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Port Vila, Vanuatu, FICOL: an essential tool for cooperation in the Pacific region
Since February 2016, New Caledonia and French Polynesia have been eligible for AFD’s French Local Authorities Financing Facility (FICOL). This tool has allowed New Caledonia to develop its regional cooperation actions, which mainly focus on its close neighbor, Vanuatu. Philippe Renault, AFD’s Regional Director for the Pacific region, gives some explanations.
Philippe Renault, agence nouvelle caledonie, photographie Marc Le Chelard
© Marc Le Chélard / AFD

What is the interest of FICOL? 

FICOL is a cooperation instrument available to French local and regional authorities. It is a real springboard for their outreach and the development of their external action. It today provides up to EUR 1.5m of support for a decentralized cooperation project between a French local authority and a local authority from a foreign country in various fields: health, education, fight against climate change, etc.  

FICOL is highly appreciated by French local authorities and is increasingly used in the Pacific region. It plays a key role in creating or strengthening sustainable links of proximity between local authorities in New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Pacific countries.

The project is fully at the initiative of the French local authority, which submits a project to AFD together with its counterpart. By only financing a maximum of 70% of the project, the partner local authorities are invited to contribute financial or human resources. 

In addition, FICOL mobilizes and promotes French expertise, which often acts as a delegated contracting authority or operator for these projects. AFD thereby contributes to French economic influence.

What projects are financed by FICOL in Vanuatu? 

Three FICOL, each for EUR 700,000, have been allocated since 2016 for projects supported by local authorities in New Caledonia. The first is led by the governments of New Caledonia and Vanuatu for the creation of the Bilingual National University of Vanuatu. 60% is financed by AFD and it is expected to open in 2020.

The second has been initiated by the mayors of Dumbéa in New Caledonia and Port-Vila, in Vanuatu. It is financing the creation of a Relay for Francophonie and sustainable collective housing in Port-Vila, with support from the New Caledonia Real Estate Company (SIC). The works officially started last March.

The third aims to secure Port-Vila International Airport via the extension of the fire station of Port-Vila Airport and the installation of photovoltaic panels.
A FICOL has also been allocated in French Polynesia for capacity building for the Fiji Ministry of Health by the Malardé Institute for diagnostics, surveillance and research on arbovirosis. Finally, other projects are under preparation for this year, including another capacity building project for public health via financing for a biology platform for education, research and public health at the National University in Vanuatu, which will be led by New Caledonia and coordinated via the Institut Pasteur of New Caledonia.

Why promote FICOL in Vanuatu and more widely in the Pacific? 

Vanuatu remains a Pacific LDC where AFD has a longstanding and general mandate. This country is highly sensitive to the impacts of climate change and when Cyclone Pam hit in 2015, it caused a loss of 64% of its GDP. Despite its geographical, cultural and linguistic proximity with France and its economic ties with New Caledonia, FICOL today remains the only available tool to meet the needs of Vanuatu and assist it with its challenges.

In the near future, the launch of the Pacific Initiative for adaptation to climate change and biodiversity wanted by the French President and which will be cofinanced by AFD, the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, will finance other operations in Pacific countries. 

Since the creation of the Pacific Ocean Regional Department at AFD in 2018, in response to the expansion of the mandate in the Pacific and the creation of the Pacific Initiative, AFD has been the bridgehead of the French policy for development in the region. It is eagerly awaited there and FICOL fully contributes to the implementation of operations. We are relying very much on the development of new projects in the coming years in order to build a network of relations between French local authorities in the Pacific, French actors and foreign island developing states.

Further reading