Donor Profile

Spain

Last updated: April 25, 2024

Summary



ODA Spending


How much ODA does Spain contribute?


Spain’s ODA was US$4.3 billion in 2022, making it the 12th-largest OECD DAC donor in absolute terms. This amount made up 0.3% of Spain’s GNI, putting the country in the 22nd place in relative terms.



How is Spanish ODA changing?


Spain’s ODA declined by more than half between 2010-2015 due to major budgetary adjustments as a result of the ‘Great Recession’, the Spanish financial crisis. ODA spending has since rebounded in line with Spain’s economic recovery and thanks to a renewed political commitment of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s administration.


On February 9, 2023, the Spanish Congress of Deputies approved the new Law for Sustainable Development Cooperation and Global Solidarity with the support of all parliamentary groups except for the extreme right. It includes, for the first time in Spain’s history, the objective of increasing ODA to 0.7% of the country’s GNI by 2030. Such a target for development spending, if it were reached today, would set Spain’s ODA at US$9.7 billion.


To pave the way for the 0.7% ODA/GNI target, the new law sets the groundwork for a strong modernization of the Spanish development system. It seeks to deeply reform the AECID, which will gain power in terms of decision-making and agenda-setting for Spain’s development priorities. Other development-related instruments and units, such as the FONPRODE and the General Directorate for Sustainable Development Policies, will also be reformed.


In light of the government's decision to renounce the 2024 budget approval, the 2023 state budget will continue to apply in 2024. Spain’s ODA for 2024 is expected to remain at the same level as 2023. Spain's 0.7% ODA/GNI target may be more difficult to achieve due to the budgetary effects of the decision.


Beyond ODA, the new development law seeks to deeply modernize the Spanish cooperation system with an important reform of the AECID, which will gain power in terms of decision-making, and the creation of the new FEDES fund to improve the effectiveness of blended finance, which as a result, would also count concessional disbursements, such as loans and equity investments, as ODA.



Where is Spanish ODA allocated?


During the economic turmoil between 2008-2013, Spain channeled an increasing share of its ODA through core, obligatory contributions to multilateral organizations. During this period, however, Spain’s voluntary contributions to multilateral institutions almost disappeared. As Spain’s economy has recovered, it has continued to channel most of its ODA to multilaterals and has now increased voluntary contributions. In 2022, Spain channelled 48% of its ODA as core contributions, well above the OECD DAC average of 32%.



Bilateral Spending


In 2022, IDRCs received the largest funding share of Spain's bilateral ODA. Funding to health and populations saw a large increase between 2020-2021 and remained elevated in 2022.


10% of bilateral ODA was provided to the ‘government and civil society’ sector, which focuses on gender equality and democratic participation, in accordance with the cross-cutting themes set out in the Master Plan.


Spain has a strong focus on development cooperation with UMICs and LMICs. This focus curbs its support to LICs. Cooperation with UMICs and LMICs is focused on fostering triangular partnerships, concessional disbursements, climate change and rural development, as well as the provision of global public goods.


Top recipients of Spanish ODA are typically MICs in Latin America. In 2022, this included Colombia, Guatemala, and El Salvador. However, Ukraine was the top recipient of Spain's bilateral ODA in 2022.


‘The Sahel’ region is another geographic priority of Spain’s development policy, as underlined in the new law on Cooperation for Sustainable Development and Global Solidarity. The existing Master Plan also includes a focus on countries in SSA. Spain aims to prioritize traditional ODA disbursements, mostly in the form of grants, to support the provision of basic social services and institution strengthening 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:

  • Sustainable development;
  • Peace and security;
  • Institutional strengthening; and
  • Migration.

Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania are priority countries.


Within its bilateral funding, Spain channels much of its ODA through NGOs and CSOs including secular and Catholic NGOs and think tanks. These organizations play an important role in Spain’s development cooperation.



Multilateral Spending and Commitments


Spain’s voluntary contributions to multilateral organizations were severely constrained following the Great Recession of 2008. However, contributions are returning to previous levels, driven by the current Spanish government’s strong focus on multilateralism and learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Recent commitments to key multilateral organizations are summarized below.



Politics & Priorities


What is the current state of Spanish politics?


Spain is a parliamentary monarchy in which the monarch is the head of state and the prime minister is the head of government. Spain is a highly decentralized country; therefore, sub-national state actors such as autonomous regions, local administrations, and universities also provide ODA.


Spain has a multi-party system but for the last three decades, the social-democratic PSOE and the conservative People’s Party have received the most support. Through a system of proportional representation, Spanish citizens elect Members of the Congress of Deputies approximately every four years. The party with the largest number of seats then forms the government. Spain has had minority governments since the June 2016 elections, which have affected governability. Minority governance has resulted in a few episodes of political stalemate and instability, and the Parliament has held greater influence over development policy as well as the ODA budget.


On October 24, 2023, the PSOE and left-wing ‘Sumar’ alliance announced an agreement to form a new progressive coalition government, with key priorities including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, increasing Spanish development finance according to 0.7% ODA/GNI by 2030, and making Spain a global leader on feminist policies.


Prime Minister and PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez is poised to continue as head of government through 2026. The Spanish parliament inducted him as prime minister before November 17, 2023. The new coalition cabinet is a renewed version of the same cabinet that governed from 2020-2023.


Sánchez positioned multilateralism, gender equality, and development cooperation as cornerstones of Spain’s foreign policy. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spain announced that global health and epidemic preparedness will be top priorities going forward.


The Spanish government plans to overcome the existing institutional deficiencies and weaknesses of Spain’s cooperation system by following a more robust and efficient structure. While the new law reaffirms the MAEC and its State Secretariat for International Cooperation as the administrative bodies in charge of formulating Spain’s development policy, it implies an important administrative reform of its development agency. The AECID will gain power in terms of defining strategic priorities and providing multilateral contributions, and most of the civil servants working at DGPOLDES are expected to be shuffled to the agency. The law also seeks to modernize the Spanish disbursements of loans and equity investments, with the objective of avoiding administrative bottlenecks and high levels of underspending. To this aim, the former FONPRODE will be substituted by the new FEDES which will accrue more administrative power to make financial contributions.


Spanish civil society, which includes secular and Catholic NGOs and think tanks, plays a key role in development cooperation. Although NGOs have lost some of their influence in recent years, the level of NGOs’ inclusion in policy dialogue remains high, both through bilateral platforms and MAEC’s Council for Development Cooperation. Prominent organizations include Spain’s main civil society umbrella organization for development cooperation, la Coordinadora, ISGlobal, Oxfam Intermón, the Elcano Royal Institute, Salud por Derecho, and UNICEF Spain.


Spain held the presidency of the Council of the EU from July to December 2023. Spain's motto for the presidency was 'Europe, closer', encouraging closer cooperation between EU countries. The Spanish Council Presidency also highlighted EU cooperation with LAC countries, hosting the 3rd EU-CELAC Summit in July 2023.


Who is responsible for allocating Spanish ODA?



What are Spain's development priorities?


Under the new Law on Cooperation for Sustainable Development Cooperation and Global Solidarity, Spain is expected to focus its development cooperation efforts on tackling inequality, poverty, and environmental crises as well as defending gender equality, human rights, and democracy.


Geographically, the new law outlines the Sahel region as a top priority in addition to SSA, with a special focus on Portuguese-speaking countries, and Latin America. In terms of sectors and issues, while it emphasizes the principles of ecological transition and gender equality, global public goods such as global health, including MNCH and SRHR, rural development, and food security are also specifically outlined.


The Spanish government has outlined its strategic orientations for development in the Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation 2018-2021, which emphasizes Spain’s commitment to advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The next 6th Master Plan for the 2022-2025 period has not yet been released.


The previous Master Plan outlines four cross-cutting development priorities:

  • Human rights;
  • Gender equality;
  • Cultural diversity; and
  • Environment.

Read more about Spain’s ODA to Gender Equality


Read more about Spain’s ODA to Climate


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 would account for 87% of Spain’s bilateral funding.


Read more about Spain’s ODA to Agriculture


Read more about Spain’s ODA to Education



Spain’s Foreign Action Strategy 2021-2024, approved in January 2021, prioritizes strengthening its external development cooperation. The strategy underlines key priority areas or ‘axes’ for Spain’s development cooperation efforts. This includes ‘vertical’ measures for:

  • Tackling extreme poverty by fostering nutrition, water and sanitation, and global health;
  • Addressing the negative effects of climate change;
  • Fostering global education; and
  • Promoting socio-economic development.

The strategy also set out ‘horizontal’ axes, including:

  • Deploying a feminist development cooperation plan;
  • Protecting human rights;
  • Strengthening humanitarian assistance; and
  • Developing innovative public-private partnerships.

In lieu of the publication of the new Master Plan, the AECID leadership outlined three core priorities for Spain’s development policy: global health, gender equality, and climate change with a special focus on climate adaptation.


By issue


Global Health: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spain announced that it would prioritize global health and epidemic preparedness within its development cooperation policy. In July 2021, the MAEC approved the Spanish Cooperation Strategy to Respond to COVID-19 which outlined measures to support LICs in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, including supporting HSS and equitable immunization campaigns, fostering education and food security, and guaranteeing universal access to public goods in several regions including countries in SSA, MENA, and Latin America.


Read more about Spain’s ODA to Global Health


By region


Spain allocates bilateral funding based on the strategic, regional, and thematic priorities established in the four-year Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation. According to the 2018-2021 Master Plan, the government reduced the number of priority countries from 50 in 2013 to 21 in 2021, of which seven were LICs and 14 MICs.


To increase ODA predictability, Spain uses MAPs for its priority countries. MAPs specify sector priorities and provide estimated annual budget allocations. These are developed jointly by AECID, partner countries, and local CSOs.


In addition to MAPs, Spain plans to develop ‘New Generation Partnerships’, or ANGs, with some of its traditional ODA recipients that have progressed to UMIC status. These partner countries include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Jordan, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, and Tunisia.


The Spanish government’s renewed focus on countries in SSA indicates that priority countries may change in the Master Plan for 2022-2025 and that Spain’s geographic focus could shift from Latin America to countries in Africa, particularly focusing on Portuguese-speaking countries, West Africa, and the Sahel region. Spain hosted that Africa Spain Cooperation Summit in July 2023, bringing together public and private sector actors to explore opportunities for closer cooperation between Spain and African countries.


MAEC, responsible for setting the strategic orientation of Spanish development policy, seeks to progressively substitute traditional development funding to MICs with new models of development cooperation, including blended finance, equity investments, and knowledge transfer programs.


Budget


What are the details of Spain's ODA budget?


On March 13, 2024, just a few hours after snap elections were announced to be held in the Catalonia region by mid-May 2024, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that his cabinet renounced its approval of the 2024 general state budget. Sánchez’s minority government, which relies on several political parties, including Catalan and Basque secessionist parties, to pass key laws, planned to present the 2024 budget bill by the end of March 2024. However, the new and unexpected election in the Catalonia region led to the renunciation. The Spanish government will now focus its efforts on the approval of the 2025 general state budget.


In light of the government's decision, the 2023 state budget continues to apply in 2024. Spain’s ODA spending for 2024 is therefore slated to remain roughly at the same level as 2023.


The 2023 budget sets Spain’s ODA at EUR4.4 billion ( US$4.6 billion), or 0.34% of the country’s GNI. This budget represents a 10% increase compared to ODA spending in 2022.


What are the sources of Spain's ODA?


In Spain, ODA management is relatively fragmented, as all ministries account for their own development-related budget. MAEC used to be Spain’s primary ODA provider, but its share has decreased due to budget cuts. MINHAFP now manages the largest share of Spain’s ODA budget, 29.6% in 2023, as it channels the country’s mandatory contributions to the EU. Other significant ministries include the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migrations and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digitalization. Spanish regions, municipalities, and universities also disburse a small amount of Spain’s development spending.


MAEC’s budget for 2023, EUR1.1 billion ( US$1.2 billion) increased by EUR210 million ( US$221 million) compared to its budget for 2022.


The general state budget for 2023 also accounted for an ODA-related envelope for the Spanish Ministry of Health, which was used for purchasing COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle -income partner countries. Spain’s funding for refugees and asylum seekers in-country is counted as ODA and is managed by the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security, and Migration.



How does Spain determine its ODA budget?


ODA levels and main funding lines are typically decided between March and July.




The Donor Tracker team, along with many DAC donor countries, no longer uses the term "foreign aid". In the modern world, "foreign aid" is monodirectional and insufficient to describe the complex nature of global development work, which, when done right, involves the establishment of profound economic and cultural ties between partners.


We strongly prefer the term Official Development Assistance (ODA) and utilize specific terms such as grant funding, loans, private sector investment, etc., which provide a clearer picture of what is concretely occurring. “Foreign aid” will be referenced for accuracy when referring to specific policies that use the term. Read more in this Donor Tracker Insight.

Our Spain Experts

Lauren Ashmore

Lauren Ashmore

Associate Consultant