G7 development ministers resist setting targets for Sahel

A G-7 development session on the "Adoption of a G7 and G5 Policy Statement on Major Challenges in the Sahel Region." Photo by: Christelle Alix / UNESCO / CC BY-NC-ND

PARIS — A meeting of G-7 development ministers and their counterparts from north-central Africa has stopped short of setting targets for health and education spending and outcomes in the Sahel, prompting NGOs to decry a lack of commitment weeks out from the G-7 leaders’ summit in Biarritz, France.

The final communiqué from the meeting, held Thursday in Paris, called on “the main international organizations and financial institutions to intensify efforts in the Sahel.”

“Without specific and measurable targets, without concrete financial commitments, it is impossible to hold G-7 countries accountable of their actions.”

— Sophie Chassot, advocacy officer, CARE France

Ministers, including those from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, chose to “underline in particular the significant role played by the World Bank Group, the United Nations Development System, the African Development Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development” in the region, and expressed “strong support for a successful nineteenth Replenishment of the [World Bank’s] International Development Association (IDA) and fifteenth Replenishment of the African Development Fund, with an enhanced focus in both funds on addressing fragility, including in the G5 Sahel States.”

However, an earlier draft of the communiqué, obtained by Devex, would have seen the meeting “Set a common objective to increase the G5 Sahel average score in the 2018 Human capital index (HCI) issued by the World Bank Group, presently situated around 0.33. We committed to reach a specific target of [0.XX / the average score in Africa].”

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The earlier draft also read: “We called the World Bank Group to substantially increase its investments in human capital in the Sahel region throughout the actual and next cycle of IDA, following a commonly agreed target of [XX billion USD] invested between 2021 and 2023 in the fields of education, nutrition, and health.”

Both targets were absent from the final document, which instead calls for the international community to provide “enhanced, coherent and coordinated support” to improve governance and mobilize domestic resources in the Sahel.

Violence is increasing in the region, with the head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, telling Devex last month that donors need to do more to treat the underlying causes. Climate change is also causing severe food shortages.

Sophie Chassot, advocacy officer at CARE France, told Devex that although the HCI and IDA were mentioned in the communiqué, “there aren't any concrete measurable commitments with a specific target to reach.”

“It has been the same in different ministerial meetings,” Chassot said. “Some commitments are made but without setting any goals to achieve. Without specific and measurable targets, without concrete financial commitments, it is impossible to hold G-7 countries accountable of their actions.”

Friederike Röder, EU and France director at the ONE campaign, told Devex the meeting represented a missed opportunity, highlighting the “disappointing” decision to cut the target on improving health and education outcomes in the Sahel based on the HCI.

“All the right words are there, but if words could improve the life of girls and women in the poorest regions, we would know it by now,” Röder said.

The French government, which is hosting this year’s G-7 summit from August 24-26, had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

However, a French official, who requested anonymity, said it is for the IDA board of governors, not G-7 members, to set spending targets.

The Sahel was just one element of Thursday’s meeting, which continues Friday in a joint session with G-7 education ministers.

The ministers also released a communiqué on development finance, acknowledging “the need to expand the catalytic use of ODA in mobilising and leveraging the impact of additional financial resources, including from the private sector and foundations.”

“We firmly commit to support initiatives aimed at better measuring and increasing transparency on resources contributing to sustainable development,” they said, noting the potential of work by OECD, which was represented on Thursday, on measuring Total Official Support for Sustainable Development.

A spokesperson for the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee said Thursday’s communiqué would have no bearing on whether it decides to reopen negotiations on how countries’ spending through private sector instruments is counted in aid statistics.

Years of negotiations on the topic ended without agreement last year, with five provisional reporting arrangements reached instead, to be reviewed in 2021 unless permanent rules are agreed earlier.

About the author

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    Vince Chadwick

    Vince Chadwick is the Brussels Correspondent for Devex. He covers the EU institutions, member states, and European civil society. A law graduate from Melbourne, Australia, he was social affairs reporter for The Age newspaper, before moving to Europe in 2013. He covered breaking news, the arts and public policy across the continent, including as a reporter and editor at POLITICO Europe.