Friday, 6 August 2010

French aid is ignoring those in most need of water and sanitation: A report by Coalition Eau

Georgina Rannard
End Water Poverty

With just a few weeks left before the MDG summit in New York, Coalition Eau have published a report that highlights how water and sanitation aid needs to be structured in ways that truly benefit the poorest.

In an analysis of France’s 2003 commitment to double its Official Development Assistance (ODA), Coalition Eau found that the French government had met their promise, but only by sharply increasing the number of loans rather than grants. Indeed the total sum of grants fell to €15m in 2009, down from €66m in 2008. France has set itself apart from European partners in this respect; in 2007 Germany provided 66% of its aid in the form of grants, whilst the UK provided 100% grants.

Photo: WaterAid, Olivia Arthur

So what’s the problem with loans instead of grants? Loans are much less accessible to countries with low borrowing capacities (usually poorer countries), and they favour projects that need considerable investment, i.e. urban treatment plants rather than rural water supply. Loans as aid is inclined towards middle-income countries, who are economically able to support loans, and offer France a better chance of getting back the money (partly because richer countries can charge for water consumption).

In 2003 France committed to targeting rural and poor urban areas, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, and acknowledged that need for safe water and sanitation is greatest there. However, by prioritising loans over grants they have overlooked the needs of this region. Indeed, the main recipient of French water and sanitation aid in 2007 was the Middle East and North Africa region, whilst aid to support basic water and sanitation access dropped by 70% to €12m. In short, those in most need of basic water and sanitation are being denied access to French aid.

Photo: Water Aid, Adam Hart-Davies

Coalition Eau have made seven recommendations to the French government including:

- An increase in French bilateral aid for water and sanitation to €100m in the form of grants

- As indicated by the OECD amongst others, France should better target those countries in greatest need, and make Sub-Saharan Africa a real priority.

- Target the poorest countries by focusing on Least Developed Countries, and increasing sums allocated to rural populations.

See here for more information about Coalition Eau and the report, "Changes in French Official Development Assistance for water supply and sanitation from 2001 to 2007 and the outlook to 2012".