Spanish development cooperation in crisis

The Spanish policy of international development cooperation is showing symptoms of exhaustion, says Plataforma 2015, the Spanish chapter of Social Watch, The crisis in Spanish cooperation policy affects the most vulnerable people and evidences a collective failure in respecting and protecting human rights.

These are problems of ethical and political nature and Spanish cooperation needs a reform consistent with the need for a global governance centered on guaranteeing the rights of all people of the world.

According to the Platform 2015 as well as the Spanish Chapter of Social watch, the Spanish policy of international development cooperation has been experiencing several problems and showing symptoms of depletion. These problems influence negatively especially the populations and groups with higher levels of vulnerability and this current situation points at the collective failure in the fulfilment of the human rights.

These problems are not only problems of ethical and political nature, but they could represent major threat for the humanity and for the planet, especially now - at the time when these issues constitute the principal challenge for the project of global governance centred on the guarantee of rights of all people of the world.

In the moment of profound changes of the international development agenda, of the geography of power distribution and of poverty and inequity map, Spanish policy of international development cooperation experiences several problems and shows symptoms of depletion. Consequently it demonstrates serious limitations to contribute to the resolution of development problems, such as increasingly challenging problem of the environmental sustainability, growing global inequality or the issue of lowering of poverty levels, just to name some of the most evident ones. These problems concern especially populations and groups with higher levels of vulnerability and this current situation points at the collective failure in the fulfilment of human rights and disables realization of global justice, equity and social cohesion.

The Spanish policy of cooperation - and especially some dynamics connected with it - has constituted an area of reference in which, despite of all its limitations, different actors like the universities, NGOs dealing with different development issues as well as other organizations of the civil society, social movements, municipalities, autonomous communities or companies of social economy has generated a channel of participation to confront, in some cases collectively, the above mentioned problems of the development.

Nowadays this area created by the cooperation policy is offering some samples of grave depletion without precedents. This situation is a result of combination of several factors: firstly, there are factors of structural type that have to be seen within the system of development cooperation itself and its lack of capacity to give response to the persistent and constantly changing global problems.  Secondly, there are also those factors that have to be analysed in connection with the proper nature of the cooperation policy, which given its voluntary, deregulated and discretionary character, allows that the donors continue to be the decision-makers at the same time. Moreover, the system disability itself to involve other policies into the process of fulfilment of development goals also contributes to this current depletion. This system disability also impedes achievement of coherence of these policies. Other factor that leads to the weakening of international cooperation policy is the system configuration according to the scheme North – South, although the dynamism and the heterogeneity of world economics and of the international relations demonstrate that it is not possible to explain the world development using the same keys as in the previous time periods… The literature related to the international cooperation and development has already offered numerous explanations about limitations of the cooperation policies in order to generate social, political, economic and cultural transformations which international development needs and demands.

Last, but not least, there are factors of other nature that have also contributed to exhaustion of the Spanish policy of cooperation. These group of factors is closely connected with the current Spanish political and economic situation that can be named as a critical moment ensuing from the latest economic crisis and especially, from the political response pronounced by the Spanish Government, with the well-known impact at the whole set of social policies and at that of international cooperation in particular. Sudden and unprecedented decrease in the resources (more than 70 % between 2009 and 2012 of  official Spanish development aid resources), political and institutional weakening of actors and structures of cooperation, deterioration of model of social participation and, surely as the consequence of all those previously mentioned, profound change in the approach to the development itself have taken place.

Before the historical decrease of the Spanish policy, development and cooperation were seen as global tasks and therefore there was a clear need of the articulation of the global interests and rights, but nowadays they are seen more as an instrument that serves to promote national interests. It means using state budgetary resources under the context of development cooperation to achieve national priorities in a context of " national urgency " or based on so called instrumentalization of a " soft politics" – using development cooperation as a means aimed at fulfilment of interests and goals of an agenda of,, hard“ national interests, such as promotion of exports or internationalization of national companies. It looks like Spanish policy of cooperation has never felt completely comfortable with cosmopolitan lenses and has decided to put on the glasses of political realism. It has lost its goal on the way, as it was formulated by Ulrich Beck - in a global and interdependent world the only possible realism is that one that assumes the cosmopolitan approach and transfers this cosmopolitanism into collective action.

Great part of the universities, the NGOs, the social movements as well as of the municipalities that have participated in the areas opened by the Spanish policy of development cooperation are now looking for a new point of reference that would enable them, in the form of the collective action, to continue the process of  generating  transformations in order to achieve the idea of universality as the cornerstone of the project of global justice, equity and cohesion and at the same time to do these steps without compromising the environmental limits of the planet. The goal is to create a space that is not a product of the North - South logic that, anyway, does not explain world affairs anymore, and which overlooks the internationalism  and separates what happens in our neighbourhoods, in our villages, cities, universities, institutions … Definitively, it ignores the fact that the agenda of international development is unique – the same for everyone and every country, although it is constructed in different global and local spaces and sometimes without obvious connection.

It is a moment of a crucial importance, not only with regard to the drift and the weakness of this policy that in Spain has become an important point of reference for many actors, but also given the disability of the international aid system to answer problems of development. And at this moment there is an obvious increase of those who call for achievement of social and political convergence based on a collective action that would promote an establishment of new and more effective policies and mechanisms of governance, the search for social equity, environmental sustainability and fulfilment of the human rights. These are, increasingly, the voices that call for prioritizing of construction of this social and political convergence leaving behind the idea of common consensus that frequently leads to the paralysation of collective action. If the policy of cooperation is not appropriate to cope with the challenges connected with these aspirations, the proper action of social and political actors with vocation for transformation will be the only possible way how to overcome this difficult situation in the area of the international development aid.

By Ignacio Martinez.

Source: Plataforma 2015 y más.

Translated by Veronika Liskova.