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Africa

Activists pressure Hollande on development aid cuts, as climate talks loom

media French NGO's gather outside France's National Assembly on 20 October, 2015. Christina Okello for RFI

Activists gathered outside the French Parliament on Tuesday to put pressure on the government to keep its promise on development aid. NGOs are furious after France's Budget commission proposed to slash 177 million euros from the 2016 Budget. A bitter pill to swallow after the government promised to increase climate finance by 4 billion euros.

They were only a handful of protesters gathered outside France's imposing National Assembly on Tuesday, hardly enough to intimidate the security guards kitted out in Robo-cop style uniform, on hand to bar them entry.

But that didn't matter for Vanessa Laubin, Coordinator for Climate and Development at the NGO Geres, who told RFI she was disappointed the government had backed down on its recent promise to increase development aid.

"Francois Hollande made a lot of announcements at the UN General Assembly at the end of September, we just want to remind him to be coherent with his announcements, particularly when it comes to the budget," she said.

Because no sooner did Hollande announce an ambitious plan to raise France's contribution to poorer countries by 4 billion euros -and this by 2020 -than the budget commission publish its own plan to slash development funding.

"It's a huge disappointment," Christian Rebouil from Oxfam France told RFI. "We're talking about 177 million euros. That's huge!" And  above all he added, "this is the fifth consecutive year that aid has decreased. So there is an enormous amount of exasperation."

That exasperation was translated on Monday night by a vote at the National Assembly - before Tuesday's adoption of the budget - to amend the draft finance bill by raising taxes on financial transactions from 25% to 50%.

One MP Philippe Baumel, who took part in the vote, told RFI it was a huge step.

Get the balance right

"There is a growing awareness that France in particular, needs to make a special effort to ensure that new funding mechanisms are adopted across the world. Because we know that if we really want a continent like Africa to count in the 21st century and become an economic powerhouse, it needs support.”

Yet for some climate actors, this support is unequally balanced.

"Fine, Francois Hollande has proposed 4 billion more by 2020," Vanessa Laubin said congratulatingly, "but of the 2 million which will be allocated towards climate change finance, there is no mention about how much will go towards adaptation and what will go towards mitigation...."

Implicit in her remarks is frustration with France's development policy, which only devotes  16% of aid towards climate mitigation, whilst 84% is spent on tackling climate change.

To get the balance right, activists recommend that French aid be geared more towards grants, and less on loans, as many developing countries are often excluded, considered all too often as a risky bet for companies.

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