Alongside national public institutions, many French actors, mainly from civil society, work in the area of development cooperation. In recent years, they have had a growing role in international relations, ODA and addressing global issues.
Sharing the same will to fight poverty, inequality and exclusion and helping to manage globalization with a view to preserving people’s economic, social and cultural rights, the State and non-governmental organizations are pooling their efforts.
NGOs are effective actors in the area of international solidarity and are complementary to bilateral and multilateral programmes with their specific benefits and characteristics:their proximity to the ground, their expertise in dialogue, organization and beneficiary ownership, their ability to innovate and make new proposals, and their appropriate responses in difficult institutional environments.
In recent years, French NGO have thus been regularly associated with working on and setting developing strategies:
- Drafting of a Framework Document on Development Cooperation (DCCD) in 2010;
- Preparation of major international events such as the Nagoya conference, the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the G20 High-Level Conference on development;
- Official representation within the French delegation at the 2011 Busan Forum on Aid Effectiveness.
In 2013, this desire for consultation resulted in the organization of the National Conference on Development and International Solidarity. This conference, of unprecedented scale, lasted six months and for the first time since 1997, brought together all development and international solidarity actors: the State, NGOs, unions, private firms, foundations, local government, national and European members of Parliament, research bodies and Southern partners.
The Conference addressed five priority themes for French development policy: the new post-2015 development agenda and the inclusion of sustainable development therein; aid transparency and effectiveness; consistency of public policies for development; the partnership with non-governmental development actors; and technological and social innovations and research policies for development.
Furthermore, in 2012 France announced that it would double the share of aid channelled via French NGOs over the next five years.
Almost 5,000 French local and regional authorities are carrying out development actions abroad alongside over 10,000 local government partners, forming a total of over 13,000 projects across 147 counties which makes it the biggest network of its kind in the world, comparable with the network of French bilateral diplomatic posts.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also contributing to these initiatives by supporting the external action of local authorities, which has been legally recognized for the past 30 years. Support from the Ministry is mainly provided through a dedicated structure, the Delegation for the External Action of Local Government (DAECT) whose mission is to assess decentralized cooperation, put forward proposals to strengthen it and implement a partnership policy with local government, based on triennial, annual and bilateral calls for projects. It is under the leadership of the DAECT that the atlas of decentralized cooperation has been drawn up and that annual statements of local government official development assistance (ODA) have been issued since 2007.
By sharing close experiences, this “city and territorial diplomacy” allows French expertise to be used in areas of excellence (local public service management, basic infrastructure establishment aid, rural development, urban planning, transport, tourism, digital administration, environmental management) and for global issues which can often be solved locally to be covered: democratic governance, sustainable development, climate, services for citizens and economic initiatives.
More specifically, due to their geographical location and mainly economic, academic and migratory relations with their environment, overseas communities have a specific role to play within the national and European mechanism.
The leverage effect of local government external action must be more widely recognized and put into perspective via a modernized legislative framework and more efficient institutions, as recommended in André Laignel’s report to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs in January 2013. Furthermore, on 31 July 2013 the CICID called on local governments to play a greater role in territorial development processes, while following decentralization support policies as closely as possible.
It is the role of the National Commission for Decentralized Cooperation (CNCD), an interministerial discussion forum which since the 1992 law has assembled in equal numbers national associations representing local governments and major State services, to discuss these new missions with a view to improving the action of local governments and their international role.
The Parliament is involved with cooperation policy and monitors the government’s action in this area. Its powers in the area of adopting and monitoring the compliance with finance laws were increased with the entry into force of the French organic law relative to the finance laws (LOLF) on 1 August 2001. It is responsible for examining and, after amendments if necessary, adopting the finance bill submitted to it every year. The discussions which take place on these occasions allow it to put detailed questions to Ministries with ODA among their activities. This compliance monitoring and these exchanges with the executive are maintained for the rest of the year by other means (monitoring and assessment missions, written questions, questions for the Government, legislative procedures, etc.)
Parliamentary involvement in ODA has dramatically increased, mainly due to a shift in its external relations prerogatives. This increase has been reflected in numerous Parliamentary consultations and the publication of several Parliamentary reports on development assistance issues, demonstrating its willingness to actively partake in defining and monitoring development policies.
Using a Corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach, private firms are increasingly including international development issues in their own development.
Furthermore, there is huge diversity in the forms of partnerships between the private sector and the traditional assistance actors (States, NGOs, local authorities) which vary according to the fields, needs and circumstances: financial support, in-kind contributions (food, transport, logistics, equipment, supplies, medicine, etc.).
Private-sector actors are also active in humanitarian work, in the aftermath of natural disasters, in conflict zones, etc. They mostly work in collaboration with local and international civil society institutions, agencies and organizations.
The research centres are specific structures aimed at generating knowledge independently of the political world but whose work is useful thereto in order to improve and modernize both the institutional and operational mechanisms: the universities and think tanks (which have an associative status) thus play an increasing role in training, with the aim of fuelling the debate and contributing to dialogue between actors in development assistance policy.
- IRD - Research Institute for Development
- CIRAD - Agricultural Research Centre serving countries in the South
- IFRI - French Institute for International Relations
- CERI – Center for International Studies and Research
- FRS - Foundation for Strategic Research
- IRIS - Institute for International and Strategic Relations
- Centre Thucydide research institute (in French)
- CIEP – International Pedagogical Research Centre
- Pasteur Institute
- IDDRI - Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations
- URD - Urgence Réhabilitation Développement (Groupe URD) – Emergency Rehabilitation Development Group
- FASOPO – Political Societies Analysis Fund (in French)
- Ferdi - Foundation for Studies and Research on International Development
- Cerdi – Centre for Studies and Research on International Development (in French)