France’s National Assembly is due to vote Tuesday on a bill committing the government to strive to spend 0.7% of gross national income on official development assistance by 2025.
Rapporteur Hervé Berville told Devex that the text will then go to the Senate, likely in April, and that he expects the legislation to enter into force in June.
“For me, [the 0.7% target] is an imperfect way of measuring the [development] effort,” said Berville, a first-term member of Parliament from President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche party, who wrote a report on modernizing French aid in 2018. “It cannot be a goal in itself. We should focus much more on the impact and the results.”
To that end, Berville said, France has increased its bilateral assistance and use of grants over the past few years, with a greater focus on Africa and the Sahel region, health, education, and climate change.
“Committing oneself to strive is not committing oneself to get there.”— Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France director, ONE Campaign
One of the report’s recommendations taken up in the bill is the creation of an independent commission to evaluate French assistance, modeled on the United Kingdom’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact.
The new body will report to the Parliament each year, Berville said, to ensure “a really strategic, profound debate to know if what we are financing is having a real impact.”
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France director of the anti-poverty ONE Campaign, described the target of 0.7% by 2025 as a “big step forward.” However, she noted in a press release that the text commits the government to “s’efforcer,” or “strive,” to reach 0.7% by 2025. “Committing oneself to strive is not committing oneself to get there,” Vallaud-Belkacem said.
Berville defended the terminology, saying the wording was chosen to mimic the 1970 United Nations resolution that first established the 0.7% target. “We keep to the multilateral spirit, and this is something that can’t be really criticized because this is exactly ... the wording that the U.N. used,” Berville said.
The bill also confirms France’s spending of 0.55% of GNI on ODA in 2022, up from 0.38% in 2016. With parliamentary and presidential elections next year, newly elected MPs will vote in 2022 on how to spend the aid budget for 2023, 2024, and 2025. Any change to the 0.7% commitment for 2025, though, would require passing a new law.
The U.K. government will not spend 0.7% of gross national income on official development assistance in 2021, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed, despite being legally committed to the target.
Maé Kurkjian, policy and advocacy manager at the ONE Campaign in France, told Devex that the bill was “really good news” as it makes France the second country — after the U.K., which announced last year that it would not meet the spending commitment in 2021 — to enshrine the 0.7% figure in law.
“But, more importantly, the law stipulates that French MPs will have to vote next year on the integration of a detailed financial trajectory for 2023-2024-2025 to reach this objective,” Kurkjian wrote in an email, “which means that the French Parliament will be able to decide how this money will be allocated and CSOs [civil society organizations] will be able to monitor not only the final outcome but also the financial path to get there.”