3 questions to
Head of AFD’s Economic and Social Research Unit
How is AFD’s research activity promoted?
AFD’s research activity is still quite recent: the Research Department was only set up in 2002, yet AFD will soon be celebrating 70 years of activities in the field! I think this highlights the fact that the utility of research has not always been understood. Yet beyond knowledge production and capitalization, there is a real need to disseminate the outcomes of our research to any potential users of these results.
In fact, research is promoted right from the moment when the studies are launched, because we involve potential beneficiaries as much as possible in identifying the issues that will be investigated or in the choice of case studies. In addition, we organize feedback seminars – some of which the public can attend – in the countries where the studies are conducted, in Paris, or with our partner research institutes. More recently, we began contributing to training programs (at CEFEB, AFD’s training center, at ILO and in South Africa).
But above all, all our research studies are destined to be published: this very rapidly led the Research Department to launch specific collections and set up an in-house editorial team to conduct the essential tasks of proofreading the manuscripts, layout and printing.
You are launching new collections: what made you review your editorial policy?
Our editorial production has been prolific since the Research Department (RCH) was set up: 52 Notes and Documents, 92 Working Papers, 48 Ex Post (our evaluation and capitalization documents), without mentioning some external co-publications. Our series finally began to lack clarity as a result of this profusion of publications. We consequently reviewed our editorial policy in the autumn of 2009 and have launched five new collections. Each of them has a more clearly defined objective in terms of the research to promote and the target audience.
We now have “academic” series – devoted to more in-depth research – and our Working Papers. Macroeconomic and country risk research has until now been destined for AFD’s internal use, but is to have a dedicated collection: Macrodev. Our thematic or sectoral research is widely based on case studies, the Focales series will be dedicated to these monographs that are at the intersection between a topic and a country. The Conferences and Seminars series has also been launched. The aim is to make the proceedings of our conferences more widely available and give them more clarity. The Ex Post series is more recent and is clearly understood as being dedicated to evaluation and impact assessment. It will be continued in the same manner as the Working Papers.
There is also the A Savoir series. What is it about and what are your aims for it?
This series is highly innovative. It first and foremost targets an operational public. The aim is to review existing knowledge of a specific issue: for example, the first volume addresses local fiscal methods, the second looks at public expenditure management in DCs, there is another on the practice of payment for environmental services. These publications analyze definitions, review and summarize available literature, examine practical cases of how things are actually applied and explore the limits and constraints in the field in terms of the instrument that is being analyzed. Our hope is that A Savoir will become a reference series for development professionals.
Former AFD Executive Director for Operations, former World Bank Director, author of the book published by Fayard Notre maison brûle au Sud, alongside Alexis Bonnel
What, in your view, are the new challenges for the South?
Our planet suffers from massive environmental stress. This primarily stems from the result of a phenomenal growth in the population which has risen by some 4 billion inhabitants since 1950. It is forecast that by 2050 the world will have 2.5 billion additional inhabitants. 95% of this growth will take place in South countries.
We will, at the same time, be witnessing a formidable expansion of the economies of emerging countries such as China, India, Brazil, Mexico or Indonesia. Yet without the right regulation, the taxation of the natural resources of our planet – which we thought were inexhaustible – will become dramatic. Moreover, we shall undoubtedly be seeing some extremely poor and often badly managed countries fall by the wayside. Their States are already seriously weakened and are often incapable of exerting their regalian power. If these States do not manage to consolidate themselves, to find the path of economic growth, to ensure both security and a minimum level of social services for their populations, they are highly likely to implode. This is what we are witnessing today in Somalia and Afghanistan.
In such a context, I think that the period where North countries were losing interest in the South is coming to an end, because both the success of emerging countries and the disasters looming for countries heading for implosion will have a direct impact on our lives and those of our children.
Serious doubts have been expressed over the effectiveness of Official Development Assistance, haven’t they?
Official Development Assistance (ODA) has always been criticized and its effectiveness constantly challenged. But we must be mindful of the historical perspective of its objectives that have changed over time with this concern for effectiveness. ODA was established after the Second World War, first in order to participate in the policy to “contain” communism, then to facilitate the decolonization process. It was quite effective in these two areas. It subsequently became bogged down in the management of structural adjustment programs where its action ended up being effective, but at an exorbitant cost; finally, it sought to help poor countries economically catch up with rich countries and to reduce poverty. Studies show that its effectiveness mainly depended on the quality of management in the countries concerned.
In short, it has been extremely effective in well-managed countries and widely ineffective in the others. In the end, we observe that it is the countries that need it the least that make the best use of aid. These principles today widely define the allocation policies for multilateral aid resources that are first given to the best managed countries. But this way of going about things neglects the fact that it is precisely the most badly managed countries – which are plagued by the most important difficulties – that need the most attention because the disasters that occur there are already turning them into regional or even global public evils.
What can Official Development Assistance achieve in such a global context?
The challenge is precisely to improve aid effectiveness in these countries, even those heading for implosion. All in all, apart from ODA, there is little rich countries can do in the face of the two major challenges that the South now poses: on the one hand, the foreseeable explosion of global environmental disorders that will gather pace with the economic and demographic growth of emerging countries and, on the other hand, the social, political and security disorders that are highly likely to occur as a result of the implosion of failed countries. ODA is one of the only available instruments to facilitate dialogue with emerging countries on environmental policies. This is what AFD is doing today and it is remarkably well positioned in this area.
In order to get countries that fall by the wayside back on track, one of the only things diplomats can resort to is conferences and military interventions get bogged down in asymmetrical conflicts. Here again, ODA is one of the only available instruments. The disaster in Afghanistan, which I analyze in detail in this book, shows us that it has its work cut out in order to change its approaches, its intervention methods and even the concepts that underlie its action.
Louis-Jacques Vaillant, Director of AFD’s Latin America and Caribbean Department
How is the reconstruction process going to happen in Haiti?
Three types of operation are going to be implemented. The first is to assess needs and is currently ongoing via tripartite UN, World Bank and EU missions. The reconstruction policy will then have to be defined: an international conference has been scheduled in New York in mid-April where the Haitian government will be presenting its medium-term action plan for the reconstruction of Haiti. At the request of Ambassador Pierre Duquesne, who is in charge of coordinating France’s aid, we have mobilized an AFD agent to help the Haitian Prime Minister define this plan. Finally, the implementation of the reconstruction policy must be designed so that it is as effective as possible. AFD has put forward the idea of creating one (or several) Haitian agencies for investment and reconstruction. This solution would make it easier to implement operations in the framework of orientations set by the government and would also mean there would be a better coordination of aid.
What challenges are facing the country?
Land use planning is a core issue: what should be the development policy for secondary cities alongside the reconstruction of Port-au-Prince? What should be the balance between the role of cities and rural areas? What should be the role of agriculture in the economic development of the island and its food security? Moreover, Port-au-Prince is located on a fault and we must consider the future of this capital. If the solution does not lie in rebuilding elsewhere or seeing the camps take on a permanent character, there is a pressing need to begin reflection on urban development. The aim will be to take all the different functions of the city into account, not only in terms of housing and buildings, but also the environment, mobility, public equipment…
Local councillors, particularly the mayor of the city of Port-au-Prince, Mr. Jazon, could conduct this reflection on urban development in the capital by drawing on the experience of foreign local authorities: French cities, Barcelona or Montreal have, for example, said that they are willing to support the mayor of Port-au-Prince.
Is there any sign of hope despite the chaos?
Jacques Austruy in his book “The Scandal of Development” writes that “development is reflection, a scandal for the mind and an historical exception all rolled into one”. We can hope that the management of this disaster will become the historical exception for Haiti and that it will give the country the chance to develop. State entities have been badly affected: for example, both courts and ministries have lost many of their officers and in some cases all their offices. In this context, the reconstruction of Haiti can create a new political impetus. Several factors can foster this change: the growing awareness of the diaspora which is now rallying considerably; the involvement of donors which, we can hope, will be significant; as well as private initiatives and local mobilization which is also extremely strong.
Head of AFD’s Local Authorities and Urban Development Division
AFD participated in Africities, the Pan-African Local Government Days, which took place in Marrakech from 16 to 20 December 2009. Why was it important for AFD to be at the Africities Summit?
Africities is organized by United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLGA) every three years in a different African location and gathers African councillors and their development partners. This year there were 3 600 participants from 72 countries, including 45 African countries. This event aims first and foremost to structure Africa’s municipal movement which is still emerging and build a common message on African local authorities and the issues they face. It also gives African councillors the opportunity to exchange on and discuss the current concerns that they have in common.
In a context of increasing decentralization, AFD has put local authorities at the center of several of its intervention strategies. In terms of urban development, local authorities are nowadays recognized as being actors that are responsible for the bulk of urban services. They have consequently become our main partners and it is important to deal directly with them when legislation makes this possible. AFD is currently one of the only donors to directly lend to local authorities, sometimes without a State guarantee, this is what has done in Dakar and Ouagadougou.
Being at Africities gave us the opportunity to show our support for Africa’s municipal movement and discuss with 1 500 local councillors gathered in one place. These debates helped us get a better grasp of the vision they have of their regions, their needs and, consequently, their expectations in terms of donors.
What are the issues facing Africa’s local authorities?
The decentralization policy has been scaled up in developing countries for several years now, and the local political level (regional, departmental and municipal) has been given a whole host of new political responsibilities, particularly in the regional development sector. Competence for city planning, access to essential services, housing, transport, employment and poverty reduction in general has in most cases been transferred to the local level. This trend for decentralization is seen as a positive signal of a move towards greater democracy which should be encouraged in these countries. It particularly helps build closer ties between political power and the population and makes elected representatives more accountable to citizens. And yet these transfers do not always come with sufficient financial and human resources and this makes it difficult to carry out these responsibilities.
At the same time, local authorities have to face unprecedented urban growth. With an average annual growth rate of 5%, Africa’s urban population is expected to double over the next 15 years and this will come with unprecedented needs in terms of access to essential services (housing, infrastructure, employment, etc.), investment and public support policies. This transition consequently poses a real challenge for all political actors and developers. However, due to a lack of effective public policies and sufficient technical and human resources, this growth is currently marked by the spread of slums, worsening poverty and increasingly vulnerable populations. Africa’s local authorities already lack resources and are unable to meet the increasing needs of the urban population.
African cities must at the same time implement actions to adapt to climate change. This is one of the main challenges they face and it could pose a serious threat for a number of urban areas. This is particularly the case for cities below sea level along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea or cities located near Africa’s main rivers.
Today it is necessary to anticipate the development of these regions and support local authorities, so that populations have the most decent possible living conditions, and build an urban future that is controlled and integrates climate change challenges.
What actions does AFD implement to support local authorities?
In order to help local authorities face these core challenges and implement their regional project, AFD provides them with financial support thanks to several financial tools that can be tailored to local situations and national legislation:
- AFD can allocate a loan to a State which then reallocates it in the form of a loan or a grant to local authorities
- AFD is one of the only donors to directly finance local authorities when national legislation makes this possible. In this case, AFD grants a loan to a local authority, with or without a State guarantee, and it is the local authority that repays the loan
- AFD can allocate a loan to a bank, a municipal fund, or a specialized financial institution which repays the loan and reallocates it to local authorities
- AFD can allocate a loan to a national or local public urban operator
- AFD can allocate a grant that aims to build the capacities of local authorities with or without operational finance
The way the vast majority of Africa’s local authorities operate is hampered by the low level of municipal budgets and human resources. AFD provides training actions or finances technical assistance and consequently also helps build the capacities of local authorities in the long term in strategic areas such as urban planning and financial management. By acquiring sound skills in these strategic areas, local authorities can subsequently ensure the development of their regions is sustainable and controlled.
Former French Minister of the Environment, France’s Ambassador for international negotiations on climate change
What is actually going to happen in Copenhagen?
The fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 15) is going to be very different from the other negotiation sessions. It is first and foremost a global meeting that will be gathering players from all over the world and from all sides (civil society, local authorities, journalists, international organizations…). The fact that Heads of State are coming also makes a real difference: the negotiators, in the presence of the diplomatic advisors of each president, will in fact be doing very little negotiating.
In all cases, the Copenhagen Summit is simply a meeting, since the negotiations will have to continue once the summit is over. One of the aims will be to shorten the texts that will provide the basis of the international agreement. They are still too long and a consensus will also have to be found on the main points that are being negotiated.
What are the issues involved in financing aid to combat climate change?
Everyone agrees that development will not happen if the risks caused by climate change are not taken into account. It is consequently going to be necessary to make an additional effort to finance the economic development of poor countries. The Stern Review published in 2006 concludes that in the medium and long term inaction will cost more than action. This additional effort has been estimated at 100 billion euros a year, a sum which comes in addition to current efforts for development aid.
In terms of organizing aid on this scale, the issue of its source poses the challenge of ensuring the certainty and predictability of the aid in a time scale that is out of sync with the budget calendar, whatever the origin of the financing (public/private, national/international funds, carbon markets…). From a governance perspective, the issues that are currently on the table concern North/South parity, eligibility, the creation and management of new funds or the use of existing channels, such as bilateral organizations.
What role can AFD play in these negotiations?
AFD is deeply involved in these issues and its experience in the field is extremely useful. It is an organization that works for official development assistance and, at the same time, integrates the fight against climate change as a cross-cutting aspect for its projects. In short, it puts us in touch with reality by saying: “This is how it actually works in the field”. It also introduces a synergy with other players by helping to gauge and grasp the North/South dimension in a number of debates. AFD is also very present on the issue of forests and in financing national programs to combat climate change.
For the French delegation and Minister Borloo, the issue of justice and climate is extremely important. In Copenhagen, we want to propose that the most vulnerable countries come out of the negotiation with predictable flows of resources in order to have access to renewable energy, forecast extreme events and repair the damage in the best possible way, and enjoy food security. These are the core issues of France’s position and AFD helps us to provide a response to them.
Paul Coustère is Head of Education and Vocational Training at AFD
What are the major challenges today for education and training in developing countries?
The major challenge remains achieving the Millennium Development Goal for universal primary education by 2015. The good news is that the priority set by the countries themselves, with support from the international community, has given results. In contrast with the alarming track record of the previous decade, remarkable progress has been made over the past ten years. The bad news is that 75 million children are still out of school today, half of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and that international aid is stagnating. Yet in the medium term least developed countries’ own resources will not be sufficient to keep up the pace that had put this objective within the reach of a generation. What is at stake here is not just achieving a fundamental right, it is also a key condition for development in general.
One of the criticisms developing countries made to the donor community at the beginning of the 2000s was that it was a mistake to focus exclusively on basic education because it meant that other levels and types of education were neglected, especially higher education. The debate has made headway since then, on the basis of a shared diagnostic of the lack of skilled human resources to meet the challenges of productivity, competitiveness, growth and, today, of managing the environmental crisis. Today more than ever before, the policy dialogue includes the whole sector. This should lead to reforms in vocational training or higher education systems that should at the minimum be comparable to those made in basic education a few years ago.
Why did France decide to take part in the “1 GOAL: Education for All” campaign?
The aim is to use the opportunity provided by the exceptional audience for the football world cup that will be held next year in South Africa to remobilize public opinion in both the North and South in support of the challenge of education for all. This action is led by the Global Campaign for Education, a platform which gathers a large number of actors from civil society.
The aim is, of course, to confirm – via public opinion – the political priority and the budget commitments to education made in both the North and South. It is also, more specifically perhaps, a matter of preparing the field for innovative additional financing that is complementary to traditional official development assistance. The goal is to gain in both volume and stability, without which governments that receive aid will hesitate, and rightly so, to raise their external dependence relating to the recurrent expenditure required to extend education coverage.
What areas does AFD work in for education and vocational training?
AFD is currently updating its sectoral intervention framework. The three areas that have been defined are:
- to support public policies
- to support economic operators
- to contribute to global issues.
The first area mainly concerns Africa’s least developed countries and our role is to support the definition and implementation of national strategies. But it also applies to a wider geographical area in the form of sovereign loans. The second concerns another area of AFD’s expertise and aims to develop suitable supply systems based on the qualifications that are needed. This involves working with companies and professional sectors in partnership with public authorities. The third area is more innovative: it concerns the specific contribution that education/training makes to global issues. This involves, for example, helping to build the new skills that are required as a result of organizational, technical and productive changes implemented by States, local authorities and companies in response to the climate crisis.