire internationale, une coalition pour promouvoir le solaire dans les pays en développement”, Le Monde, 11 March 2018 (in French), www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2018/03/11/l-alliance-solaire-internationale-une-coalition-pour-promouvoir-le-solaire-dans-les-pays-en-developpement_5269054_3244.html (accessed 12 March 2018).

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Notes

← 1. AFD is the first bilateral development bank to have the specific mission of implementing the Paris Agreement on climate, even though NGOs criticise it for failing to announce the end of its support for fossil fuel-based energy.

← 2. In particular, Article 173 requires investors and enterprises to explain their climate footprint every year in addition to their climate change policies. France is also at the forefront in eco-innovation in the fields of water, waste and climate change technologies (OECD, 2016).

← 3. This funding will be channelled through the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Fund, the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, the Adaptation Fund and World Bank soft-loan funds. France also has a bilateral instrument, the French Global Environment Facility (FFEM), which has an allocation of EUR 90 million for the period 2015-18.

← 4. Through the French Global Environment Facility, which finances innovative projects with a leveraging effect, France is one of two countries funding the Conservation Finance Alliance, an entity which studies sustainable funding mechanisms for conserving biodiversity. Another example of French leadership is the Small-Scale Initiatives Programme (PPI), launched by the French Global Environment Facility in 2005 with the aim of supporting local NGOs in Africa to conserve and manage biodiversity. This has been adopted as a model by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with a view to developing the small-scale initiatives programme for civil society organisations in North Africa (OECD, 2016).

← 5. In reality, there are 53 members since the seat reserved for a European MP has never been assigned.

← 6. The CNDSI regularly forms working groups to give official opinions on topics covered by the international action programme. These included working groups on financing for development in 2015 (to inform the French position at the Addis Ababa summit); migration and development (2016); and on the contribution of the private sector to development (initiated in 2017, to be finalised in 2018).

← 7. The reform makes the subsidies compatible with the “green box” practices authorised by the World Trade Organization.

← 8. Migrants afforded the status of refugees are taken to France by plane, whereas those who are rejected remain in situ, creating a socio-economic risk for the towns where the centres are located.

← 9. The next review of France by the Financial Action Task Force will be in 2020.

← 10. AFD is also bound by the recommendation to manage risks and corruption as stated in the OECD Council recommendation developed jointly by the DAC and Working Group on Anti-Bribery, and adopted by the OECD Council in November 2016: http://www.oecd.org/corruption/oecd-recommendation-for-development-cooperation-actors-on-managing-risks-of-corruption.htm

← 11. In February 2018, two other companies signed a Judicial Convention, this time for issues of corruption.

← 12. National Contact Points (NCPs) are agencies established by adhering governments to promote and implement the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which provide recommendations on responsible business conduct to companies operating in or from Adherent territories. NCPs assist enterprises and their stakeholders to take appropriate measures to further the implementation of the guidelines. They also provide a mediation and conciliation platform for resolving practical issues that may arise.