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Understanding Cooperation

Student of the Spanish Cooperation Training Centre in CartagenaThe world is currently at a critical juncture in terms of development. In 2015, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals will be revised and the Post-2015 Development Agenda will be launched. However, in reality, poverty and inequality continue to be the main challenge with others being added to it, such as environmental deterioration. The new agenda must include all these elements in order to guarantee sustainable development that includes an appropriate mix of social, economic and environmental components. 


Photo: AECID

 The Millennium Declaration defined our universal mandate for development, but it is vital that we ensure progress is made on the basis of solid, shared and sustainable growth, under decent work conditions in all countries.

Spanish Cooperation applies this concept of development to its entire activity, presenting its main goals and achievements on this website.


What is Development Cooperation?

The term Development Cooperation covers all activities that contribute to human development, the reduction of poverty and to full access to rights in an egalitarian society. These activities are carried out by both private and public organisations with the shared goal of encouraging global socio-economic progress that is sustainable, inclusive and equitable, fostering justice and equality for all members of society. Guided by the words of our Master Plan and from this perspective, cooperation becomes a "promise of full access to fundamental rights, as well as to material resources, income and wealth, opportunities and education and healthcare services. It is the right to freedom of expression in a democratic society, to security, to living in a healthy environment and to confidence and self-esteem for all peoples in their own walks of life."

Development cooperation work is carried out through collaboration models that are built on horizontality, mutual interest, transparency and accountability, allowing for the creation of partnerships in which developing countries and donors assume a shared responsibility for the achievement of global development goals. Various collaboration methods and tools are used in order to carry out this work. These include:

  • Bilateral cooperation: Cooperation between a developing country and a donor country.
  • Multilateral cooperation: Aid that is channelled through international organisations (such as UNESCO, UNICEF, FAO or the World Bank) to developing countries.
  • Delegated cooperation: A means of providing aid in which one or more cooperation agencies supply the funds and appoint a third agency -based on its leadership experience and/or skills or knowledge in the field- to carry out the corresponding activities.
  • Reimbursable cooperation: Economic aid offered to a country in the form of soft loans with favourable interest rates and terms of repayment.
  • Triangular cooperation:  Joint action between two participants in favour of a third in order to boost efficiency and effectiveness when transferring resources, ensuring significant and stable development progress.
  • South-South cooperation: Cooperation between developing countries based on the concept of mutual benefit, through the exchange of resources, technology and knowledge.
  • Budget support: Support in the form of aid to the general or sector-specific budgets produced by governments in developing countries.
  • Debt cancellation: The cancellation of a country's debt, providing all or part of the debt is redirected toward projects and programmes for the development of its people.


Who are the main participants in Spanish Cooperation?

The development cooperation system is made up of a wide range of participants, each with their own duties and field of activity. It comprises public agencies and private organisations of both a general and more specialised nature. As a general rule, all countries, including developing countries, have their own cooperation agencies that are responsible for managing aid. In addition to these agencies, their corresponding governments and to multilateral organisations, other public institutions, such as regional and local administrations and universities, also play a key role in development cooperation.

As for the private sector, an important contribution is made by companies and by organisations dedicated to social progress, such as development NGOs, in addition to other social groups such as trade unions, civil organisations, foundations, etc.


What is Official Development Assistance (ODA)?

Official Development Assistance is made up of the aid provided by state, regional or local governments to developing countries, whether bilaterally or through multilateral institutions.

In order to be classified as ODA, the transactions must meet certain conditions:

  • Relating to the source of the aid: It must be provided by public agencies.
  • Relating to its objective: It can be financial (a money transfer) or non-financial (transfer of knowledge, technology, commodities, services, etc.).
  • Relating to where it will be used: It can be destined for use in the South (cooperation in the field) or in the North (development education).
  • Relating to how it is transferred: It can be bilateral, multilateral or channelled through public administrations or Development NGOs.
  • Relating to reimbursement: It can be reimbursable, if it must be returned at the end of the project, or non-reimbursable, if it is provided as a donation.

  International development cooperation is supervised, evaluated and guided by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), a body that forms part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and which brings together the world's major donor countries.


What is humanitarian action (HA)?

Humanitarian action is the mechanism launched by donor countries in response to the outbreak of disasters or armed conflict in other parts of the world. It mainly focuses on risk prevention, the provision of an immediate response to emergency situations, victim rescue, the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected area and on creating awareness within the international community in order to raise additional funds.


Glossary of key terms

For people who are new to the world of international development cooperation, we have compiled the following list of terms to help explain some basic concepts.

  • Blending: The combined use of credit and donations, allowing for more resources to be leveraged at a lower financial cost for the recipient.
  • Technical cooperation: Intervention based on the exchange of technical and management-related knowledge, aiming to enhance the ability of organisations and peoples to take up the reins of their own development.
  • Fiduciary funds: Financial resources that are entrusted to an agency responsible for the management of such funds.
  • Joint planning: The collective effort made by various participants working together to prepare, implement, monitor and evaluate activities designed for the most efficient and effective achievement of development goals.
  • Resilience: The ability of peoples, communities, organisations or countries exposed to disasters, crises and to underlying vulnerability to take preventative action, to reduce the impact of these situations and to tackle and recover from the corresponding effects without compromising their long-term development.

To learn more

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