I spent Wednesday in Paris, talking about the importance and effectiveness of foreign aid. My partner in many of those meetings was Bono, who has used his voice so effectively to advocate for development aid and the needs of the poorest people on earth.
By any estimation, my few days in Europe were off to a good start.
We spent the better part of the day meeting with senior French officials, including France’s new president, Francois Hollande, his finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, and their new Development Minister, Pascal Canfin.
France plays a critical role in encouraging the European Union to keep its commitments to overseas development assistance programs, particularly in the face of Europe’s economic difficulties. Its own commitment to foreign aid is a tremendous example to other donor countries. That was the context for our meetings.
President Hollande was clear that he remains committed to aid, and that he is an advocate for both the effectiveness of foreign aid when it is carefully done, and the responsibility developed countries have in working with the developing world. France has a remarkable history of support for Africa and for its assistance efforts around the world, with organizations like Médecins sans Frontières. The President also spoke about how aid can benefit both the recipient and donor countries.
France’s finance minister Pierre Moscovici made this point last month when he noted that Europe’s growth over the next 20 years will depend heavily on Africa’s growth and development. Ensuring that all Africans have a chance for a better future is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do from an economic standpoint.
We had a good exchange about getting the most out of every Euro of aid. I’m a big advocate for the incredible impact that investments in vaccines can achieve, and was very happy to hear the President specifically call out France’s commitment to staying involved with the Global Fund, which provides funding for programs to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria. France should be particularly proud in their leadership with the Global Fund. Their help is making a real difference in millions of lives around the world.
Support from leaders like President Hollande is critical to preserving those life-saving investments in aid and explaining why staying true to the EU goal of devoting .7% of national budgets to foreign aid is the right course.
Bono was very persuasive about the impact foreign aid is having, as well as the devastating consequences withdrawing it could have on poor countries, particularly in Africa.
I was really pleased with our meetings. They took place in spectacular surroundings (the Élysée Palace is a stunning example of French style and decoration). But the focus was on the poor, on both sides of the table. And that made for a very good first day in Europe.