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International cooperation for development

Spain’s international development cooperation policy is the main expression, in the form of public policy, of its citizens’ commitment to the countries and communities that suffer most from inequality and poverty in their many forms. Spanish Cooperation is contributing to a new global social contract for sustainable and equitable development, defined by the 2030 Agenda, leaving no one behind.

Since the enactment of Spain’s Act 23/1998, on International Development Cooperation, the political and legal framework has changed significantly. Highlights in this regard include the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, the Paris Declaration (2005), the Accra (2008) and Busan (2011) High-Level Forums, the creation of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation and, more recently, the adoption in 2015 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, as well as the adoption in 2017 of the European Consensus on Development.

Within this general framework, Law 1/2023 on Sustainable Development Cooperation and Global Solidarity, approved on 20 February 2023, adapts Spain's development cooperation policy to the current parameters of the world stage and the commitments of the 2030 Agenda, establishing a new legal framework for Spanish cooperation to make it more effective, more responsive to new global challenges, and more transparent. Amongst other objectives, it promotes greater integration into the European Union's cooperation policy and system, and effective and comprehensive management of Official Development Assistance, establishing a more robust structure and more coordinated, strategic, and effective action by all cooperation actors.​

​P​roject for the conservation and spread of Cultural Heritage in Mauritania (2019). Photo: Miguel Lizana / AECID

​The strategic planning of Spanish Cooperation is implemented through, among other instruments, the Master Plan drawn up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, with the participation of other institutions of the Spanish sustainable development cooperation system. 

The current Master Plan for Spanish Development Cooperation, for the period 2018-2021, is the fifth since these Plans began in 2001, and responds to the mandate established by the aforesaid Act 23/1998, on International Development Cooperation. The latest Master Plan, approved on 23 March 2018, defines the objectives and priorities for Spanish Cooperation actions during this period. It is the most important planning document guiding the interventions of Spanish development cooperation abroad.
The Fifth Master Plan establishes the guidelines on which all participants in the Spanish cooperation system must base their work: public administration bodies such as the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), Spain’s self-governing Autonomous Communities, local entities, non-governmental organisations, trade unions, the business community, and academia, amongst others.

The Master Plan sets out four broad, closely interdependent objectives that correspond to four of the five aspects of the 2030 Agenda: people, planet, prosperity, and peace. Given the complexity and multiplicity of participants that constitute the cooperation system in Spain, this Plan has been provided with management flexibility to respond to the challenges set by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Spanish Cooperation has adopted the first 16 SDGs as its own Strategic Objectives. Likewise, based on their comparative advantages, Spanish Cooperation prioritises a series of targets associated with the SDGs as its own Specific Objectives; in particular, 29 SDG targets out of the 169 comprised by the 2030 Agenda, which are, in turn, incorporated into lines of action to which Spain wishes to contribute.

Project to support local economic development through specific training and technical assistance actions for two departmental vocational training centres in Podor, in Saint-Louis Department (Senegal, 2019). Photo: Miguel Lizana / AECID ​​

In terms of geographic priorities, the Fifth Master Plan focuses essentially on Latin America, the Maghreb, West Africa, and the Sahel. To this end, it defines three categories of partner countries, according to their level of development, to establish the type of cooperation to be carried out, depending on the particularities of each country: Least-Developed Partner Countries, Middle-Income Partner Countries, and Advanced Cooperation Countries.

Also noteworthy is the approval, in July 2020, of the strategy for the joint response of Spanish Cooperation to the Covid-19 crisis, with the aim of tackling the multidimensional crisis caused by the pandemic in order to achieve a transformative recovery.

AECID, under the aegis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation through the Secretariat of State for International Cooperation, is the main body responsible for the promotion, management, and implementation of Spanish Cooperation's sustainable development policies. AECID has 48 Overseas Cooperation Units spread over Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. Of these, 31 are Technical Cooperation Offices, 13 are Cultural Centres, and four—located in Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, and Uruguay—are Training Centres.

Spanish Cooperation is widely recognised internationally, and participates in the drafting, coordination, and monitoring of sustainable development policies on a global scale through its active participation in multilateral development organisations and initiatives, in particular the United Nations system, the European Union, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the G20, with the 2030 Agenda as its key reference.


Related documentation

5th Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation 2018 - 2021It opens in new window

Strategy for a joint response of Spanish cooperation to the COVID-19 crisisIt opens in new window

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