3 questions to
“Today, international solidarity is no longer built on charity. It is more organic: What is good for the South is good for the North”
What can be said about the change in the very idea of international solidarity in recent years?
Several factors have brought about a change in the very concept of international solidarity.
The first, which we often tend to forget, is primarily the radical change in the developing world since this concept came into being in the 1960s, in a context marked by drought in the Sahel and other dramatic events. This context in which international solidarity is implemented has changed: poverty has not disappeared, but it has declined. Hundreds of millions of people have come out of it due to economic and social growth. International solidarity, which is embodied in development assistance, has supported this change.
Yet in Western European societies, international solidarity is less available in a context of economic crisis, uneasiness and anxiety about the future: why should we be concerned about the problems of far-away countries when the crisis is hitting hard at our door? This questioning has a negative impact on international solidarity – and, if we are to believe opinion surveys, it also concerns national solidarity.
However, while there are questions over the need and sense of international solidarity, the French are aware that the changes at play in the world (especially in emerging and developing countries) have an impact on their lives. Without disclosing the results of a recent IFOP survey on development assistance, it shows that the French are aware of the interdependencies and therefore of the new balances that are currently developing: they feel directly concerned, even if these new balances are sometimes established through a tough and painful emergence.
What is AFD’s role in this new paradigm?
AFD’s role is to continue to bring the “solidarity” side of the development policy that the public authorities and national representation wanted – and which is today embodied in the Law on the Orientation and Programming of Development and International Solidarity (LOPDSI) of last July. But it is also to make a contribution to these new balances in the world of today. A very concrete example? AFD’s action in the fight against climate change, or again when it takes part in the definition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which should be adopted by the UN in 2015.
AFD makes this contribution through its financial instruments: grants, loans, as well as financing for States, local authorities and NGOs. But also via its activities of technical advice, knowledge production, or again the partnerships it has with international development finance actors (financial institutions, NGOs, regional and local authorities, companies, foundations).
What role do NGOs play in this action? And what type of partnership have AFD and NGOs established?
For about fifteen years now, the objective of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs, the new name for NGOs) has changed a great deal and now focuses on strengthening civil societies in the South, so that they can be actors in their development, and interlocutors for public policies. This capacity building for actors in the South is also one of our priorities.
AFD finances part of these projects via its division for partnerships with NGOs, with funds delegated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. 80% of these funds are earmarked for these field projects.
It is both through this dialogue with partners and this project financing activity that AFD works closely with NGOs.
30 years ago, cooperation was public and NGOs worked alongside this. These days are over.
Psychosocial programs in post-conflict situations prevent and treat psychological trauma in order to avoid a self-perpetuating spiral of violence in societies. Indeed, while feeding oneself, having shelter and access to care are among the vital needs of each individual, achieving a psychological balance and building harmonious social relations are equally essential to development.
Bénédicte Weyl, the psychosocial expert in AFD’s Crisis and Conflict Unit, tells us more.
What is the psychosocial field all about?
The psychosocial field relates to the consequences of natural disasters, conflicts and crises, but also to the support for victims of serious illnesses and their families, as well as for displaced populations or refugees, and to the assistance given to street children: it concerns many sectors! It involves taking account of individual psychological trauma related to such situations, and of the impact it has on the way in which groups function (the family, community, society…). The violence people experience results in a loss of the feeling of security, of the ability to take initiative and of having control over one’s own life. It is reflected by referenced symptoms: nightmares, depression, risk behavior, the inability to build healthy social relations, which are all barriers to a “normal” life. These invisible wounds can threaten peace, the rights of individuals and development: How can a child who is a victim of trauma learn at school? How can a caregiver who has himself experienced traumatic situations treat his patients? How can you set up a micro-enterprise when you no longer see a future for yourself? Taking account of human beings and helping them to regain control of their own lives improves individual well-being and the way of living together. The individual aspect (psyche) and collective aspect (social) are thus combined. Having a listening ear is one of the key points of the psychosocial field. We set up listening centers for individuals or communities, peer groups, discussion groups with therapeutic mediators, psychosocial guidance centers or psycho-educational games for children, as well as group activities, artistic activities for example, which aim to strengthen social cohesion or conflict prevention.
Why is it important to introduce this dimension into development projects?
There is a real interest in integrating a psychosocial component into AFD projects: by improving the well-being of the populations in question, projects are more likely to be successful. It is the NGOs who realized that certain development programs failed or had limited effects due to the lack of psychosocial support for beneficiaries. Consequently, for the past few years, AFD has been providing grants to NGOs who set up psychosocial programs. More recently, pilot projects with a psychosocial component have also been launched in various sectors: a community rural development project in Palestine, a vocational training project in DRC, a health project in Côte d’Ivoire… And we are implementing a program that aims to help local authorities to manage the influx of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. The objective is to ensure that the beneficiaries can take full advantage of the programs we finance.
What does this actually involve in the field? Can you give us an example?
The post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire (2010-2011) caused individual trauma and social disintegration. In order to restore the ability of individuals and communities to work and live together, we decided, with the Côte d’Ivoire authorities, to add a psychosocial dimension to the health component of the C2D (French Debt Reduction-Development Contract) signed in 2012. Consequently, AFD’s Crisis and Conflict Unit organized a workshop in Abidjan in December 2013. It gathered the four NGOs who are going to implement this psychosocial component, the Côte d’Ivoire public health authorities, as well as ECHO, the European Community Humanitarian Office, to which AFD and Côte d’Ivoire are delegating part of the C2D funds. The psychosocial care we have proposed in Côte d’Ivoire’s health facilities includes a component for the medical staff, who are both actors and beneficiaries, with training on the elements that need to be integrated into consultations or on the symptoms and treatment of mental suffering. An emotional regulation process is also being implemented and there is a component for the population, which receives support for individual and social aspects: awareness-raising for stakeholders in the villages, or the organization of mother-child spaces in primary health care centers. The Côte d’Ivoire authorities have been very responsive to this type of psychosocial intervention. This program also contributes to the work of reconciling communities who have been divided by the recent episodes of violence.
Following the conference “Together for a New Mali”, which was held in Brussels on 15 May 2013 and gathered aid pledges from the international community in excess of EUR 3.2bn, Yves Boudot, Director of AFD’s Africa Department, and Bruno Deprince, Director of AFD’s agency in Bamako, give us insight into the prospects for resuming the country’s development projects.
What can you tell us about the current situation in Mali?
YB: First of all, it should be clarified that Mali’s economy did not collapse as a result of the events. Its military collapse and political decline have certainly been rapid, but the economy has weathered relatively well.
Mali therefore does not have to be rebuilt on an economic level. Very few production assets have been destroyed. Indeed, Northern Mali, a conflict zone, contributes little in terms of economic activity. Experts are even expecting a sharp upturn in growth in 2013.
However, Mali continues to be the fifth poorest country in the world and has immense needs.
Did AFD continue to work in Mali during the period of the events (from the coup to the Serval military intervention)?
Yves Boudot: The “civil and military cooperation” had indeed been suspended in March 2012 and our expatriates had been repatriated, but the agency continued to work.
The presence of three Malian project officers and the management by headquarters allowed projects started prior to the crisis to make progress. That being said, it was not possible to appraise any new projects, except for NGO projects.
What are the major difficulties you currently come up against in completing all the project financing? Security problems?
Bruno Deprince: The most difficult thing today does not concern security issues, which have been well integrated, it is more about the succession of transition governments: three since April 2012. Our correspondents change, the administration is still “being built”, if I may say so, and is not equipped to meet the needs of the population, on the one hand, and the increasing requirements of donors on the other hand.
YB: This situation already posed a major problem for a country like Mali prior to the events: a poor country with an administration sorely lacking in resources and skills to effectively manage a country with a whole host of needs…
BD: This instability is set to continue with the election period the country is moving into: the presidential election will begin on 28 July and will be followed by legislative elections. The return to a “normal” democratic life should, if all goes well, fall into place during the second half of 2013 and bring about the political stabilization of the country.
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What does the French army’s presence in Mali change for AFD?
BD: We should first remember that the French intervention was highly appreciated by the Malians: a French military presence has never been so favorably received in an African country.
As far as AFD is concerned, we have a very good collaboration with the forces of operation Serval. This makes the work of a developer somewhat unusual. We are in permanent contact! They provide us with logistical support when we travel to high-risk areas in the north of the country. They take us by plane, for example, or ensure the safety of AFD officers (both expatriates and Malians) during field visits.
But our collaboration is not just about logistics. We are also in contact to support Malian administrations and financial institutions that need to be rebuilt and establish themselves in northern cities once again.
Furthermore, the members of Serval call us to ask for our opinion when it comes to operations to repair infrastructure destroyed by the Jihadist forces.
What did the “Friends of Mali” conference in Brussels on 15 May achieve?
BD: Donors pledged a lot of money: over EUR 3.2bn for two years. We didn’t expect such a success: initial estimations put the figure at roughly two billion.
YB: Yes, such a sign of solidarity on the part of donors is a wonderful surprise for Malians. However, these donors have stressed their requirements in terms of the allocation of funds and Malians are aware that a number of these pledges are subject to the holding of elections to stabilize the country. A successful political agenda is therefore required to which a timetable for the release of funds by donors will be added. Donors also have high expectations in terms of improving governance in order to improve the business climate and thus promote private sector development.
BD: Malians are aware of the real challenge posed by these amounts; there is a window of opportunity to benefit from this financing from foreign partners, but there is also a question: How to absorb these funds with an administration that is being rebuilt? This is a difficult question to answer while there is no stable government in power.
Can France, and more particularly AFD, support Mali in this challenge?
YB: France’s pledges – EUR 280m – account for roughly 8% of total pledges. Consequently, while we are long-standing partners of Mali, we need to remain modest over the role played by France, despite the fact that we are the leader for certain projects, such as drinking water in Bamako. The main partners of the sustainable recovery plan for Mali are the European Union, African Development Bank and World Bank. In terms of development, France cannot achieve alone what it has achieved at the military level. In addition, we should remember that very few French companies are established in Mali; the level of France’s foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country is relatively low.
BD: We are today in a phase of relaunching all our activities. Our team is gradually getting bigger, but we have to adapt to these human resources constraints. And Malians very much appreciate both our civil and military action to support them.
Has what the country just experienced – the coup, the partial invasion by Islamic and separatist armed groups, the military intervention to restore the country’s territorial integrity – been like an “electric shock” in terms of the country’s development or, on the contrary, does it challenge the efforts that have been made until now?
YB: We could say that the electric shock in terms of the political and military situation strengthens the need for territorial development, particularly in the north of the country. The time is right to reactivate dormant infrastructure and road projects in the North, so that this remote area can be reached.
BD: The Brussels conference does, nevertheless, send a real message on the part of donors, which has done Malians good. They have understood that they must seize this opportunity and the fact that AFD intends, at its modest level, to participate in Mali’s renewal is highly appreciated.
What are the country’s priorities, on the one hand, and what today are the priorities of donors like AFD on the other hand?
BD: We believe that the real engine of Mali’s development over the long term will be the private sector. Indeed, the country’s business climate does not benefit from good indicators from the international community. But this will take time.
More generally speaking, everything needs to be rebuilt in Mali.
AFD has three areas of operation in the country: agriculture and territorial development to support decentralization, the need for which has been highlighted with the events; human development, which includes education, vocational training and health; and finally infrastructure, which is essential, particularly in urban areas as the development of cities must be more harmonious and meet the needs of all.
However, at the same time as these areas, we operate in a number of other sectors, such as the private sector, and we are providing extensive support to NGOs. The sector where we intend to scale up support in Mali is the energy sector. The country needs clean and cheap energy for the development of its economic activities. To achieve this, the energy sector needs to be restructured and energy imports facilitated at the regional level.
YB: Energy problems are a constant in the entire Sahel region and this has been the case for decades. The events in Mali have exacerbated a situation that had already deteriorated in a landlocked country, without any oil resources having been discovered to date.
How can we help the private sector to develop and boost the country’s growth?
BD: At the same time as improving infrastructure, access to energy and increasing the qualification level of human resources through education, we are seeking to give Mali’s small and large companies greater access to financing.
In the microfinance sector, the Minister of Finance has asked us to support the restructuring process he wishes to launch in this sector, which is in bad shape. We accepted his request by launching a study that will facilitate decision-making, some of which will be difficult, and also the support for the development of sound entities. We support the development of larger companies by offering Malian banks “risk-sharing” to allow them to borrow and invest. This guarantee system, called ARIZ, is effective and highly appreciated by Malians.
In addition, Proparco, AFD Group’s subsidiary that specifically targets private enterprises, resumed its activities in Mali back in March. This proactive position sends a signal of confidence to the business world in Mali, which has really needed this lately.
Where does Sub-Saharan Africa stand today in terms of education and vocational training? Does it have the capacity to help its future generations move toward employment? What strengths and tools does it have? Four experts from the Education Division provide us with insight.
In Africa, two-thirds of the population is under 24. This youth is the continent’s greatest hope, but also poses a huge challenge for Africa’s development as 20% of young people are unemployed.
Basic education, but also vocational training
To address these challenges, over the past ten years AFD has invested over €1bn in the education/training sector, 2/3 of which in Africa. Over the next three years, its financing for education is expected to exceed €500m, again mainly in Africa. (Summary of the interview with Virginie Bleitracht).
School enrollment has risen by 31% in ten years
Over the past ten years or so, huge strides have been made in terms of access to primary school. Sub-Saharan Africa has had the highest results over the past ten years: school enrollment has risen by 31% (i.e. 58 million additional pupils).Vocational training finally becoming a priority for public policies.
On average, only 5% of the National Education budget is allocated to vocational training, which is by no means enough. Vocational training is a rapidly developing sector in most Sub-Saharan African countries. Most African leaders have made vocational training and youth integration one of their priorities. That being said, we have come a very long way, as many countries have training systems that are undersized, with outdated facilities and trainers who have not benefited from continuous refresher training for a very long time.
Match supply and demand on the labor market
AFD is increasingly helping to build partnerships between training centers and companies (public-private partnerships) in order to better match training to business needs. (Summary of the interview with Christian Fusillier)
NICTs, a solution to improve access to education and training and its quality?
The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows the strong link between the use of digital tools and student performance. Generally speaking, the problems identified are the need to improve both access to education and its quality. Digital tools are ideally suited to meet these challenges. Many obstacles have now been removed. The digital market is reaching maturity and mobile phone penetration rates have seen a substantial increase over the past ten years. In the early 2000s, the geographical coverage rate stood at 10% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Today, it has reached 80%. This also represents 30% of the population.
(Summary of the interview with Jean-Christophe Maurin)