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French Development Agency/Journées du Réseau (1)

Published on January 8, 2014
Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs (excerpts)

Paris, January 7, 2014



The AFD [French Development Agency] is one of the pillars of our diplomatic action. The Agency is at the centre of contemporary economic, social and environmental challenges, and central to the responses we must provide to the crises and changes in the developing world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Because it’s directly in contact with these changes, these upheavals, the AFD must be a mobile institution, capable of evolving rapidly. I believe it is. For the past 20 years we’ve been witnessing a change in sources of growth between North and South, a scarcity shift between man and natural resources, an unprecedented bidding contest between economic and social “models”. In the face of these challenges, the issue of development strategies has taken on decisive, strategic importance.

France, today as in the past, works in all the international forums for a controlled globalization more respectful of socio-economic and environmental balances. The AFD is a special instrument of this policy. Of course, with less than 10% of global ODA, we can’t do everything.
But we can and must set an example – without being arrogant –, imagine innovative solutions and build coalitions with other donors to invent those global public policies the world needs in the areas of human development and the environment. (…)

Your expertise in a variety of fields will increasingly give the Agency an advantage over other donors: from family farming to new technologies and encompassing public-private partnerships in infrastructure, the social and mutually-supportive economy and solar energy.

In 2013 the AFD fulfilled its contract, with €7.8 billion of commitments and a large increase in its activities and partnerships. In a context marked by the demand for genuine budgetary discipline – I don’t need to remind you of that –, in 2014 more than ever you’ll have to justify the usefulness of your action, of the public funds you’re entrusted with and of the projects you finance. Public opinion, civil society and Parliament – which is preparing to debate the framework bill on development – hold you accountable, and that’s legitimate. You’ll not only have to get results and assess them, you’ll have to showcase them too. (…)

The AFD will have to help us meet our international commitments and achieve the objectives set by the CICID [Interministerial Committee for International Cooperation and Development]. The choice of an annual scenario of €8.5 billion in commitments, with a review clause in 2015, has been endorsed by the Prime Minister.


It will enable us to implement the commitments of last December’s Africa-France summit. We must develop our partnership with Africa – both the suffering and the emerging Africa. The future of the continent, which will soon have two billion inhabitants, poses a major challenge for itself, for France and for Europe. Its harmonious development will represent a major source of growth, and we need it.

That’s why France has pledged to increase its intervention capabilities on the continent: they should rise to €20 billion over the next five years for continental Africa as a whole. The multiplicity of situations means we must keep a balanced toolkit including, in particular, donations and concessionary financing for the least developed countries. Additionally, the Agency will have to champion the goals of our diplomacy in Asia and Latin America.

Regarding the objectives and resources contract that will set the Agency’s road map for the next three years, I would like all the supervisory ministries and the Agency to agree by the end of this month on the objectives, practicalities and result indicators. This road map will have to be based on the three pillars of the post-2015 agenda: the economic, environmental and social pillars of development. It will have to be possible, by means of appropriate result indicators, to account for the progress made.

It’s through the projects you’ll develop that France will demonstrate its investment in international solidarity, sustainable development, and economic development that respects social equilibrium. Our country is still a power with a global, universal role also because it can offer our partners, through the AFD, a certain vision of the world that goes beyond its national interests alone.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our development policy is part of our overall diplomatic action, and so it must contribute to the priorities we set ourselves. Leaving Europe to one side, I’ll mention three of them which concern you very directly: peace, the planet and the recovery.


Firstly, peace. There’s no security without development and no development without security. That’s why there can’t be a separate agenda with developers on the one hand and diplomats or indeed soldiers on the other. Clearly they each have their job, their procedures and their requirements. But development must be part of a political process of reconstruction.

I’d therefore like the AFD to go deeper in considering its interventions in countries in crisis. In Mali, and more generally in the Sahel and tomorrow in the CAR, we’re facing countries whose state structures are fragile, even non-existent – that’s the case in the CAR – and to which traditional development aid principles are often poorly adapted.

It’s an old issue and a very current challenge. How can we ensure our cooperation is effective in these countries emerging from fratricidal wars? How can we ensure that states often abandoned by the authorities don’t descend into chaos?

We must both ensure that aid is used effectively and support the rebuilding of the state, which means drawing on it. That’s a challenge the AFD must work on, in order to accomplish fully its mission of cooperation to fight poverty. (…)


The second objective I want to talk about is the planet. Climate diplomacy is and will be decisive in the face of the consequences of climate disturbances.

I’m not talking about “global warming” because it is, first of all, scientifically imprecise. In some cases there will be cooling. I’m not talking about [climate] change, either, because ultimately change doesn’t refer to any particular climate phenomenon and is often taken as positive. In reality we’re talking about climate disturbance. I think we must talk about it in these terms, otherwise our citizens – and more generally the global population – don’t see the scale of what’s looming.
With the preparation of the 2015 Paris climate summit, which we’re going to host, this will clearly be a major issue in the coming year and the following one.

In France we’ve got recognized expertise in the area of the green economy: I’m counting on the AFD to promote it and uphold the positive agenda of climate issues. The Agency is an exemplary player in international discussions. It’s a considerable asset for France and will have to be put to good use in the preparation of the 2015 Paris climate summit. (…)


Thirdly, what’s called the recovery – and of course we’re thinking about our own country’s recovery.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to make the most of our meeting to talk about – it’s not a very easy subject – relations between development policy and economic diplomacy. As you know, I’ve made the latter a major focus of my action at the Foreign Ministry because we’ve all got to play a part in the recovery of France and of its foreign trade. The economic recovery is necessary for jobs, our public finances and our ability tomorrow to continue an ambitious foreign and development policy.
Over the medium and long term, the clout and international reach of a country such as ours actually depend to a large extent on its economic weight. Its weight isn’t the same as its role. While France has a very powerful international role, if its economic weight became too diminished, the imbalance would be intolerable. Without economic recovery, our ability to have an influence on the world will decline. So economic diplomacy affects every dimension of our diplomatic action.

This is why I’ve asked the AFD, without calling into question its mission at the service of international solidarity, to contribute fully to our economic interests. (…)

I’m convinced that the Agency can both meet the needs of our partners and promote the sectors in which our companies excel. If we act methodically and rigorously, we’ll find the right balance. In other words, ODA can wholly contribute to developing French interests without in any way losing its raison d’être or its heart. I note that the United States, South Korea, Japan and Germany – to name these alone – are today setting themselves the goal of promoting their national economy in their ODA effort.

The idea that our development assistance can also play a part in our economy is as old as cooperation. This doesn’t make it any less noble. The debate has also largely evolved. Our partners are a lot more open today to cooperation based on mutual interests, which the emerging countries are also offering them. And they ask for investment from our companies just as much as our ODA. (…)./.

(1) Three-day meeting attended by people involved in France’s external action in the fields of culture, the economy, development, research and education.

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