Interview with Olivier Bruyeron CEO of Coordination SUD

Intervention d’Olivier Bruyeron, président de Coordination SUD au CNDSI, Paris, 2022. Copyright Coordination SUD

Alain Boinet: France’s ODA has risen sharply between 2017 and 2022. Some have even described it as a surge. On the eve of the next meeting of the Interministerial Committee for International Cooperation and Development (CICDID), which Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is due to convene on 14 June, what decisions are you expecting regarding ODA and its implementation?

France has stepped up a gear in recent years, steadily increasing its official development assistance. This ambition is reflected in the 2021 law on the orientation and programming of solidarity-based development. In particular, it includes the definition of a financing trajectory up to 2025. The first stage of this trajectory was reached in 2022, when France allocated 0.56% of its gross national income to ODA. The second stage that the government must now pursue, as set out in the 2021 law, is to allocate 0.7% of gross national income to ODA in 2025. This trajectory is the necessary condition for implementing the objectives of France’s international solidarity policy and facing up to the challenges that lie ahead: widening inequalities, increasing poverty, the effects of climate change, loss of biodiversity, humanitarian crises, deteriorating respect for human rights, etc. This effort to reach the 0.7 target is not only useful, it is essential!

The 2021 law also provides for an increase in funding channelled through CSOs, so that they receive 15% of France’s bilateral ODA, the average for OECD DAC countries.

On these two major points, while the CPD has remained vague, we are waiting for the CICID to specify its implementation.

Alain Boinet: The CICID was preceded on 5 May by a meeting of the Presidential Council for Development with the President of the Republic. You had previously sent a letter to the President of the Republic. What is your assessment of this and how do this Council and the CICID complement each other and how do they differ?

The Presidential Development Council (PDC) was an opportunity to reiterate and reaffirm several of the priorities of French development policy, particularly in the areas of youth, climate, human rights, gender equality, health, education and food. In addition, 3,000 volunteer and expert posts per year by 2027 have been announced. This is a positive step forward for international solidarity, opening up new opportunities for young people living in France.

However, the content of the CPD is disappointing. For even if certain key issues are highlighted, as I have just mentioned (with the surprising and problematic exception of water, hygiene and sanitation), it is important to emphasise the absence of clear guidelines in terms of the ODA trajectory. Will France honour its commitment to mobilise 0.7% of its GNI for ODA? And when? Nothing is specified.

Another major omission is the reaffirmation of the place and role of CSOs and the development of resources to support their actions!

Furthermore, again in reaction to the content of the CPD, I would like to reiterate our firm opposition to making ODA conditional on migration issues that come under French domestic policy.

The CICID should therefore provide an opportunity to clarify these points.

It is not the time to reopen debates that have been closed and decided by Parliament in 2021. Its role is to bring together the various ministries involved in solidarity development policy in order to actively engage them in implementing the commitments set out in the law and in achieving France’s national, European and international objectives in this area.

Défense et promotion des OSC. Copyright Coordination SUD

Alain Boinet: Coordination Sud is calling for at least 15% of France’s bilateral ODA to be channelled through CSOs from 2025. What is the current situation, how do you envisage the implementation of such a measure and what would be its added value?

The latest figures available from the MEAE show that bilateral ODA channelled through CSOs stands at 7.25%, which remains low compared with the average for OECD DAC countries, which is around 15%. To move towards this objective, Coordination SUD has defined a trajectory for French public funding for CSOs. This trajectory sets a target of €1.850 billion in 2025 and €2 billion in 2027. These figures may seem very ambitious, but they represent only part of the resources needed to meet the needs of vulnerable populations and the many humanitarian and environmental crises that are multiplying today. The United Nations estimates that the financial requirements to meet the MDGs will represent an average of 874 billion dollars per year over the period 2019-2030 in low-income developing countries. CSOs are major players in helping to achieve the MDGs, and better funding for their actions will only strengthen their impact and help to build better organised societies that are more resilient to crises.

Alain Boinet: International humanitarian aid has been facing a serious funding problem for years. Between 2018 and 2021, funding has fluctuated between 30 and 31.4 billion dollars (USD) per year, for a need estimated by the United Nations at 40 billion USD in 2021. Between 2013 and 2023, the number of refugees and displaced persons rose from 50 million to 103 million this year. In 2023, the number of people in need of humanitarian aid will be 339 million, compared with 274 million at the beginning of 2022. UNOCHA has estimated the needs for this year at USD 51.4 billion, and despite a probable increase, we will still lack funding and the humanitarian sector will have to cut back on essential aid to populations in danger. How could an increase in ODA and in the share implemented by humanitarian organisations contribute to resolving this shortfall, in France of course, but also at the level of the European Union and more widely?

France’s humanitarian funding via the CDCS and programmed food aid has more than tripled between 2017 and 2022 (€55.6m in 2017 and €187.5m in 2022), which is significant progress that we should welcome, even if the latter amount is still too low, particularly given the very sharp increase in needs, as you point out.

Overall, France’s humanitarian contributions remain well below the OECD average, representing 3% of its total ODA, compared with an OECD average of 10%.

France must therefore continue its efforts to fund humanitarian action. This will also enable it to play a valid role in the debate on broadening the base of international donors, which is being called for in Europe in particular.

A significant proportion of French humanitarian ODA is channelled through CSOs: in addition to funding for UN agencies, around 70% of funding for the humanitarian emergency fund is channelled through NGOs. If this trend continues, the increase in French ODA should therefore benefit humanitarian action channelled through CSOs, which for Coordination SUD is a guarantee of quality and effectiveness in that the organisations carry out their actions according to the needs expressed and humanitarian principles, notably neutrality and independence.

Atelier de sensibilisation parlementaire aux enjeux de l’aide publique au développement, organisé par Coordination SUD à l’Assemblée nationale, Paris, septembre 2022. Copyright Coordination SUD

Alain Boinet: The CICID will be preceded by a preparatory meeting of the CNDSI (National Council for Development and International Solidarity). What is the role of this body and what do you expect from it in the run-up to the CICID?

The CNDSI is a forum for dialogue that brings together different players in society (profit-making economic players, trade unions, parliamentarians, foreign personalities, foundations), including associations, of which Coordination SUD chairs the group. This council enables regular dialogue to be maintained with the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs on solidarity development policy, although it has no decision-making powers. The purpose of this preparatory meeting, which took place on 25 May, was for the Secretary of State to present the main conclusions of the recent meeting of the Presidential Development Council and to hear the reactions and proposals of CNDSI members with a view to the CICID. On this occasion, Coordination SUD recalled the recommendations developed by the 183 members of the collective and other member associations of the CNDSI at the end of 2022, and put forward concrete proposals for the CICID to the Secretary of State. We expect the Secretary of State to take these recommendations to the Prime Minister as part of the CICID discussions.

Alain Boinet: You call for the creation of a ministry or interministerial committee “dedicated to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda”. How would such a structure be more effective?

First of all, it should be pointed out that Coordination SUD has adjusted this proposal. In a recently published note, which reviews France’s impact on the SDGs worldwide, Coordination SUD recommends instead “Creating a ministry dedicated to the coordination and implementation of the 2030 Agenda or a body dedicated to the SDGs, attached directly to Matignon or the Élysée, with sufficient resources and political weight to enable it to influence inter-ministerial arbitration”. In so doing, Coordination SUD emphasises the importance of resources and political clout.

Indeed, beyond the structure as such or its position, the real need lies in the fact of having a body that is capable of influencing interministerial negotiations in favour of taking better account of the Agenda 2030 in all public policies, and that has sufficient resources to carry out analyses using the prism of the SDGs as well as to raise awareness and train all ministries on these issues.

These recommendations and findings come in particular from the work of the OECD, which in 2019 adopted a new version of its recommendations in this area to work on policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD). The document, adopted by the Member States, highlights the concept of PCSD, which is essential for ensuring that all public policies take account of the 2030 Agenda. In particular, the OECD suggests “using high-level coordination arrangements […] from the centre of government or a lead sector ministry[1]”. The most recent conceptualisation by the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) also recognises the importance of establishing political commitments and ambitious institutionalisation[2].

More recently, a report by the European Parliament’s think tank illustrated just how complicated it was for a body lacking sufficient resources and power – in this case the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships – to check that draft legislation takes account of the impacts on the 2030 Agenda at home and around the world[3].

This type of recommendation has been implemented in countries such as Spain, where a Ministry of Social Rights and Agenda 2030 was created in 2020. As a result, Spain is gradually catching up with France in terms of its domestic impact on the SDGs, and is well ahead of France in terms of its positive impact on Agenda 2030 in the rest of the world[4].

Alain Boinet: How would you like to conclude?

To sum up what we have to say in one sentence, Coordination SUD expects the government to implement the law of 4 August 2021 on solidarity-based development and the fight against global inequalities. This recent law sets out an ambitious programme and commitments concerning France’s action in favour of international solidarity. It was initiated by the government, widely adopted by Parliament and supported by civil society. We are therefore expecting a CICID at least equal to the ambitions adopted in 2021.