Humanitarian aid: France must devote 15% of its Official Development Assistance to humanitarian aid.

Haitians in the Cité Soleil slum line up to receive food distributed by the Brazilian battalion of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and supplied by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), 19/Jan/2010. Cité Soleil, Haiti. UN Photo/Sophia Paris.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne may take this decision at the next Conseil Interministériel de la Coopération Internationale et du Développement.

Will Emmanuel Macron’s second five-year term of office see official development assistance (ODA) and humanitarian aid rise to the challenges of today’s world, or will it tread water, or even go backwards? That’s what’s at stake at the next Interministerial Council for International Cooperation and Development (CICID), chaired by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.

At the previous CICID, on February 8, 2018, we had some good news compared with the previous period. Indeed, ODA had not stopped decreasing between 2011 and 2017 or it represented 0.37% of our gross national income (GNI). It has gradually risen to 0.56% by 2022, for a total of 15.9 billion US dollars, compared with 10.9 billion in 2019, an increase of 5 billion, making our country the world’s 4th largest contributor. And humanitarian aid, long neglected, has begun to increase from 150 million to 500 million euros. This is still a long way from the average 15% of ODA among the 30 OECD member countries.

Meanwhile, the Law of August 4, 2021 on programming for solidarity-based development (LOP-DSIM), adopted by the National Assembly and Senate and promulgated by the President of the Republic, stipulates that France “…will strive to reach 0.7% of gross national income by 2025”. This is what the next CICID, under the responsibility of the Prime Minister, is all about.

The world has changed a lot in a short space of time.

After the long pandemic of Covid-19 and its disastrous consequences, particularly for Africa, the war in Ukraine has ushered in a new geopolitical era, one of international fragmentation, an awareness of the loss of influence of the Western world, the assertion of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and the distance of a new continent called the Global South.

Kherson, Ukraine, the day after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam on June 6, 2023

The number of conflicts has more than doubled over the decade 2010-2020, the number of climate-related disasters has increased every year since 2018, crises are becoming increasingly protracted, water pollution and the exponential increase in water consumption are generating growing tensions and threatening resources, the number of refugees and people displaced by conflict has doubled in 10 years to over 100 million, and food insecurity has risen by 35% over the last five years. Africa’s population is set to rise from 1.427 billion in 2022 to 2.5 billion in 2050. How will Africa cope?

We’ve entered a new era in a handful of years, and we’ve changed scale and pace in the face of these immense challenges. Will we assume our international responsibilities?

Will France be up to the task?

It was this question that led French President Emmanuel Macron to organize the recent “Summit for a New Global Financial Pact” on June 22 and 23 in Paris, but without many concrete decisions in the end. The Law of August 4, 2021 has already modeled the ambition and trajectory of an ODA of 0.56% of gross national income (GNI) in 2022, to 0.61% in 2023, 0.66% in 2024 and, finally 0.70% in 2025, which would represent around 20 billion euros.

In this ODA, there is a glaring anomaly that needs to be considered and finally remedied. This is the share of ODA allocated by France to humanitarian aid. According to the OECD, in 2021, for an ODA of 12.247 billion US dollars, France devoted 88.86 million to humanitarian aid, i.e. 0.73% of total ODA, compared with an average of 15% for other countries.

Source : OCDE

France stands out as last in class among the 30 member countries of the Development Assistance Committee of the most developed countries, where countries such as the UK devote 10% of their ODA to humanitarian aid, as do Germany, Belgium 13%, Ireland 24% and the USA up to 31%.

Why this anomaly, what’s the problem, what are the reasons for it? Is there someone who has a grudge against humanitarian aid in our country, whose NGOs have done so much to reform international humanitarian aid in the name of the duty to provide access to relief for populations in danger? Will this CICID finally do justice to humanitarian aid in France, once and for all, by gradually raising it from less than 1% to the OECD average of 15% by 2027?

Admittedly, as the French President conceded at the 4th National Humanitarian Conference in December 2020, we are in the process of catching up. Between 2018 and 2022, France’s humanitarian aid rose from 150 to 500 million euros. By 2023, it could be around 900 million euros, including 250 to 300 million euros for the Fonds d’Urgence Humanitaire, with the remainder going to other mechanisms (international organizations and food aid).

I’m aware that this article is full of dry figures that seem far removed from the suffering of populations in danger from Sudan to Ukraine, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Syria. However, there is no humanitarian aid without money, and the proportion of humanitarian aid in the state budget is the expression of a strategy or its weakness, or even its absence.

Source : OCDEFrance must finally devote 15% of its ODA to humanitarian aid.

France has adopted a “Humanitarian Strategy of the French Republic”, which will be updated and presented at the 5th National Humanitarian Conference to be held this autumn in the presence of the President of the Republic. This will be the moment of truth. The Crisis and Support Center of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs has demonstrated its ability, together with its partners, to provide effective and demanding humanitarian aid.

We must rise to the humanitarian challenges we face around the world. Failing to help the victims of conflicts, disasters and pandemics is both a mistake and an error. It’s both a moral and a political error, since it has a knock-on effect, causing the exodus of ever-greater numbers of people, with the risk of destabilizing neighboring countries.

In 2023, according to the United Nations, the number of people in danger worldwide will be 339 million, and the resources needed to help them are estimated at 51.5 billion US dollars. However, in 2022, only 55% of the urgent needs identified have been financed. We fear that there will be a shortfall of 23 billion US dollars this year to help populations in danger. Should we abandon them to their sad fate or halve their survival rations?

Young girls line up at a feeding centre in Mogadishu, Somalia, on March 9, 2017. Somalia is currently experiencing a severe drought, and may be on the brink of famine unless urgent humanitarian action is taken soon. UN Photo/Tobin Jones

Madam Prime Minister, at this CICID, you can decide to devote 15% of France’s ODA to humanitarian aid, according to a progressive trajectory. France could also take the initiative, along with other countries, in mobilizing to finally raise the US$51.5 billion needed worldwide this year. Out of a global GDP of USD 96,000 billion in 2021, this must be possible.

This autumn, the OECD will carry out a peer review of France’s Official Development Assistance and Humanitarian Aid, and it is the decisions of the CICID, chaired by the Prime Minister, that will then be taken into account and assessed by our partners concerning France’s international solidarity.

Alain Boinet