Spanish aid has risen rapidly since 2004 because of government commitment and strong public support; the goal is for ODA to reach 0.7% in 2012. Spain was seeking to be leading donor in efforts to improve aid effectiveness (Paris Declaration), improving strategic frameworks such as the Second and Third Master Plans and country and sector strategies.
The key factors to explain the expansion in Spanish ODA are the following: (a) there was an opportunity to develop a cosmopolitan foreign policy and to promote multilateralism to fill the gap between the Conservative government (2000–2004) and public opinion after the Iraq war. The Socialist Party took this opportunity once in power in 2004, and also made changes to aid policy.
(b) Accordingly, leadership within the government (Prime Minister Zapatero) clearly supported aid policy reforms. (c) The head of the Spanish aid system (the former Secretary of State for International Cooperation) had previously worked in the development sector and had links to social movements. (d) Prime ministerial support strengthened the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation – and the Secretary of State for International Cooperation within it – rather than other ministries with traditionally strong powers in the Spanish aid system and interests related to the business sector. (e) The Socialist government had no majority in Parliament and needed support for its Bills from the centre (nationalist parties) and left-wing parties that were sensitive to development.
Regarding Spanish aid institutions, there are too many players with different interests: the central government, regional and local governments, NGOs, universities, trade unions, business organisations and foundations. Within the government, the Spanish aid system itself is split. One part is under the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, which is in charge of more than 50% of total Spanish ODA. In addition, it is responsible for aid coordination and aid policy. The other part comes under the remit of the Ministry for Economy and Finance, which is in charge of almost 30% of total ODA, including debt relief and contributions to International Financial Institutions. Moreover, it is in charge of two essential matters: (i) the annual budget proposal, including the proposal on ODA distribution among different modalities; and (ii) taking decisions, jointly with the Ministry of Public Administration, on the number of staff and senior officers working within the Spanish aid system.
In this context, the aid effectiveness agenda has been enthusiastically taken on board by the Socialist government (2004 – to date), demonstrating strong political will to drive the reforms. The Third Master Plan (2009–2012), the most important document in Spanish development cooperation, has even put forward development effectiveness beyond just an aid effectiveness approach. A change in the conceptualisation of women’s issues has been championed from the traditional WID (Women in Development) to GAD (Gender and Development), and full implementation of the Paris and Accra commitments has been promoted.
The fact is that the Socialist government has lifted the Spanish aid system from decline and given it a new vision. The challenge has been putting the vision into practice.
As for today, sustaining progressive performance in terms of practice and political will are both at stake. Hit by the current financial crisis, Spain cut its aid budget. With the election of 20 November 2011 the government changed. Since the main opposition party’s approach to development is less consistent than the current one, sustainability or even a backlash – particularly with regard to championing the recognition of women’s rights in the development context – is an issue. Most probably Spain will still be an ally to women’s organisations in Busan, but not necessarily afterwards. Therefore, more work alongside all the political parties is needed to make sure that the gains are not lost but continue for positive change for men and women on the ground.
According to official statistics, Spanish ODA increased from 0.45% of its GNI in 2008 to 0.46% in 2009, against the 0.5% budgeted for. Prime Minister Zapatero announced in May 2010 several measures to reduce the public deficit which has dramatically increased during the current economic crisis. One of the measures introduced has been an €800 million cut in Spanish ODA: €400 million cut in 2010 and a further €400 million in 2011. The publication of the Spanish Annual Plan of International Cooperation (PACI) 2011 shows to what extent education, health, and water and sanitation lost importance in Spanish ODA after years of increase.
In the PACI, health welfare represented 9.22% of total ODA in 2010 and 6.87% in 2011; sexual and reproductive health 5.69% and 1.79%, respectively; water and sanitation 12.18% and 8.5%; and the proportion allocated to education fell from 13.29% in 2010 to 10.64% in 2011.
The trend of Spanish international cooperation towards budget support and sector financing suggests that specific advocacy on funding for RH and RHS may become more difficult, and the evidence-based policy solutions will be among the most critical requirements for this endeavour. This suggests a need to develop a wider range of relationships among parliamentarians, civil servants and NGOs.