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Supporting the French Development Agency in redefining its strategy on labour-intensive public works projects
September 2015 to September 2016 – for AFD and ILO

With the aim of redefining its strategy in relation to labour-intensive public works projects, the French Development Agency (AFD) asked Groupe URD to carry out a study to provide it with greater insight into existing and past projects of this kind.

The labour-intensive public works approach consists of using local resources to optimise the impact of programmes in terms of both the quality of the work carried out and employment. This involves using larger numbers of people and light equipment rather than heavier machinery and thus allows the local economy to be stimulated by using small and medium-sized businesses, tradesmen, skilled and un-skilled labour, etc. As such it contributes to the economic development of the regions concerned, the reinforcement of local skills and the construction/rehabilitation of infrastructure.

This approach allows two functions to be filled at the same time:

  • Creating synergy between different local development initiatives. It is increasingly used by certain institutions, such as the AFD and the International Labour Office (ILO) in its new programme “Work for peace and resilience” aimed at countries and regions recovering from crises, and in strategies for the transition from relief to development.
  • Meeting the urgent need to establish sources of income for crisis-affected people while at the same time, helping to create socio-economic infrastructure and jobs and reinforce social cohesion and institutional capacity.

The AFD has noted that, despite the growth rates in numerous countries, including developing countries, in the last ten years, inequality remains and is sometimes even rising. This is why it feels that labour-intensive public works projects could be a particularly relevant solution to reduce poverty and vulnerability, increase participation in development, and improve the social fabric and living conditions in the countries concerned.

The AFD gave Groupe URD two main tasks:

  • To provide the AFD with a broader vision and better understanding of how projects of this kind have evolved, the contexts in which they have been implemented, and current initiatives by other donors, including outside the construction sector;
  • To help to refine the AFD’s strategy by means of practical recommendations and the development of a toolbox aimed at operational staff.