Cablegate: France: Mfa On Development, Governance, Stability

DE RUEHFR #0637/01 0511227
R 201227Z FEB 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Econ Counselor and Econoff met February 14
with Jerome Walter, Counselor to Minister Delegate for
Cooperation and Development Brigitte Girardin, and Herve
Magro, Deputy Director for Governance in the MFA's General
Directorate for International Cooperation and Development, to
take stock of recent changes in French development policy.
Magro is generating a strategy paper for the GOF on dealing
with fragile states and post-conflict reconstruction. He
said France was unlikely to stand up an inter-ministerial
organization modeled after S/CRS or the UK,s PCRU, and that
his concern instead was in ensuring that government actors
were operating on similar assumptions -- and in common
information environments -- in conflict/post-conflict
situations. End summary.

2. (SBU) Walter confirmed that in several respects French
development policy continued along a well-trod path. France
continued to focus attention on numerical targets, and was on
track to meet its Millennium Development Goal target of .5%
of GDP in 2007. Given the stringent budget picture and the
eventual end of debt forgiveness as a major component of
Official Development Assistance, he admitted to some concern
about funding to meet future targets however. Though aid was
recognized as legitimate use of public funds by the French,
polls indicated that public opinion was prone to question the
efficiency and utility of aid. Asked to comment on a
February 13 op-ed in French daily Le Monde charging that much
of the increase in French aid had been a chimera, Walter and
Magro acknowledged some disgruntlement in the NGO community.
In order to reach spending targets the GOF was having to
channel more of its ODA through international organizations.
This was particularly true with health-related spending.

3. (SBU) The Chirac airline ticket tax dedicated to UNITAID
was expected to produce about 200M euros this year, and
Walter claimed there had been no signs of negative effects on
air travel. Development policy had also taken on board global
warming, particularly in water management projects and
planning for effects on biodiversity as humans and animals
migrate due to climate change. Africa remained the focus for
bilateral aid, and the GOF was on the whole satisfied that EU
development policy reflected a consensus in which its views
were taken into account. Asked about plans in Afghanistan,
Magro and Walter listed a number of ongoing or completed
projects, including in cotton production and health. But
although Afghanistan had been added to the list of "priority
zone" countries for French development assistance, more
robust involvement was not in the cards. French added-value
was particularly strong in francophone Africa, and that would
remain the priority.

3. (SBU) With the adoption of a new interagency policy on
democratic governance approved in December, Magro noted that
French thinking on this issue had matured after years of
interagency discussion. Magro's office is responsible both
for formulating and executing policy in this area, of which
he provided an overview. In contrast to the U.S., which saw
governance largely as the application of basic principles of
good management, Magro said the French approach was
increasingly to reach out to local actors and incorporate
indigenous cultural and social mores into an effective
approach to good governance. The resulting view stressed
both the importance of strengthening and legitimizing the
state on the one hand, and of promoting the development of
social capital and civil society capacity on the other. This
was an inherently "political" process, which did not allow
for a template that could be easily applied to all cases. He
contrasted the French approach in particular to the recent
emphasis of the World Bank on anti-corruption, which he
claimed had virtually excluded other aspects of governance.
France had publicly taken issue with this approach.

4. (SBU) Magro also noted that his office had responsibility
for looking at stability and reconstruction issues for the
Minister Delegate for Cooperation, and said he was in the
process of drafting a strategy paper that would outline a
more systematic approach to the issue. Coordination and
cooperation with the Ministry of Defense in particular would
be a challenge. But Magro thought it unlikely that France
would follow the U.S. or UK model of establishing an
inter-agency structure incorporating representatives of
different ministries in permanent structures. The MFA had a
well-developed sense of how to manage short-term crises, and
was beginning to think through the challenges of rapidly
delivering critical services in a post-conflict environment
with an eye toward ensuring long-term stability and
development. He cited policing and the judiciary as examples
of key functions that needed to be quickly delivered to
prevent the re-emergence of conflict.

PARIS 00000637 002 OF 002

5. (SBU) Comment: If there was concern about the impending
departure of President Chirac--whose personal engagement has
strongly marked the French development agenda for the past
ten years--our interlocutors did not share it with us. On
governance, France's approach leaves it a great deal of room
to maneuver, and we will need to look to specific examples to
determine what this may mean in practice. Magro,s skepticism
about an S/CRS-type mechanism for France echoes what we,ve
been hearing here for some time. Although Ambassador
Pierre-Andre Wiltzer was appointed "High Representative for
Security and Conflict Prevention" in 2004, in practice his
mandate has been narrowly focused on peacekeeping and
demilitarization issues. As the French begin to grapple with
possible adjustments to the way in which they manage
post-conflict situations, we should look for opportunities to
engage with them. Magro in particular expressed a strong
interest in meeting with U.S. officials involved in such
work. The April multinational exercise hosted by the GOF,s
National Defense General Secretariat may provide such an
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