Spain - Gender equality


Gender equality is a cross-cutting priority of Spain’s development assistance 

Using the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) gender policy marker, Spain reported that 48% of its bilateral official development assistance (ODA) activities in 2019 were gender equality-related, that is, they included gender equality as either one significant goal or the principal goal of the investment (see box on gender policy marker). This is in line with the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average of 47%. In absolute terms, Spain provided US$302 million in gender-focued ODA in 2019, making it the 17th-largest donor in absolute terms and the 12th-largest  in relative terms. 


Gender policy marker: Projects which “advance gender equality and women’s empowerment or reduce discrimination and inequalities based on sex” are tagged in the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database.

Recent research by Oxfam found that around 25% of projects self-reported by donors using the gender equality marker were mismarked. This has implications for the validity of funding figures.

The marker rates projects based on three possible scores:

  1. Principal: meaning that gender equality is the main objective of the project or program;

  2. Significant: for projects in which gender equality is an important and deliberate goal but not the main objective; or

  3. Not targeted: used in cases where programs do not target gender equality.

Not all projects are screened against the gender marker; this funding falls into the ‘not screened’ category.

According to the ‘Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation 2018-2020’, the Spanish government focuses its gender equality work on ending gender-based violence and fostering women’s empowerment, equal rights, and opportunities.

Spain’s government is increasingly prioritizing gender equality, gender empowerment, and gender-based interventions at the domestic and international levels. The Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation, responsible for implementing Spain’s development cooperation policy, aims to prioritize gender-based approaches in all areas of the Spanish cooperation system including by applying a gender lens to development policies (known as gender mainstreaming), creating gender-specific guidelines for humanitarian action, monitoring multilateral funding provided to institutions working for gender equality, and strengthening gender-specific multilateral initiatives.

Most recently, in 2020, the Spanish government emphasized the need to protect the most vulnerable people, particularly women, as part of the country’s international response against the COVID-19 crisis. 

In March of 2021, Sánchez presented Spain's new Feminist Foreign Policy Guide – an initiative that seeks to provide a cross-cutting gender approach in all areas of foreign policy. The document gives guidance on the objective of mainstreaming gender in 85% of Spain’s ODA and outlines five priority areas for Spain to foster gender equality worldwide, which include 1) peace, women and security agenda; 2) violence against women and girls; 3) human rights related to women and girls; 4) participation of women in decision-making procedures; and 5) economic justice and women empowerment, with specific references to the Generation Equity Forum (a civil-society centered, global gathering for gender equality convened by UN Women). Although exact funding levels for gender equality are currently unspecified, the guideline highlights the need for an increase in resources to effectively deploy Spain’s feminist foreign policy and address global gender inequality. 

In 2019, 35% of Spain’s gender-focused ODA funding was channeled to the government and civil society sector. Other key sectors included agriculture (14% of gender-focused ODA), health (11%), and education (11%). Spain has also been consistent in using the OECD gender policy marker; from 2015 onwards, all bilateral allocable ODA was screened.

Spain also demonstrates a commitment to gender equality in multilateral fora.  Spain is planning to present a COVID-19-related resolution on women and girls before the UN General Assembly and Prime Minister Sánchez’s cabinet is strongly committed to the 2020 Beijing +25 Global Conference on Women and the 2021 Generation Equality Forum. In November of 2020, Spain presented the UN Resolution on Women and Girls and the Response to COVID-19 aimed at placing women and girls at the heart of the global response against the COVID-19 crisis and recovery. Together with Sweden and Germany, Spain co-led the Generation Equity Forum’s Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights.   

Spain ranks first among OECD donor countries for relative spending on principal gender funding  

24% (US$152 million) of Spain’s bilateral allocable ODA was spent on projects and programs that targeted gender equality as a principal goal (see box on gender policy marker), compared to the DAC average of 6%. This puts Spain first among OECD donor countries in a relative ranking of spending on principal gender funding as a proportion of bilateral allocable ODA. Spain’s funding for projects with a principal gender focus has increased since 2017 when it constituted 17% of bilateral allocable ODA. 

In addition, Spain spent US$150 million (24%) of its bilateral allocable ODA on projects that included gender as a significant objective (DAC average: 41%). Given that overall spending on gender equality over time has remained somewhat steady, Spain’s financing of projects and programs with gender as a significant objective has fallen as principal funding increased.  

The remainder of Spain’s bilateral ODA (US$322 million or 52%) was spent on projects that did not target gender at all in 2019. Spain has been consistent in using the OECD gender policy marker; from 2015 onwards, all bilateral allocable ODA was screened.

MAUC’s General Directorate for Sustainable Development Policies defines gender strategic priorities 

Within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MAUC), the General Directorate for Sustainable Development Policies (DGPOLDES) takes the leading role in policy formulation, planning, and evaluation. The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) implements gender-related programs through its Directorate for Multilateral and Sectoral Cooperation and through its regional departments (including the Directorates for Africa and Latin America), which manage bilateral programs on the ground. Other relevant stakeholders include the Prime Minister’s Office (La Moncloa) and the Ministry of Equity.