At a glance
ODA funding trends
In 2019, Spain’s official development assistance (ODA) stood at US$2.9 billion (current prices), making it the 13th-largest donor country. In relative terms, Spain’s ODA represented 0.21% of its gross national income (GNI).
Due to long-standing political deadlocks, the Spanish government has been unable to secure parliamentary support for its budget plan since 2018. Until Spain passes a new budget, spending levels established in the 2018 budget will remain in effect. The 2018 budget sets ODA at €2.6 billion (US$3.1 billion).
Spain’s Prime Minister supports a target of providing 0.5% of GNI as ODA, as underlined by the coalition agreement between the social-democrat socialist party (PSOE) and the left-wing party (Podemos).
The ‘Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation 2018-2021’ outlines seven priorities, all linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 1) zero hunger, 2) good health and well-being, 3) quality education, 4) gender equality, 5) clean water and sanitation, 6) decent work and economic growth, and 7) peace, justice, and strong institutions.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Spain has announced that global health and epidemic preparedness will be prioritized within its development cooperation policy.
Spain seeks to establish new models of development cooperation with partner countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa through ‘triangular’ cooperation programs, blended finance, and delegated cooperation mechanisms of the European Union (EU).
The social-democratic socialist party, PSOE, of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez won the general election in November 2019. PSOE formed a progressive coalition government with the left-wing party, Podemos, under which Sánchez (PSOE) has continued as Prime Minister and Pablo Iglesias (Podemos) serves as Deputy Prime Minister.
In September 2019, Prime Minister Sánchez announced that Spain will resume disbursements to multilateral institutions and pledged contributions of €100 million (US$118 million) to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, €150 million (US$177 million) to the Green Climate Fund, and €100 million (US$118 million) to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals Fund.
Spain plans to develop new strategies for multilateral cooperation, gender equality, and global health in 2020. These strategies are expected to outline Spain’s commitment to increase voluntary contributions to multilateral instruments.
Since 2016 Spain’s ODA has been steadily increasing and contributions to multilaterals have resumed
Spain’s ODA was US$2.9 billion (in current prices) in 2019, making it the 13th-largest OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donor in absolute terms. In relative terms, Spain ranked 21st, spending 0.21% of its gross national income (GNI) on ODA.
These numbers are based on the new methodology for measuring ODA loans which the OECD DAC applied to ODA reporting for 2018 onward. This methodology, called ‘grant-equivalent’, is intended to better reflect “donor effort”, because only the ‘grant’ portion of loans, expressed as a monetary value, is counted as ODA. According to this new methodology, Spain’s ODA in 2019 was 9% higher than it would have been if calculated based on the previous, ‘cash-flow’ basis measurement system. This is because, until 2011, Spain delivered large amounts of ODA loans and the repayment of these loans were subtracted from its total ODA. This is no longer the case with the new methodology under which the repayment of previous ODA loans is now no longer subtracted from total ODA. Therefore, the reform in methodology has had a positive impact on Spain’s ODA levels.
Grant-equivalent figures for 2018 are not comparable with ODA figures from previous years. To allow for comparison over time, the OECD still publishes net ODA according to the cash-flow basis measurement system. Based on these numbers, between 2009 and 2015, Spanish ODA declined from US$5.8 billion to US$1.5 billion in 2018 (constant prices). The decline was likely due to an economic downturn, combined with EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) directives to cut public spending. Since 2016, however, Spain has gradually increased its ODA (despite slight dips in 2017 and 2018), following the country’s economic recovery and renewed political commitment to increase voluntary contributions to multilateral instruments.
Between 2016 and 2019, the Congress of Deputies’ Development Committee unanimously approved different resolutions calling to increase ODA to 0.4% of Spain’s GNI by 2020. The coalition government deal between the social-democratic socialist party (PSOE) and the left-wing party (Podemos), released in December 2019, includes a commitment to increasing Spain’s ODA to 0.5% of GNI by 2023. COVID-19-associated domestic confinement measures coupled with extraordinary public spending to address the crisis may impact Spain's GDP growth, however, the government has reiterated its intentions to increase ODA from 0.21% of GDP to 0.5% by 2023.
Due to long-standing political deadlocks, the Spanish government has been unable to secure parliamentary support for its budget plan since 2018. In the absence of a new budget plan, spending levels (including US$2.6 billion set for ODA) as established in the 2018 budget will remain in effect until Spain passes a new budget. It is expected that the 2021 budget will be approved before December 2020.
Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on the grant-equivalent measurement system. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.
Spain focuses on the SDGs, development effectiveness, and new cooperation models
The Spanish government outlines its strategic orientations for development in the ‘Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation 2018-2021’ (Master Plan), which underlines Spain’s commitment to advance the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In 2018, the government created a position of High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, based in the Prime Minister’s office (La Moncloa) which further underscored the centrality of the 2030 Agenda. The Spanish governments also launched an ‘Action Plan for 2030 Agenda Implementation’, highlighting development cooperation as crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Master Plan outlines four cross-cutting development priorities: human rights, gender equality, cultural diversity, and environment. Seven strategic goals are highlighted, in line with the SDGs: 1) zero hunger, 2) good health and well-being, 3) quality education, 4) gender equality, 5) clean water and sanitation, 6) decent work and economic growth, and 7) peace, justice, and strong institutions. According to the Master Plan, these sectors are to account for 87% of Spain’s bilateral funding.
Within its development policy, Spain adopts a differentiated strategy depending on the status of its partner countries. When cooperating with middle-income countries (MICs), Spain’s traditional top recipients are Latin American countries such as Peru and Colombia, that are transitioning to upper-middle-income status.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MAEUEC) seeks to progressively substitute traditional development funding with new models of development cooperation. These new models include triangular programs (carried out jointly by an industrialized country, an emerging economy, and a recipient country), blended finance (financial instruments involving a mix of public funding and private investments for development), knowledge-transfer programs, and increasing use of equity investments. In 2016, Spain participated in up to 51 triangular cooperation initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean region. Among other efforts, Spain, in collaboration with Peru, supported the new monitoring system to analyze and fight against gender-based violence in El Salvador.
In addition, the existing Master Plan for development cooperation includes a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Spain aims to prioritize traditional ODA disbursements (mostly grants) to support the provision of basic social services and the strengthening of institutions in this region. In March 2019, the Spanish Foreign Ministry approved an ‘Africa Plan’, aimed at strengthening Spain’s foreign relations with the region. The plan outlines four strategic objectives: 1) sustainable development, 2) peace and security, 3) institutional strengthening, and 4) migration. Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania are priority countries
Spain channels the majority of its ODA through core contributions to multilaterals
Several years of economic turmoil between 2008 and 2013 resulted in Spain channeling an increasing share of its ODA through core, obligatory contributions to multilateral organizations. These core contributions have remained high throughout the economic upturn and recovery period and in 2018 accounted for 64% of Spanish ODA. This is well above the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average of 41%. Despite fluctuating gains in overall ODA, bilateral ODA in 2018 (US$1.0 billion) was far below previous levels in 2009, before the economic recession (US$4.3 billion).
Spain channels more than half of its NGOs through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs): 54% in 2018, much higher than the DAC average of 18%. This share was inflated in 2018 by high spending on refugee assistance that went through national NGOs (US$272 million). Nonetheless, Spain is typically well above the DAC average for ODA expenditure through NGOs.
Most bilateral funding is directed to hosting refugees in Spain
In 2018, the largest share of Spain’s bilateral ODA (26% or US$276 million) was used for in-country costs of hosting refugees. 11% of Spain’s bilateral ODA (US$118 million) was reported as ‘unspecified’ funding, making it the second-largest sector of bilateral assistance. ‘Unspecified funding’ entails, among others, development funding from local councils, reflecting Spain’s strong tradition of decentralized development cooperation through its cities and regions. Under this funding, the local councils of Barcelona and Madrid reported US$12 million and US$10 million respectively. ‘Government and civil society’ was the third-largest sector, receiving 11% of Spain’s bilateral ODA (US$113 million) in 2018. Within this sector, Spain focuses on gender equality and democratic participation, in accordance with the cross-cutting themes set out in the ‘Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation 2018-2021’ (Master Plan).
Most strategic goals outlined in Spain’s Master plan only received a small portion of Spain’s bilateral ODA (roughly 5% each). These include education (US$56 million), agriculture (US$55 million) and water and sanitation (US$54 million). These policy priorities received insufficient funding since they were outlined in the 2018-2021 Master plan and therefore, fall outside the funding scope of the 2018 ODA budget, which continues to apply until Spain passes a new budget. In contrast, food security remained one of the top priorities of Spanish development policy, and this was reflected in Spain’s international leadership in the sector: Spain hosts the humanitarian logistics hubs of the World Food Program (WFP), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on the Canary Islands.
Almost all of Spain’s bilateral funding in 2018 consisted of grants (98%), consistent with previous years.
Spain focuses its bilateral funding on Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and the MENA region
Spain contributed the largest shares of bilateral ODA in 2018 to Latin America (37%), sub-Saharan Africa (14%), and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region (13%). The largest proportion of bilateral ODA was allocated to upper-middle-income countries (MICs) which received 29% of bilateral funding in 2018. Comparatively only 13% of ODA was allocated to low-income countries (LICs), which is well below the OECD DAC average of 19%.
According to the Master Plan, the government will concentrate its ODA on fewer countries going forward, reducing the number of priority countries from 50 in 2013 to 21 by 2021 (of which seven will be LICs and 14 will be MICs). The new Spanish government’s renewed focus on Sub-Saharan Africa indicates that priority countries may change in the next Master Plan for 2022 to 2025 and Spain’s geographic focus could shift from Latin America to Africa.
Contributions to multilaterals expected to increase
Spain’s core contributions to multilaterals amounted to US$1.9 billion or 64% of ODA disbursements in 2018 (DAC average: 41%). 68% of Spain’s multilateral contributions went through European Institutions in 2018 (amounting to US$1.3 billion), followed by 15% to the World Bank Group (US$284 million) and 8% to regional development banks (US$154 million). Amongst regional development banks, US$62 million was disbursed to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, US$35 million to the African Development Fund, and US$13 million (together) to the Inter-American Development Bank, Inter-American Investment Corporation and Multilateral Investment Fund.
In addition, Spain also provides earmarked funding to multilateral organizations tied to particular regions, countries, or themes (as opposed to core contributions, which can be spent at the discretion of the multilateral itself). These allocations stood at US$126 million in 2018, a slight decrease from US$166 million in 2017. Overall, earmarked funding has steadily increased each year since 2013, when it stood at US$56 million.
Spain’s voluntary contributions have been hampered in recent years by budgetary limitations. However, contributions are expected to resume to previous levels, driven by the current Spanish government’s strong focus on multilateralism. For instance, in 2019, Spain pledged €100 million (US$118 million) to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, €150 million (US$177 million) to the Green Climate Fund, and €100 million (US$118 million) to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals Fund. In addition, in 2020, at the EU-led ‘Coronavirus Global Response’ pledging event in May of 2020, Prime Minister Sánchez pledged US$89 million to CEPI and US$60 million to Gavi.
A new multilateral strategy is currently being developed and is expected to be released in 2020.
Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on the grant-equivalent measurement system. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.
MAEUEC steers strategy; AECID leads implementation
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Spanish socialist workers’ party ‘PSOE’ won the general election in November 2019 and formed a coalition government with the Spanish left-wing party ‘Podemos’. The prime minister’s office (La Moncloa) provides leadership at high-level forums such as the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and the G20, and steers international discussions on sustainable development, human rights, and gender equality. Under the Prime Minister’s leadership, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Union, and Cooperation (MAEUEC) sets the strategic orientation of Spanish development policy.
MAEUEC is currently headed by Arancha González, former Assistant Secretary-General for the UN and Executive Director of the World Trade Organization (WTO) International Trade Center. MAEUEC drafts the development budget.
Within MAEUEC, Ángeles Moreno, the Secretary of State for International Cooperation, leads Spain’s development policy. In this role, Moreno also supervises the work of the General Directorate for Sustainable Development Policies (DGPOLDES) — an administrative body that steers development policy and defines ODA priorities for the MAEUEC — and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). AECID is currently directed by Aina Calvo and is responsible for implementing bilateral programs, humanitarian assistance, and funding to CSOs. AECID also advises the MAEUEC on allocation questions.
The Ministry of Finance and Public Function (Ministry of Finance) finalizes the budget and channels ODA to EU Institutions (EUI). The Ministry of Economy and Business (MINECO) is engaged in debt-relief operations, in the management of Spain’s Development Promotion Fund (FONPRODE) jointly with MAEUEC, and in disbursements to regional development banks and financial institutions. FONPRODE is the main financial instrument for voluntary multilateral funding, loans, and equity investments. While the AECID manages day-to-day FONPRODE operations, the MAEUEC (together with the MINECO and other ministries) defines its funding priorities.
Spain programs its bilateral funding based on the strategic, regional, and thematic priorities established in the four-year Master Plan. Cooperation with low-income countries is based on providing funding respective to development needs. Cooperation with middle-income countries is focused on fostering triangular partnerships, facilitating global health research and development, and the provision of global public goods. The governing council of AECID, which includes representatives from MAEUEC, decides on allocations by region and country.
To increase ODA predictability, Spain uses multi-annual country partnership frameworks (MAPs) for its priority countries. MAPs specify sector priorities and provide estimated annual budget allocations. These are developed jointly by the AECID, the partner countries, and local civil society organizations. In addition to MAPs, Spain plans to develop New Generation Partnerships (ANG) with some of its traditional ODA recipients that have progressed to developed or upper-middle-income status, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Jordan, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, and Tunisia.
Parliament: The Spanish Parliament is composed of two chambers (Congress of Deputies and Senate), each with a development committee. Members of Parliament (MPs) debate and vote on commitments related to development and can request information on all development matters, as well as compel development leadership officials to give testimony in parliamentary hearings. Spain has had minority governments since its June 2016 elections, which have resulted in a greater influence of the Parliament over development policy and the ODA budget.
Civil Society: Spanish civil society, which includes secular and Catholic non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and think tanks, serves a key role in development cooperation. mae Spain’s main civil society umbrella organization for development cooperation, Coordinadora de ONGD España (CONGDE), coordinates NGO activities and interacts with government representatives. It has 76 member organizations and 17 regional NGO platforms, accounting for a total of 400 organizations.
Spain is a highly decentralized country; sub-national state actors (autonomous regions, local administrations, and universities) also provide ODA. According to government estimates, decentralized cooperation amounted to €287 million (US$339 million) in 2018. This represented 11% of Spain’s overall ODA.
The Finance Ministry provides the largest share of ODA
Due to long-standing political deadlocks, the Spanish government has been unable to secure parliamentary support for its budget since 2018. In the absence of a new budget plan, spending levels established in the 2018 budget will remain in effect until Spain passes a new budget, which is expected by December 2020. The 2018 budget (currently applicable until the new budget for 2020 is approved) sets ODA at €2.6 billion (US$3.1 billion) or 0.22% of GNI.
Several ministries provide ODA. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MAEUEC) used to be Spain’s primary ODA provider but its share decreased to 23% in 2018, due to past cuts that affected its budget. Other budget envelopes grew at faster rates in recent years, for example, the Ministry of Finance and Public Function (MINHAFP) and Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO), both of which consist almost entirely of international obligations.
MINHAFP now manages the largest share of Spain’s ODA (42% in 2018), as it channels the country’s mandatory contributions to the EU. MINECO manages 16% of Spain’s ODA (as of 2018), handles contributions to international financial institutions (including the World Bank), and channels debt relief. Its budget decreased from €486 million (US$574 million) in 2016 to €372 million (US$439 million) in 2017 and fell to €424 million (US$500 million) in 2018.
MAEUEC’s budget for 2018 stood at €588 million (US$694 million), a nominal increase from €559 million (US$660 million) in 2017. This budget envelope provides little information on funding channels, recipients, and spending for specific sectors. MAEUEC’s budget includes funding for the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), which focuses on bilateral programs, civil society organizations (CSOs), and humanitarian assistance.
About 34% of MAEUEC’s budget (€199 million or US$235 million) is channeled through Spain’s Development Promotion Fund (FONPRODE). Since 2012, all FONPRODE funds must be disbursed as loans or equity investments through bilateral programs, or as earmarked loans managed by multilateral organizations. While FONPRODE’s mandate is to also channel voluntary contributions or grants to multilateral instruments in addition to loans and equities, this ‘loans-only’ policy is aimed at reducing the impact of Spain’s ODA to the public deficit.
Spain’s regional governments and local administrations provide ODA mainly through civil society organizations (CSOs) and their bilateral programs, although they can provide funding to multilateral institutions as well.
2018 ODA budget
|Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MAEUEC)||588||694|
|Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID)||238||281|
|State Secretariat for international Cooperation and Ibero-America (SECIPI)||228||269|
|Water and Sanitation Fund||15||18|
|Development Cooperation Programme SECIPI (except FONPRODE, IFFIm)||5||6|
|State Secretariat for Foreign Affairs||94||111|
|Ministry, Subsecretariat and general services||2||2|
|State Secretariat for the European Union||0||0|
|Ministry of Finance and Public Function (MINHAFP)||1,081||1,276|
|Contributions to the European Union||1,081||1,276|
|Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO)||424||500|
|International Financial Institutions||416||491|
|Ministry of Employment and Social Security||204||241|
|Autonomous and local cooperation||287||339|
ODA levels and main funding lines are typically decided between March and July
The government suggests overall ODA volume: In March, the government sets guidelines for overall spending per ministry, including overall ODA volume, as well as funding lines for Spain’s Development Promotion Fund (FONPRODE) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). Key stakeholders in this period include the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MAEUEC) and the Ministry of Finance and Public Function (MINHAFP).
Ministries develop their budget requests: Between May and June, each ministry, including MAEUEC and MINHAFP, develop their budget requests in accordance with overall spending levels set in the government’s guidelines to each ministry. Around June or July, ministries present their requests to MINHAFP.
The government decides on ministerial spending caps: Once budget requests are sent to the MINHAFP, negotiations start between the ministries. In July, the government decides on caps for ministerial budgets and the government’s overall spending ceiling is approved, including the budget of the Foreign Ministry. Key decision-makers regarding ODA levels are the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister, and the Foreign Minister.
Further allocations are decided upon during the implementation phase of the annual budget. The MAEUEC decides on spending to partner countries and other multilateral organizations throughout the year. Allocations from the FONPRODE are made by the ‘FONPRODE Executive Board’. The Board (which includes representatives from MAEUEC, the Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Competitiveness, MINHAFP, and other ministries) usually meets three to four times per year. Its funding proposals need to be approved by the Prime Minister’s weekly Cabinet meeting (Consejo de Ministros).
Negotiations take place among ministries: From August to September, the MAEUEC continues to negotiate with the Ministry of Finance for specific funding items, e.g., the share of loans or grants in the FONPRODE budget. Both ministries are key stakeholders during this period.
Parliament discusses, amends, and votes on the budget bill: From October to November, Parliament discusses and amends the ministries’ draft budgets. The Development Committee provides recommendations on budget amendments, and the Budget Committee makes the final decision. Members of Parliament may present amendments to the overall budget and specific ODA budget lines in this period. The lack of a clear majority in Parliament since 2016 reinforces the influence of individual members regarding budget allocations, including for ODA.