France

The SDGs are not a matter of developing countries that would only concern France in its external relations. They also impact French domestic policies.

The targets that risk not being met reflect the fact that they are not first and foremost issues related to environmental protection in the French context; instead, half of the targets that will be difficult to reach concern economic and social issues such as employment, poverty, educational inequalities, gender equality and official development assistance (ODA).

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not a matter of developing countries that would only concern France in its external relations. They also impact French domestic policies. The targets that risk not being met reflect the fact that they are not first and foremost issues related to environmental protection in the French context; instead, half of the targets that will be difficult to reach concerns economic and social issues such as employment, poverty, educational inequalities, gender equality and official development assistance (ODA). The fight against extreme poverty and exclusion is one of the major challenges in France today. The country will not be able to reverse the trend without significant mobilization and quantified targets, which are unfortunately not foreseen at present. And yet, ensuring the participation of people experiencing poverty in policies affecting them, mainstreaming of poverty eradication and sustainable development, and setting human rights standards based on the guidelines on extreme poverty are measures that are all possible to implement.

All major presidential candidates promise in their platforms to increase the French development cooperation contribution to 0.7 per cent of GDP and yet "I bet you a bottle of champagne that whoever gets elected, when we gather again five years from now that promise will not have been met".

Jean-Michel Severino, the author of the bet, was speaking on behalf of Emmanuel Macron in a public debate about French international relations and development cooperation among representatives from the five leading presidential candidates, a contest so close that four of them are deemed likely to pass to the second and final round next May.

Can France be labeled as “developed” when 8 percent of the population lives in poverty and its mode of consumption and production are depleting the resources of the planet? Countries should not be rated only by GDP but also by their environmental sustainability and access to human rights for all of their citizens. Even though France is the world's sixth largest economy, poverty is widespread in the country and extreme poverty is persistent. Many people have to endure the violence of poverty and inequalities weaken social cohesion and democracy.

Regarding international responsibility, France's contribution to Official Development Assistance (ODA) is actually far from the 0.7% of the GNP which was pledged decades ago. In 2010 ODA was only 0.50 percent and dropped to 0.37 percent in 2015. Financial support from the richest countries to the poorest is indispensable to the achievement of SDGs. There is a gap between words and acts.

The fact that France has volunteered for National Reviews at the High Level Political Forum in July 2016 initiates the long road that will lead to the implementation of Agenda France 2030, both domestically and internationally. France must now get involved in implementing a just transition from an unsustainable economy to genuinely sustainable development that leaves no one behind. This involves shifts in investments, creating decent jobs, establishing social dialogue and maintaining social protection. A country should be considered as having achieved a just transition only if poverty is eradicated and sustainability achieved.
Gustave Assah.

The participants in the civil society strategy meeting on monitoring and accountability organized by Social Watch last february in Montevideo were asked about how they personally work and relate with the huge task of making the powerful accountable. Here is what they said:

Women and immigrants living in France have been hit hardest in France by the global economic crisis, according to Secours Catholique. Women account for 57 percent of people seeking help from this member organization of the Social Watch network, almost 10 percent more than a decade ago. In the past decade, poverty in France, far from diminishing, has taken root. Getting out of the poverty trap is taking longer than ever before.

In terms of gender equity France places itself above the European average, but behind most of its neighbours.

The world economic crisis hit France’s society quite hard. The economy has recovered somewhat, but unemployment and inequality have worsened and society has become more competitive to the detriment of values like fraternity and solidarity. The country also has pressing environmental problems including air and water pollution and a loss of ecosystems. The State has made commitments to pursue sustainable development, and these should now be re-examined not just from the national or European perspective but in terms of their impact in the world. The country’s presidential elections are looming and this is an opportunity for civil society organizations to make their voices heard in the debate.
If we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), every state must demonstrate the political will to formulate the necessary global policies as well as to improve progress on concrete indicators. This will require a new development strategy that recaptures the original spirit of the MDGs, focusing on people’s needs and improving their quality of life; reaching the poorest sectors of society; promoting gender equality; and acting on the premise that the values of well-being and a better quality of life are inseparable.
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