The acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, has recognised the key role that aid workers play in channelling the solidarity of Spanish society to help solve global challenges such as poverty, hunger and climate emergencies.
During his speech at the celebration of Aid Workers' Day, Albares said that the new Law on Cooperation for Sustainable Development and Global Solidarity, approved last February, serves to dignify the professional careers of aid workers, understanding that “they make the projects possible and improve people's lives, and this must be reflected in constant support for their work.”
Albares stressed that this new law is the framework for drafting the new Aid Workers’ Statute, on this day commemorating the work of the 2,594 Spanish men and women working in international cooperation. This Statute will recognise their fundamental role in cooperation and will introduce improvements in their working conditions, laying the foundations to ensure the attraction, retention, training and promotion of talent, “especially at a time when crises in so many parts of the world, from the Sahel to Ukraine, make their work particularly important for a more fair, sustainable and peaceful world.”
At the events celebrating Aid Workers’ Day, the focus was on the aid workers themselves, with special attention given to their commitment to solidarity and to explaining the challenges they face in their daily work. The acting State Secretary for International Cooperation, Pilar Cancela, stressed that the new law aims to “strengthen the Spanish Cooperation system and move towards cooperation for all, and pays special attention to people working in sustainable development cooperation." Cancela stated that “a strengthened cooperation system is the best defence we can offer for the almost 2,600 aid workers in our network.”
In turn, the Director of the AECID Cooperation Agency, Antón Leis, highlighted the “commitment to solidarity of these people, in line with the will of Spanish society as a whole, with Spain among the European Union countries where social support for cooperation and aid for developing nations is in the majority,” as reflected year after year in the Eurobarometer.
More female aid workers
During the event at the AECID, Leis presented the Agency's annual study on Spanish aid workers abroad. The most common profile is a woman over 35, working in Sub-Saharan Africa for an NGDO or as religious personnel. Women represent 53% of the total of 2,594 Spaniards currently stationed abroad who are professionally involved in international development cooperation and humanitarian action.
The total number of aid workers remains very similar to previous years, despite the difficult current situation in countries that are regular recipients of Spanish Development Cooperation, such as Niger, Nicaragua and Haiti. This stability in the figures underscores Spain's commitment to international cooperation. The AECID, as the organisation in charge of managing Spanish cooperation in the public domain, has increased its presence abroad by 3% in 2023.
According to the AECID study, Spain currently has aid workers posted abroad from all of the Autonomous Communities, and from the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla. The largest group comes from the Community of Madrid (23% of the total), followed by Catalonia (13%), Andalusia (12%), Castile and Leon (10%), and the Basque Country (7%).
Spanish aid workers operate in more than 90 countries around the world. Almost half (43%) work in Sub-Saharan Africa, while the rest are distributed as follows: 23% in South America, 14% in Central America and the Caribbean, 6% in Asia and the Pacific, 6% in the Maghreb, 6% in the Near and Middle East, and the remaining 2% in Europe.
The most noteworthy countries in terms of the number of aid workers are Mozambique, with 179; Bolivia, with 166 Spanish aid workers; the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 121; and Colombia, with 117 aid workers.
According to the report, based on data provided by Spanish Embassies and Cooperation units abroad, 37% of the people involved in development cooperation and humanitarian action in Official Development Assistance (ODA) recipient countries are religious. The second largest group, 27%, are staff working under the coordination of Non-Governmental Development Organisations (NGDOs). 23% work for international cooperation organisations, 7% of Spanish field staff belong to the AECID and the remaining 6% work for different organisations at the same time or it has not been possible to define their position.