• 27 February 2020

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    Category : Opinion

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    Back to the Future: perspectives of Spanish Cooperation for the twenties

    David R. Seoane, the FIIAPP communication and knowledge management technician, proposes this reflection on the opportunities and challenges of a new decade for Spanish cooperation

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    Fotografía de cooperantes españoles. Autor: Miguel Lizana (AECID)

    In 1985, Martin McFly calibrated the “flow condenser” of his old DeLorean to travel to the future, to 21 October 2015. Just a month before McFly arrived, the United Nations General Assembly had approved the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A road map focused on people, the planet, peace, prosperity and alliances that represents the international commitment to eradicate poverty and promote sustainable and egalitarian development. A kind of trip to the future that, in ten years, should lead us to a fairer world where nobody is left in the past.

    Spanish Cooperation, with the twenties already under way and a decade before the happy landing in a sustainable future, has much to say and many decisions to take during this time. A journey, probably not as instantaneous as the one in Dr. Emmett (Doc) Brown’s time machine, but one full of opportunities and challenges. So, let’s jump on board the DeLorean and see.

    A new decade has begun, and with it a new era for Spanish Cooperation since Arancha González Laya took over as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, which seems good news given her profile marked by multilateralism after her responsibilities in the European Union and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). In fact, she has not made us wait. From the moment she was appointed, she announced that she would make refocusing international cooperation policy a priority in her mandate.

    And she has. The creation of a State Secretariat devoted exclusively to cooperation, led by the appointed diplomat Ángeles Moreno, which bodes well for the specific weight that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wants to give to sectoral policies for international development. The other part (the geographic) of the former title of the secretariat, “and for Latin America and the Caribbean,” is now integrated into the more powerful portfolio of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Spain is back, Spain is here to stay” declared González Laya when she took office on 13 January.

    The opportunity of political and institutional stability, ostensibly longer-lasting than that to which we have been accustomed, also brings a set of challenges facing Spanish Cooperation and a journey in which it will have to take sides now and into the future. Among them are the gradual increase in public resources for cooperation, after years of austerity due to the ups and downs of the crisis; facing the reform of the Law on International Cooperation (Law 23/1998, of 7 July), in response to much demand from civil society; or to seriously consider starting a debate on the creation of a new institution (or the reformation of the cooperation system as we know it) that has a French-development-bank style economic-financial face (AFD). There, it is said, lies the cooperation of the future. Wrapped in the flag of virtuous blending and policies first. Technical cooperation accompanied by credit lines that allow infrastructures to be built and encourage private investment. Leverage of resources (ODA and other flows) and knowledge, in which more and more players have a right to be heard and to vote. This means that development is everyone’s business.

    For the time being, these issues were put on the table last week, when the minister appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Congress of Deputies. There was talk of the reform of AECID, of a new law, of Spain’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda and to the SDG Joint Fund (Joint SDG Fund), and the Government’s willingness to allocate 0.5% of Gross National Income (GNI) at the end of the current legislature was even announced. These are good omens for the future, not forgetting where we are now. The latest official data (ODA Monitoring Report 2016-2017) places us at 0.19%, which is well below the EU average.

    A step further up, in the European Union, there are also new times with the launch of the Von der Leyen Commission. In terms of cooperation, the DEVCO (Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development priorities are clear: green pact, poverty, gender equity, better migration management, promotion of civil society at a global level, Africa and the 2030 Agenda. At the European level, Spanish Cooperation will have to endorse these lines of action by contributing its know-how to strengthening European development policies. The role of the FIIAPP here, as a solid implementing agency, is essential to continue to have the confidence of Brussels.

    In the context of the difficult negotiations for the new Multi annual Financial Framework of the Union (2021-2027), the foreseeable emergence of the NDICI (Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument) a new instrument binding all pre-existing development issues, aims to change the game rules in an attempt to create synergies and increase the effectiveness of the European funds. If this occurs, adaptation to the new standard will be a challenge. For the time being, the AECID is approaching the decade as a key opportunity by chairing the Practitioners Network, which gathers and coordinates the main European cooperation agencies.

    The debate on development in transition is a theme in which Spanish Cooperation has the potential to be active. The term, coined by the European Commission, the ECLAC and the OECD Development Centre, invites us to reflect on the immediate challenges facing cooperation policies in middle-income countries (MIC) that are no longer official ODA recipients despite failing to overcome numerous structural gaps. These are in the majority in Latin America. The bond of mutual trust between Spain and the region opens a window of opportunity for our cooperation. Historically, we have facilitated the bi-regional dialogue that, in the words of Sanahuja, “urgently needs to resume” between an EU and a Latin America and Caribbean sitting at the table of a new paradigm based on advanced cooperation.

    On the other hand, the important role of other institutions in the Spanish cooperation system such as the Fundación Carolina in the field of higher education and knowledge generation cannot be ignored in the coming years. There’s no question that the raw material of our work and the most valuable currency of the future are knowledge. Nor the multiple Spanish institutions and organisations that fit into the decentralised cooperation model. A clearly exportable multi-player and multilevel cooperation model, since Spain is a country where which this type of cooperation has more weight among the members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC). An opportunity for the added value of our cooperation, but a challenge in the light of constant challenges such as aid effectiveness or coordination between players.

    And so, between challenges and opportunities, we will all make the journey to the future that we want. In the coming years, Spanish Cooperation will have the possibility with results to endorse a valuable fact that we hope will continue to ring true for the next decade: according to the most recent Eurobarometer, the Spanish population is the one that gives most support in Europe to international cooperation policy as one of the Government’s main priorities.

    An exciting decade is beginning in which, as the unforgettable Marty  said on one of his trips through time, “We may not be ready for this music yet, but our kids will love it.” We have a decade ahead to make cars fly and, while we’re at it, to make our development cooperation more modern and efficient. Let the happy twenties begin.

    David R. Seoane

    FIIAPP communication and knowledge management technician

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.