Chapter 2. Policy vision and framework

The 2014 Orientation and Programming Law on Development and International Solidarity Policy (LOP-DSI) lays down the thematic and geographical priorities of French development policy. The law was developed through broad consultation with stakeholders in the context of development and international solidarity, and was also subject to unprecedented debate, allowing for greater accountability to parliament. Nonetheless, the volume and distribution of official development assistance (ODA) do not give enough precedence to priority countries, and the priority themes do not all have individual strategies. France has greatly consolidated its approach to fragile contexts since the last peer review and now has a comprehensive strategic framework. However, inappropriate procedures and instruments are hindering activities with the most vulnerable populations in these contexts. France relies on a variety of partners with recognised strengths when implementing its development policy. However, the scattered nature of budget allocations makes it impossible to use clear criteria to assess and select partners.


Policy vision and framework

Peer review indicator: Clear policy vision aligned with the 2030 Agenda based on member’s strengths

The 2014 Orientation and Programming Law on Development and International Solidarity Policy (LOP-DSI) lays down the thematic and geographical priorities of French development policy. The law was subject to unprecedented scrutiny and provides for greater accountability to parliament. It takes into account the main action lines of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and reflects France’s strengths. Nonetheless, the volume and distribution of official development assistance (ODA) do not give precedence to priority countries. Moreover, the priority themes are not all set out in the form of strategies, and the lack of multiannual planning and management limits the co-ordination, coherence and predictability of French action.

The 2014 law establishes the priorities and outcomes to be achieved by France

In July 2014 parliament, which before could only discuss development and international solidarity policy in the context of the finance law, debated French development policy choices in the context of the adoption of the LOP-DSI for the first time (Coordination SUD, 2017). The text of the law announces a new framework for development policy, which “implements a policy that actively contributes to the international effort to combat poverty” and is largely based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (JORF, 2014). The law provides for greater transparency and accountability to parliament and the public. That transparency is based on 31 indicators for bilateral and multilateral ODA, the outcomes of which are to be set out in biennial reports to parliament (Chapter 6).

France’s development policy aims to contribute to four main goals:

  • promotion of peace, stability, human rights and gender equality

  • equity, social justice and human development

  • sustainable, job-rich economic development

  • protection of the environment and global public goods.

The cross-cutting priorities of French ODA are women’s rights, gender equality policies, and tackling climate change. The law takes into account the needs of partner countries in addition to French development policy objectives and cross-cutting priorities. It identifies 10 areas for action (Figure 2.1), in line with the SDG action areas and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It calls on the French Administration to identify, together with its partners, three priority sectors for each partner country from among the 10 sectors referred to in Figure 2.1. Cross-cutting priorities, action areas and sectoral strategies of French ODA(JORF, 2014).

Figure 2.1. Cross-cutting priorities, action areas and sectoral strategies of French ODA

Note: The strategy Prevention, Resilience and Durable Peace : a holistic approach to fragile contexts was adopted in 2018 and was not included in this figure. CICID = Interministerial Committee on International Co-operation and Development.

Source: Secretariat of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

Since the adoption of the LOP-DSI, there have been four successive development ministers and two Presidents of the Republic. None has altered these thematic priorities, although recently the focus has been on the fight against climate change, fragile environments (and the G5 Sahel1) and tuition for girls.

Similarly, geographical priorities have not changed since the last peer review in 2013. There are still four categories of countries with which France has established different partnerships geared to certain financial targets:

  • priority countries: accounting for 50% of state resources in subsidies (programmes 209 and 110) and two-thirds of AFD subsidies (not including funds earmarked for project preparation)

  • Africa and the Mediterranean: accounting for 75% of state resources in subsidies and loans (not including debt cancellation), and at least 85% of AFD subsidies.2

  • countries in crisis or a post-crisis phase, or in a fragile situation

  • major developing countries.

The choice of priority countries rests on the following three criteria (the countries on the list are not required to satisfy all criteria):

  • least-developed countries, often fragile or in a post-crisis phase

  • countries in sub-Saharan Africa

  • countries possessing close cultural and linguistic links with France.

France’s list of 17 priority countries (annexed to LOP-DSI of July 2014) includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo. In February 2018, the CICID added two further countries, the Gambia and Liberia, bringing the total to 19. The list of priority countries has changed slightly since the last peer review, but for no obvious reason – Ethiopia and Haiti replaced Ghana in 2014. All countries on the list are least-developed, all are African (except for Haiti) and most are francophone (except for Ethiopia, the Gambia and Liberia) (MEAE, 2018a).3

Although the LOP-DSI presents a clear vision of France’s co-operation policy priorities, the French Administration has not implemented them. While more than two-thirds of AFD subsidies are allocated to priority countries (MEAE, 2018b),4 the 10 largest beneficiaries of French ODA are all middle-income countries (see Table B.4). Furthermore, even though these indicators concerning AFD subsidies are detailed in the biannual report to parliament, this financial effort by the state5, together with the complexity of the budget structure, do not provide an overall measure of the support France provides to developing countries (Section 5.1). Thus, these indicators provide little transparency to the public or parliament.

Thematic and geographical strategies are patchy, and the AFD programming model does not pursue thematic priorities

Several strategies to underpin French efforts in priority areas of action have already been defined or are currently being worked on by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) and AFD (Figure 2.1).6 However, where strategies have been developed by the MEAE and AFD for the same areas, they are not always synchronised. Six priority areas still lack a dedicated strategy: the private sector, development of the territories, water and sanitation, environment and energy, mobility, migration and development, trade and regional integration. This reduces the transparency of France’s objectives and hampers any corresponding co-operation. In addition, civil society consultation held to help identify AFD’s sectoral strategies often takes place after the strategy has already been worked out. Finally, strategies only rarely linked to a budget.

AFD, which is the principal actor for implementing French ODA, does not follow geographical or thematic allocations in providing its development finance; instead it takes a “window approach” in which it responds to partner country demand, in line with the aid effectiveness principle of country ownership. As a result, AFD’s country and sector strategies are not binding and geographical or thematic targets are difficult to predict (Chapter 3).

Therefore, although the LOP-DSI has many advantages over the earlier French legislation, “the total absence of programming – in terms of ODA allocation and in terms of the timescale and mechanisms for implementing the law – leaves the feeling that this law is likely to remain merely a declaration of good intent” (Coordination SUD, 2017). The February 2018 CICID conclusions outline the trajectory for increasing ODA and the new law due to be developed by 2019 will be an opportunity to remedy these shortcomings (MEAE, 2018a).

Principles and guidance

Peer review indicator: Policy guidance sets out a clear and comprehensive approach, including to poverty and fragility

France’s development policy tackles the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainable development. Its legislation highlights the poorest and least developed of its partner countries. Furthermore, France has significantly consolidated its approach to fragile contexts since the last peer review and now has a comprehensive strategic framework. However, the instruments chosen and the inappropriate procedures used are hindering activities with the most vulnerable populations, especially in fragile contexts.

Programming has taken greater account of gender equality since 2013, but practical implementation could be improved

The last peer review of France considered that French development co-operation had made little progress in promoting gender equality (OECD, 2014). It expressed the view that France should work out a strategic approach which incorporated gender more effectively into its policies, intervention methods and instruments (Annex A). The French Administration has since made progress on the strategic front. The implementation of MEAE’s Gender and Development Strategy 2013-2017 (MEAE, 2013) and AFD’s Cross-cutting Framework for Action on Gender and the Reduction of Gender Inequality (AFD, 2013) have undergone a final assessment by the High Council for Gender Equality (HCE, 2017). A new strategy was unveiled in March 2018 (MEAE, 2018c); it takes on board the conclusions of the assessment and also the recommendations of civil society (Coordination SUD, 2018).

MEAE officials and agencies are much more aware than in the past of the “gender and development” issue. On the other hand, commitments by France that have had a positive effect on gender equality are below average7 (Section 3.2). AFD has created sectoral “gender toolkits” which promote a cross-cutting approach and provide a resource for technical experts and project leaders. Similarly, Expertise France has included the gender issue among its priority objectives in its first contract of objectives and means (COM) for 2016-2018. In view of the political priority given by President Macron to the promotion of gender equality, and the needs in that field at national and global level, it will be necessary to strengthen the commitment of embassies, increase investment and monitor operations throughout the project cycle (Chapters 3 and 6).

Tackling poverty and inequality is a central theme of legislation and project management, but less visible in practice

The LOP-DSI stipulates that the goal of French development policy is sustainable development in developing countries, based on three pillars (economic, social and environmental), and the main purpose of the law is to combat poverty and inequality. Within AFD, these three pillars are split into six operational areas: economic development; social welfare and the reduction of social imbalances; gender equality; preservation of biodiversity and natural resource management; the fight against climate change; and governance. Therefore, throughout the project cycle, an assessment is made of the degree to which objectives associated with these six operational areas are being achieved.

While country or sectoral strategies do not explicitly mention the need to leave no one behind, AFD aims to reduce inequality in its partner countries, support least-developed countries and establish a research facility on inequality. AFD has also worked to ensure that all its actions strengthen – or at least do not weaken – social bonds. Once new AFD projects have been identified, they are subject to a “sustainable development opinion” in the context of which the “social welfare and reduction of imbalances” element examines the extent to which individuals enjoy decent living conditions; a “stronger”, more fair and equitable society; and institutions that protect economic and social rights8 (AFD, 2014). A social link co-benefits marker will soon be developed with a view to determining more effectively whether projects are benefitting the most fragile populations.9 The new humanitarian strategy (section 7.1) aims to enhance efforts to include the most vulnerable, especially people with disabilities.

Nonetheless, in both Morocco and Niger, the peer review team was not convinced that France has a global approach for targeting the most deprived people in its partner countries, or that it had made sufficient efforts in that direction (Annex C). France could provide more support to vulnerable populations who often live in remote locations where access is difficult.

There are still obstacles to France becoming a benchmark donor in fragile situations

France has significantly consolidated its approach to fragile contexts since the last peer review and now has a comprehensive policy framework (AFD, 2018; MEAE, 2017a) and clear priorities (MEAE, 2018a). A stronger link has been forged between the MEAE and AFD for the purpose of examining fragilities and vulnerabilities. Likewise, capabilities have been developed and new instruments created in order to implement the support strategy for fragile states. The remits of the MEAE Crisis and Support Centre have been expanded; the centre receives targeted funds, including the Stabilisation Fund, which has a capital input of EUR 15 million per annum. In 2016, AFD and the Ministry for Armed Forces signed a framework agreement on consultation and mutual support (Ministry of Armed Forces, 2016).

France’s ambition to be a benchmark donor in fragile and crisis contexts is based on its long history of intervention and an expanded range of financial instruments. In conflict situations, civil and military actors alike acknowledge the importance of the link between security and development, which points to the need for a joint analysis of fragility factors. However, there are still obstacles to be overcome before France can achieve this:

  • Ill-adapted procedures: one year after setting up the Vulnerability Mitigation Facility, the French Government decided to double its allocation: the facility is now set to receive EUR 200 million per annum until 2020 (MEAE, 2018a). However, this facility, which is managed by AFD, uses project identification and formulation procedures that are inappropriate for fragile situations. For example, AFD relies on its expertise and network to determine needs, but it takes more than one year to start implementing and disbursing project funds. This makes it impossible to respond to the needs of populations or to anticipate and stabilise risk zones (especially in the priority Sahel region) in co-ordination with the Stabilisation Fund of the Crisis and Support Centre.

  • Insufficient emphasis on preventing crises: owing to its strong presence in priority fragile countries, France has a network that could identify the early signs of a crisis. Similarly, the Crisis and Support Centre established an early warning system in 2014. That system would benefit from closer links with France’s crisis prevention mechanisms (such as the Stability Fund, whose operations in Niger have demonstrated its relevance10, and which could be reinforced – Annex C) and AFD’s Vulnerability Mitigation Facility.

  • The Sahel Alliance model is still unclear: this model was designed to improve the effectiveness of development co-operation in this highly vulnerable region. However, the Sahel receives a wide variety of aid (security assistance, development assistance and humanitarian aid) and has a significant number of donors and operators, all with different procedures and approaches11, and limited national capacity for absorbing and co-ordinating this huge influx. The result is an enormous bureaucratic complexity and a large degree of inefficiency in allocating and using aid. If the Sahel Alliance wants to enhance the co-ordination of its partners in order to deliver aid more swiftly, effectively and in a more targeted manner (MEAE, 2017), France should make clear to its partners in what way the alliance differs from existing initiatives and mechanisms.

  • Imbalance in the global approach: as the mission to Niger demonstrated, military aspects can rapidly take over the intervention portfolio, depending on the urgency of the challenges faced (Annex C). This can cause an imbalance, to the detriment of less visible but nonetheless important structural aspects of development co-operation, such as justice and domestic security. Staff from the civil ministries interviewed by the examiners noted a clear tendency by France to support national military initiatives, so France should be aware of the risk of development assistance being used for security objectives.

Basis for decision making

Peer review indicator: Policy provides sufficient guidance for decisions on channels and engagements

France relies on various partners and recognises their strengths for the purpose of implementing its development policy. However, the scattered nature of budget allocations makes it impossible to judge between and select partners using clear criteria. The new multilateral strategy emphasises France’s priorities. It will need to prove its worth when reallocating multilateral aid in the future.

France is adopting a clear partnerships approach, but it is impossible to determine whether allocations match partners’ strengths

In line with its cross-cutting policy, France’s development spending is spread over 24 budget programmes. The cross-cutting policy document annexed to the finance law aims to provide an overview of these different funding streams (MEAE, 2018b). The clarity of France’s commitments at the various levels (sub-national, national, regional or global) could nonetheless be improved, together with the capacity to assess them using clearly defined criteria. For example, solidarity taxes levied on air tickets and financial transaction taxes earmarked for development are paid into a separate fund to support global public goods (Box 3.1); they are not subject to a specific parliamentary debate or vote regarding their use, unlike activities that feature directly in the state’s budget.

France has entered into several partnerships with various agencies at different levels. It recognises the essential role played by non-government stakeholders, including civil society, regional authorities, the private sector, and research and educational institutes (Chapter 5).

Following recommendations made as part of an assessment of the contribution of civil society to development co-operation (MEAE, 2016), the MEAE – in conjunction with civil society organisations (CSOs) – has drawn up a policy paper clarifying its CSO partnership rationale (MEAE, 2017b). The paper recognises the specific contributions of civil society, including acting as a “spur” for unleashing ideas and actions which are crucial for achieving global development; its educational function and ability to mobilise citizens; and its ability to act when the state is unable to do so.

The LOP-DSI of 2014 recognises in legislative form the importance of overseas action by French local governments. The White Paper Diplomatie et territoires (Diplomacy and territories) outlines 21 proposals for a partnership between the state and local authorities and outlines the comparative advantage of French local governments, including: their technical expertise; their tried-and-tested methodological know-how in terms of the geography of a region of comparable size; and the increasing professionalism of regional officials and of local public and private institutions (MEAE and CNCD, 2017). AFD partnerships with French local governments take the form of project co-financing, parallel financing or technical information exchange (National Assembly, 2017).

The MEAE collaborates with the private sector on matters concerning the social and solidarity economy, especially through the working group Innover Ensemble (Innovating Together). AFD also encourages active partnerships with the private sector, which is the main employment creator in developing countries. AFD considers that the private sector will play an increasingly important role in financing major transitions – which will require new resources – and that it will drive innovation and technical progress.

In 2015, France launched a debate on the role of partnerships with research institutes. Two of France’s objectives for such partnerships are to support developing countries through research and training and to strengthen the capacities of least-developed countries. In practice, there is a focus on climate issues, which seems logical given France’s expertise and its priority challenges (Chapter 3).

The new multilateral strategy would be a good opportunity for more structured dialogue with multilateral partners

France has drawn up a French Multilateral Aid Strategy 2017-2021 (MEAE and MINEFI, 2017), in response to the 2013 peer review recommendation (Annex A). The strategy highlights the ten thematic and geographical priorities (Figure 2.1) that France has been successfully advocating to boards of financial institutions. This enables it to channel funds towards the poorest, most fragile countries, or towards climate-related activities. However, the strategy does not outline clear and precise allocation criteria for future multilateral aid allocations.

France focuses its multilateral aid on a few priority agencies, such as the European Development Fund of the European Union; the International Development Association of the World Bank; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the African Development Fund of the African Development Bank. According to the conclusions of the last CICID (MEAE, 2018a), France is intending to increase its voluntary contributions to the United Nations. However, this will be a challenge given France’s limited margin for manœuvre in increasing its multilateral contributions beyond its priority agencies, combined with its intention to increase the bilateral ODA component (Chapter 3).

Apart from pledges made at the time of replenishing the development banks and thematic funds, its participation in the Utstein Group12 and annual consultations with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), France has not made any multiannual commitment or embarked upon any structural dialogue with multilateral agencies about its objectives or the possible repercussions of a more structured partnership. Similarly, there was no dialogue with multilateral partners when France was working on its multilateral strategy. This situation has been compounded by the fact that each multilateral agency has several counterparts in France (AFD, MEAE, Expertise France, sectoral ministries) who do not systematically co-ordinate among themselves and do not necessarily have the same priorities or objectives.13

In addition to the evaluations it conducts as part of the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN),14 France only undertakes detailed evaluations of multilateral agencies in terms of its contributions to international funds and financial institutions. It includes the results in its “Biennial report on the implementation of French development aid policy” addressed to parliament and civil society. France is a longstanding member of MOPAN and uses the reports produced by the network. However, it could improve co-ordination of the various entities that decide multilateral allocations in order to make the most of its participation in MOPAN and to reflect France’s specific priorities.


AFD (2018), “Strategy: vulnerabilities to crisis and resilience 2017-2021, Executive summary”, French Development Agency, Paris,

AFD (2014), “Methodology guide to the sustainable development opinion mechanism”, French Development Agency, Paris,

AFD (2013), “Cadre d'intervention : le genre et la réduction des inégalités femmes-hommes” (in French), French Development Agency, Paris,

Châtelot, C. (2018), “A Paris, George Weah en quête d’investissements pour développer le Liberia”, Le Monde, 22 February 2018, (accessed 1 March 2018).

Coordination SUD (2018), “Genre et politique française étrangère : des ambitions mais les moyens suivront-ils ?” (in French), Press release, 9 March 2018, Coordination SUD, Paris,

Coordination SUD (2017), “Une revue alternative du bilan politique de développement et de solidarité internationale de la France entre 2013 et 2017 par la société civile” (in French), Coordination SUD, Paris,

HCE (2017), “Rapport final d'évaluation de la mise en oeuvre de la seconde Stratégie Genre et Développement 2013 – 2017” (in French), Haut Conseil à l’Égalité,

JORF (2014), “Loi n° 2014-773 du 7 juillet 2014 d'orientation et de programmation relative à la politique de développement et de solidarité internationale”, (Orientation and Programming Law on Development and International Solidarity), Legifrance, Official Journal of the French Republic, (accessed 26 February 2018).

MEAE (2018a), “Comité interministériel de la coopération internationale et du développement (CICID) 8 février 2018 Relevé de conclusions” (in French), MEAE, Paris,

MEAE (2018b), “Politique française en faveur du développement”, Document de politique transversale (in French), MEAE, Paris,

MEAE (2018c), « Stratégie internationale de la France pour l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes, 2018-2022 », (in French), MEAE, Paris

MEAE (2017a), “Approche globale de réponse à la fragilisation des états et des sociétés”, (in French), MEAE, Paris, unpublished.

MEAE (2017b), “Document d’orientation politique relatif au partenariat avec la société civile” (in French), MEAE, Paris,

MEAE (2016), Évaluation de la contribution des acteurs de la société civile à l'action de développement et de solidarité internationale de la France (2009-2015) (in French), MEAE, Paris,

MEAE (2013), “La stratégie genre et développement 2013-2017” (in French), MEAE, Paris, (accessed 9 March 2018).

MEAE et CNCD (2017), Diplomatie et territoires: pour une action extérieure démultipliée (in French), La Documentation Française, Paris,

MEAE et MINEFI (2017), Stratégie française pour l'aide multilatérale : pour une aide au développement performante, au service des plus vulnérables (in French), MINEFI et MEAE, Paris,

Ministry of the Armed Forces (2016), “Gagner la guerre ; gagner la paix”, online article, (in French), Ministry of the Armed Forces, Paris, (accessed 26 February 2018).

National Assembly (2017), “Aide publique au développement : projet de loi de finances pour 2018” (in French), vol. 275/3, National Assembly, Paris,

OECD (2018), “Aid in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment: donor charts”, OECD, Paris,

OECD (2014), OECD Development Co-operation Peer Reviews: France 2013, OECD Development Co-operation Peer Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris,

United Nations (2017), “Equipe pays des Nations Unies au Niger” (in French), (accessed 26 February 2018).

UNOCHA (2017), “Plan de réponse humanitaire : Niger” (in French), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, New York,


← 1. The G5 Sahel is an institutional framework for coordination of regional cooperation in development policies and security matters in West Africa. It was formed in February 2014 at a summit of five Sahel countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

← 2. According to the conclusions of the 2016 CICID, which replace the 2013 CICID’s conclusions, “The Government has decided to dedicate at least 85% of the state’s financial effort to sub-Saharan Africa and neighbouring countries in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region.”

← 3. In Liberia, a grants portfolio of EUR 10 million will be unblocked to support initial development projects. France has also pledged to support Liberia in its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and to plead its case in Europe in order to obtain funding (Châtelot, 2018).

← 4. On average, USD 96.5 million per annum has been paid to the 17 priority countries all combined in 2015-16.

← 5. These indicators include the cost to the state of development aid loans made by AFD and concessionary loans made by the Treasury, in addition to the cost of debt cancellations granted in the context of the Paris Club (Chapter 3).

← 6. In addition to these strategies, AFD has prepared a digital technology strategy which encourages it to plan activities to support innovative ecosystems in developing countries.

← 7. Taking all French ODA into account, 84% of allocable bilateral activities were examined (OECD, 2018).

← 8. The following is an example of how social well-being and imbalance mitigation factors affect the scoring of the sustainable development opinion: “The project might involve job creation for port personnel, civil engineering and industries processing fish products. However, it might also entail movements of civil populations, requiring a comprehensive relocation and land purchasing plan. Proposed score: 0” (AFD, 2014).

← 9. AFD has attempted to determine to what extent its operations target less wealthy people, thereby helping to reduce inequalities in the country in question, in line with SDG 10. However, it has not yet pursued this exercise.

← 10. In Niger, the Stabilisation Fund has been activated to carry out swift operations to strengthen state presence in the most security-sensitive areas, to monitor community radios and to help the Niger Ministry of Justice to speed up inquiries into Boko Haram prisoners in the Diffa region.

← 11. For example, 19 members of the DAC mobilised aid in 2016 for Niger alone (Creditor Reporting System, consulted on 15 February 2018); 20 United Nations agencies are involved in the UN Development Assistance Framework in Niger (United Nations, 2017) and 175 humanitarian bodies take part in the humanitarian response plan for Niger (UNOCHA, 2017).

← 12. The Utstein Group allows its member states to maintain dialogue with United Nations agencies, funds and programmes on their strategic directions and internal organisation.

← 13. French multilateral aid is split principally between two budget programmes: programme 209 (managed by the MEAE), which feeds into the European Development Fund, the Global Fund and UN agencies; and programme 110, which contributes to financial institutions (and this excludes off-budget funds).

← 14. Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network