In its 2018 Development Co-operation Peer Review for France, the OECD-DAC noted some progress in ODA policy coherence for France since the previous review from five years earlier (OECD 2018: 30–32). In their report, the DAC reviewers, or ‘examiners’, (including the Netherlands and Luxembourg) also emphasised (ibid.: 31) that there is “great awareness of international developments within ministries”, and cited two examples to demonstrate this: (1) the signing in June 2016 of the framework agreement between the Ministry of Defence and the AFD, and (2) the International Migration and Development Plan 2018–2022 (DGM/MEAE 2018). The report describes the latter as “the culmination of an interministerial effort involving close co-operation with local governments and civil society”.
However, the DAC’s positive assessment was also delivered with a clear and final caveat (ibid.), saying that “France needs to ensure that it does not subordinate development aid to issues related to security, domestic policy or regulation of migratory flows”. Thus, when it comes to ODA, the DAC continues to prioritise the fighting-against-poverty dimension, even when taking ‘security’ issues and outcomes into account.
At the same time, on the military-security and armed-forces side, as was noted in a recent report of the UN’s secretary-general on the Sahel (UN 2019: 4): “In January , the Joint Force, the European Union, MINUSMA, Operation Barkhane and Malian armed forces created the Coordinating Body for Mali, which is convened on a monthly basis and serves as a framework to enhance information-sharing and coordination among the various military and security forces present in Mali.”
If we except such external commitments, France’s WGA policy remains strictly defined on a domestic basis by a couple of not-so-binding framework papers and, more importantly, is disseminated via formal bureaucratic instructions from the presidency throughout the whole governmental system. During our survey in preparation for this report, interviewees stressed the important of the ‘independence’ of French policy vis-à-vis UN policy in Mali, for instance. As to the European Global Strategy, with its very limited operational character, it seems to have had no direct influence on France’s WGA.
At present, France’s WGA strategy is being defined by official documents from the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) and the AFD, but political decisions will only be taken on the presidential level. Similarly, coordinated implementation will be controlled via a series of top-down arrangements that include daily follow-up by the president with the support of his staff (i.e. diplomatic advisers and the ‘chef d’etat-major particulier’, the military chief of staff to the French president) and with regular inter-governmental meetings formally taking place at the Elysée Palace.
The main official document on WGA related to crisis-containment is the 2018 report titled ‘Prevention, Resilience and Sustainable Peace (2018–2022): A Comprehensive Approach to the Fragilization of States and Societies’ (DGM/MEAE 2018). One should note, however, that this report has a deliberately vague status as a ‘strategy report’ rather than being the simple ‘strategy’ one would expect, which means it is not a fully binding policy document. In fact, on the the report’s back cover, it specifically acknowledges that “France’s new strategy on responding to situations of fragility” was the document issued by the (prime minister-chaired) Interministerial Committee for International Co-operation and Development (CICID) on 8 February 2018, which was the first time the committee met after President Macron’s election.
Since then, the president’s verbal references to a 3D approach have had more policy-binding power within the French civil service and the military than administrative communications documents, such as the ‘strategy report’ discussed above, which are mostly aimed at the limited part of the governmental system in charge of ODA.