Donor Profile: Spain
Last updated: December 19, 2022
Spain’s ODA declined by more than half between 2010-2015 due to an economic downturn in the country. ODA spending has since rebounded in line with Spain’s economic recovery and thanks to a renewed political commitment Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ administration.
Continued increases in ODA funding are expected. According to the General State Budget for 2022, Spain’s ODA is set at €3.5 billion (US$4.0 billion), or 0.28% of the country’s abbr:GNI. According to the General State Budget for 2023, Spain’s ODA is set at €4.4 billion (US$5.0 billion) or 0.34% of GNI.
During several years of economic turmoil between 2008 and 2013, Spain channeled an increasing share of its ODA through core, obligatory contributions to multilateral organizations. As Spain’s economy has recovered, it has continued to channel most of its ODA to multilaterals. In 2020, multilaterals received 66% (US$2 billion) of Spain’s ODA, well above the OECD DAC average of 42%.
Spain’s spent most of its ODA in 2020 covering the costs of hosting refugees in-country (19%, or US$195 million). However, this sector saw a 37% decrease in funding since 2019.
13% of bilateral ODA (US$133 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.
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.
Top recipients of Spanish ODA include middle-income countries in Latin America such as Peru and Colombia, which are transitioning to 'upper-middle-income status.
‘The Sahel’ region is another geographic priority of Spain’s development policy, as underlined in the new law for International Development Cooperation and Global Solidarity.
The existing Master Plan also includes a focus on countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Spain aims to prioritize traditional ODA disbursements (mostly 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 a lot of its
Spain’s voluntary contributions to multilateral organizations have been hampered in recent years by budgetary limitations. However, contributions are expected to return to previous levels, driven by the current Spanish government’s strong focus on multilateralism.
Recent commitments to key multilateral organizations are summarized below.
Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on the grant-equivalent measurement system. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.
For more granular and up-to-date development finance data on Spain, including information on where and in which sectors it is spending both ODA and non- ODA funds, please consult the IATI d-portal. IATI is a reporting standard and platform on which organizations and governments voluntarily publish data on their development cooperation.
Spain is a parliamentary monarchy in which the monarch is the head of state and the prime minister or “President of the Government,” is the head of government. Spain is a highly decentralized country; therefore, sub-national state actors (autonomous regions, local administrations, and universities) also provide ODA.
Spain has a multi-party system but for the last three decades, the social-democratic Spanish 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 its June 2016 elections, which have resulted in the Parliament holding greater influence over development policy and the ODA budget.
The Spanish Parliament is composed of two chambers, the Congress of Deputies and the Senate, each with a development committee. Within the Congress of Deputies, the two most important bodies working in development affairs are the Development Committee and the 2030 Agenda Committee. Members of Parliament debate and vote on commitments related to development and can request information on all development matters, as well as compel development leaders to give testimony in parliamentary hearings.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s social-democratic socialist party, PSOE, won the Spanish general elections in November 2019. PSOE formed a progressive coalition government with the left-wing party, ‘Podemos,’ under which Sánchez continued as Prime Minister and Podemos’ leader (initially Pablo Iglesias, followed by Yolanda Díaz) served as Deputy Prime Minister. 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.
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, ‘:abbrla Coordinadora,’ ISGlobal, Oxfam Intermón, the Elcano Royal Institute, Salud por Derecho, and UNICEF Spain.
Ministry of Treasury and Public Function (Ministry of Finance) in charge of the budget bill and provides ODA to EU institutions.
MINECO is engaged in debt-relief operations, in the management of Spain’s FONPRODE jointly with MAEC, and oversees disbursements to regional development banks and financial institutions.
FONPRODE is the main financial instrument for voluntary multilateral funding, loans, and equity investments. While AECID manages day-to-day FONPRODE operations, MAEC (together with MINECO and other ministries) defines its funding priorities.
The Spanish government outlines its strategic orientations for development in the ‘Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation 2018-2021’ (previous Master Plan, 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 by the beginning of 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 will account for 87% of Spain’s bilateral funding.
Hunger in times of crisis
September 13, 2021
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
- deploying a feminist development cooperation plan;
- Protecting human rights;
- Strengthening humanitarian assistance; and
- Developing innovative public-private partnerships.
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 low-income countries in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, including supporting health systems strengthening 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, reducing the number of priority countries from 50 in 2013 to 21 by 2021 (of which seven are expected to be LICs and 14 are expected to be 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 (:abbrANG) 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 new 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 countries in the Sahel region.
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).
On January 11, 2022, the Spanish government launched a new development cooperation bill for Sustainable Development Cooperation and Global Solidarity that will replace the current law, dated 1998. The new law aims to harmonize the Spanish development cooperation system and proposes:
- The creation of a new evaluation unit at MAEC;
- The reformation of AECID; and
- The substitution of FONPRODE with a new Fund for Sustainable Development that aims to optimize the disbursement of ODA -eligible loans and equity investments.
The new development law will reportedly include, for the first time in Spain’s history, the objective of increasing ODA to 0.7% of GNI by 2030. However, this target will likely be difficult to achieve given budgetary constraints related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine
Under the new proposed Sustainable Development Cooperation and Global Solidarity bill (which should be approved by the beginning of 2023), the focus of Spain’s development cooperation efforts is not expected to change dramatically.
In December 2021, the Spanish Congress of Deputies approved the General State Budget for 2022 with support from 15 different parliamentary groups including the governing PSOE and the left-wing Podemos party. The 2022 budget sets Spain’s ODA at €3.51 billion (US$4.0 billion), or 0.28% of the country’s [GNI. This budget represents a 16%, increase compared to estimates for 2021 ODA.
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 (36% in 2022), as it channels the country’s mandatory contributions to the EU.
MAEC’s budget for 2022 (i.e., €910 million, or US$1 billion) increased by €122 million (or US$139 million) compared to its budget for 2021. 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 €295 million (US$336 million), which includes €199 million (US$227 million) for FONPRODE (to be disbursed as loans and equitable investments), €15 million (US$17 million) to the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund (for management purposes only), and €62 million (US$71 million) to be disbursed as voluntary contributions to multilateral instruments.
- AECID’s ODA budget amounts to €390 million (US$444 million) to be mainly disbursed through bilateral development programs, humanitarian assistance, and NGOs.
- The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs’ ODA budget amounts to €172 million (US$196 million) to be mostly disbursed as multilateral contributions.
The third-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 €389 million (US$443 million) for 2022.
The general state budget for 2022 also accounts for a new ODA -related envelope for the Spanish Ministry of Health, amounting to €293 million (US$334 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 €341 million (US$389 million). Other ministries of the Spanish government account for a 2022 ODA budget of €71 million (US$81 million) in total.
Spanish regions, municipalities and Universities are expected to disburse €354 million (US$403 million) or about 10% of Spain’s development spending in 2022.
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 ‘:abbrFONPRODE 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 (Consejo de Ministros).
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