Last updated: November 13, 2023
Spain’s ODA was US$3.6 billion in 2021, making it the 12th-largest OECD DAC donor in absolute terms. This amount made up 0.26% of Spain’s GNI, putting the country in the 20th place in relative terms.
Preliminary data shows that Spain’s ODA reached US$4.2 billion in 2022, or 0.3% of GNI. This marks a significant 26% jump from 2021. It was the 12th-largest donor in absolute terms and 20th-largest in relative terms.
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.
The original ODA forecast for 2022 stood at EUR3.5 billion ( US$3.7 billion), or 0.28% of the country’s GNI. However, as preliminary data for 2022 shows, Spain exceeded the target by US$500 million, with the spending totaling 0.3% of GNI. Meanwhile, budget estimates for ODA in 2023 stand at EUR4.4 billion ( US$4.6 billion) or 0.34% of GNI.
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.
Beyond ODA, the new development law seeks to deeply modernize the Spanish cooperation system with 1) an important reform of the AECID, which will gain power in terms of decision-making, and 2) 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.
During the economic turmoil between 2008 and 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 2021, multilaterals received 59% (US$2.2 billion) of Spain’s ODA, well above the OECD DAC average of 41%.
Spain provided 97% of its ODA, US$1.5 billion, as grants in 2021, above the DAC average of 91%.
Spain’s spent most of its ODA in 2021 covering the sector ‘health and populations’ (30%, or US$458 million), marking a 365% jump from 2020. Hosting refugees in-country, which was the sector taking up the biggest portion of Spain’s bilateral ODA in 2020, remained a focus and received 15% or US$232 million in 2021.
10% of bilateral ODA (US$156 million) was provided to the ‘government and civil society’ sector, within which Spain focuses on gender equality and democratic participation, in accordance with the cross-cutting themes set out in the Master Plan. 10% of funding (US$153 million) in 2021 was directed to ‘humanitarian aid’. Funding to this sector increased by 30% compared to the previous year.
Spain has a strong focus on development cooperation in upper- and lower-middle-income countries which curbs its support to low-income countries or ‘fragile’ states (receiving 10% of bilateral ODA). Cooperation with upper- and lower-middle-income countries is focused on fostering triangular partnerships, facilitating global health R&D, and the provision of global public goods.
Spain has a strong focus on development cooperation with UMICs and LMICs, which collectively received 44% of bilateral ODA in 2021. This focus curbs its support to LICs, which only received 10% of bilateral ODA. 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 include MICs in Latin America such as Colombia and Bolivia. Notably, ODA to Egypt jumped 1905% from 2020 to US$44 million in 2021, becoming the 2nd-largest recipient.
‘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
Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania are priority countries.
Within its bilateral funding, Spain channels a lot of its ODA through NGOs and CSOs including secular and Catholic NGOs and think tanks. This portion stood at 44% or US$671 million in 2021, much higher than the DAC average of 17%. These organizations play an important role in Spain’s development cooperation.
Spain’s core contributions to multilaterals amounted to US$2.2 billion or 59% of ODA disbursements in 2021, above the DAC average of 41%.
Spain’s voluntary contributions to multilateral organizations were severely hampered due to budgetary limitations as a result of the ‘Great Recession’. However, contributions are returning to previous levels, driven by the current Spanish government’s strong focus on multilateralism as well as by the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recent commitments to key multilateral organizations are summarized below.
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 Socialist Workers’ Party and the conservative People’s Party have been predominant. 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.
Interim Prime Minister and PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez is posed to continue as head of government through 2026. The Spanish parliament is likely to induct him as prime minister before November 27, 2023. The new coalition cabinet, which is a renewed version of the same cabinet that governed from 2020-2023, could be operative before 2024.
Sánchez has positioned multilateralism, gender equality, and development cooperation as cornerstones of Spain’s foreign policy. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, 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 currently holds the presidency of the Council of the EU, running from July to December 2023. Spain's motto for the presidency is 'Europe, closer', encouraging closer cooperation between EU countries.
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 Master Plan for the 2022-2025 period is expected to be released in 2023.
The previous Master Plan outlines four cross-cutting development priorities:
- Human rights,
- Gender equality,
- Cultural diversity, and
Seven strategic goals are highlighted, in line with the SDGs:
- Zero hunger,
- Good health and well-being,
- Quality education,
- Gender equality,
- Clean water and sanitation,
- Decent work and economic growth, and
- Peace, justice, and strong institutions.
According to the Master Plan, these sectors would account for 87% of Spain’s bilateral funding.
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.
As well as ‘horizontal’ axes, including 5. deploying a feminist development cooperation plan; 6. Protecting human rights; 7. Strengthening humanitarian assistance; and 8. Developing innovative public-private partnerships.
Waiting for the publication of the new Master Plan for the Spanish Cooperation, the AECID leadership outlines three core priorities for Spain’s development policy: global health, gender equality, and climate change with a special focus on climate adaptation.
Global Health: In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Spain announced that it would prioritize global health and epidemic preparedness within its development cooperation policy. In July 2021, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation approved the Spanish Cooperation Strategy to Respond to COVID-19 which outlines 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.
Spain programs its 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 concentrated its ODA on fewer countries and reduced the number of priority countries from 50 in 2013 to 21 by 2021, of which seven were LICs and 14 MICs. A new Master Plan is expected to be approved in 2023.
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.
In December 2022, the Spanish Congress of Deputies approved the General State Budget for 2023 with support from 15 different parliamentary groups including the governing PSOE and Podemos. 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.
In Spain, all ministries account for ODA budgetary envelopes. 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 (30% in 2023), as it channels the country’s mandatory contributions to the EU.
MAEC’s budget for 2023 (EUR1.1 billion, or US$1.2 billion) increased by EUR210 million (or US$221 million) compared to its budget for 2022. MAEC’s ODA budget includes funding envelopes for the following administrative bodies in charge of Spain’s development policy:
- The Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation’s ODA budget amounts to EUR306 million ( US$322 million), which includes EUR220 million ( US$232 million) for FONPRODE, EUR25 million ( US$26 million) to the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund, and EUR51 million ( US$54 million) to be disbursed as voluntary contributions to multilateral instruments.
- AECID’s ODA budget amounts to EUR588 million ( US$619 million) to be mainly disbursed through bilateral development programs, humanitarian assistance, and NGOs.
- The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs’ ODA budget amounts to EUR171 million ( US$180 million) to be mostly disbursed as multilateral contributions.
The 3rd-largest ODA provider is MINECO, which manages Spain’s ODA contributions to the World Bank, the IMF, and regional development banks and oversees Spain's foreign debt operations. This ministry’s ODA budget accounts for EUR489 million ( US$515 million) for 2023.
The general state budget for 2023 also accounts for an ODA-related envelope for the Spanish Ministry of Health, amounting to EUR200 million ( US$211 million), which will be 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. The budget for this ministry amounts to EUR904 million ( US$952 million).
Spanish regions, municipalities and universities are expected to disburse EUR368 million ( US$388 million) or about 8% of Spain’s development spending in 2023.
ODA levels and main funding lines are typically decided between March and July. The typical budgetary cycle proceeds as follows:
- The government suggests overall ODA volume: In March, the government sets guidelines for overall spending by ministry, including overall ODA volume, as well as funding lines for FONPRODE and the AECID. Key stakeholders in this period include the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as the MAEC and MINHAFP.
- Ministries develop their budget requests: Between May and June, each ministry, including MAEC 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.
- Negotiations take place among ministries: From August to September, MAEC continues to negotiate with the Ministry of Finance for specific funding items such as 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.
- Further allocations are decided upon during the implementation phase of the annual budget. MAEC decides on spending for partner countries and other multilateral organizations throughout the year. Allocations from FONPRODE are made by the FONPRODE 'Executive Board’. The Board (which includes representatives from MAEC, the Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Competitiveness, MINHAFP, and other ministries) usually meets three to four times per year. Its funding proposals must be approved by the Prime Minister’s weekly Cabinet meeting, the Consejo de Ministros.
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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.
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