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The French international solidarity policy

Published 21 July 2021 in Analysis , Updated 19 September 2023

France is an important player in the field of Official Development Assistance (ODA). It ranks fourth among donor countries in volume spent on foreign aid, and tenth in proportion of its Gross National Income (GNI) allocated to ODA.

In August 2021, France promulgated a new law on "inclusive development and the fight against global inequalities". This law was long expected and represents a milestone in France’s efforts to align its ODA with current challenges. For the first time, the law set a deadline for France to allocate 0.7% of its GNI to ODA: 2025. However, in July 2023, the government pushed back this target to 2030.

Overview of the main characteristics of France’s ODA.

Overview of France’s official development assistance

Who sets the guidelines for France’s ODA?

The Interministerial Committee on International Cooperation and Development (CICID) is the main coordinating body of the French ODA ecosystem. Under the authority of the Prime Minister, it sets its strategic orientations. The CICID last met in July 2023.

During its 2018 meeting, the CICID established the Presidential Council for Development to consolidate the institutional framework. Chaired by the President of the Republic, the Council makes strategic decisions regarding the implementation of French ODA. It met for the first time in December 2020 and for the second time in May 2023.

Finally, the National Council for Development and International Solidarity (CNDSI) is a forum for dialogue between the government and civil society actors on the objectives and orientations of France’s development policy. The CNDSI only has a consultative role and meets several times a year.

French ODA is channelled through 24 distinct budgetary programs, managed by 14 ministries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economy and Finance oversee the implementation of the "ODA mission", which represented 1/3 of France’s total ODA in 2019.

How much does French ODA amount to?

Since 2017, France’s Official Development Assistance (government aid that promotes and specifically targets the economic development and welfare of developing countries) has been increasing.

In 2022, according to OECD/DAC preliminary data, France provided USD 15.9 billion in ODA, or 7.8% of total ODA from the 30 DAC member countries (USD 204 billion). This represents 0.56% of its GNI, above the DAC average (0.36%) but below the international target of 0.7%.

What are the main orientations of France’s development policy?

  • Financial programming

The 2021 law on inclusive development and the fight against global inequalities introduced, for the first time, a financial programming: France will allocate 0.55% of its GNI to ODA in 2022, and will aim to allocate 0.7% of its GNI to ODA by 2025. However, in July 2023, the CICID pushed back this objective to 2030. According to Focus 2030 projections, this postponement could translate into a loss of EUR 11 billion for international solidarity between 2025 and 2030.

Over the 2022-2025 period, at least 70% of France’s ODA (excluding debt relief and loans to international financial institutions) shall consist in grants (72% in 2020, one of the lowest among DAC donors), and the 2023 CICID decided further reinforcing official development assistance in the form of grants, as well as the experimentation of very concessional loans.

  • Alignment of France’s ODA with the Sustainable Development Goals

France adopted its previous law on development in 2014. The year after, in 2015, the international community adopted new frameworks, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development.

The new law places France’s ODA within these frameworks. For example, it contains 30 references to the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. It also introduces a results framework with indicators aligned on official SDG targets.

  • Adjusted sectoral and geographical priorities

The 2023 CICID set new objectives for France’s ODA:

  1. Accelerating the phase-out from coal and finance renewable energies in developing and emerging economies to limit global warming to 1.5°C
  2. Protecting carbon and biodiversity reserves in forests and the oceans
  3. Investing in youth by supporting education and teacher training in developing countries
  4. Strengthening resilience to sanitary threats
  5. Promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa
  6. Mobilizing expertise and private and public funding for strategic, quality and sustainable infrastructures in developing countries
  7. Strengthening food sovereignty
  8. Promoting human rights, democracy and fight disinformation and impunity
  9. Promoting women’s rights and gender equality
  10. Supporting [France’s] partners in fighting illegal immigration and clandestine networks.

In addition, the 2021 law enshrined gender equality as a transversal objective, in line with France’s "feminist foreign policy".

The 2023 CICID decided the removal of a list of priority countries for France’s bilateral aid (previously 19 countries) in favor of a target set at 50% of its bilateral financial effort towards the least developed countries (LDCs).

  • Better recognition of the role of civil society

The 2021 development law gives a greater place to civil society organizations, recognizing their right of initiative and doubling the amount of ODA channeled through them. It also opens France’s volunteering programs to foreign nationals wishing to work in France.

  • A reinforced commitment to gender equality

The 2021 law establishes gender equality as a cross-cutting objective of French ODA. The global partnership framework annexed to the law provides that 75% of programs (compared to 50% since 2013) financed by French ODA should have gender equality (according to the OECD’s gender marker) as a main or significant objective by 2025, 20% of which should have gender equality as their main objective. In 2020-2021, 42% of French ODA had gender equality as a significant objective and 5% had it as its main objective.

According to current economic growth projections and overall ODA financial programming, this new commitment could represent USD 15.4 billion (EUR 12,8 billion) of France’s ODA invested in the direct promotion of gender equality over the 2022-2026 period.

  • Increased accountability

The bill should reinforce the accountability of France’s ODA, through the introduction of an ODA evaluation commission, an annual Parliamentary review of implementation, and an open database providing information on the implementation and results of projects and programs.

  • An emphasis on innovation

The bill enshrines the creation of the Fund for Innovation in Development, established to support innovation in the fight against poverty and inequality. The Fund launched its first call for proposals in 2021.

What do French people think about development assistance?

Since 2013, a growing proportion of French people have been expressing support for an increase of development aid.

Further reading

Modernization of the French international solidarity policy: where are we at? Understanding development aid (an overview) Increase of development aid in 2020

Documents to download

Modernization of the French international solidarity policy: where are we at? Understanding development aid (an overview) Increase of development aid in 2020