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Getting an insight into Basque’s decentralised cooperation

3 September 2019

The last days before the summer break were particularly intense in the PLATFORMA Secretariat. While part of the team was in New York, taking part at the HLPF annual meetings with a large delegation of local and regional elected officials, our policy officer Laia Vinyes travelled to the Basque Country (Spain), for an enriching week of meetings, presentations and field visits . 

The main goal of this secondment was to better understand how our partner Euskadi works, its fields of expertise and institutional context, as well as to introduce PLATFORMA to local players and key stakeholders. The exchanges focused on the modalities and programs of decentralised cooperation implemented by the different levels of governance in the region, including some innovative practices.

Decentralised cooperation in Euskadi: players, competencies and territorial articulation

The Basque Country is an Autonomous Community located in the north of Spain. Its public policy on development cooperation is the result of a rich map of institutional players, levels of government, modalities and practices.

The Basque Agency for Development Cooperation is in charge of the design, implementation and evaluation of the multi-lateral programs and public calls. There are three provinces in the Basque Country, referred to as Foral Provinces: Álava (Vitoria as the de-facto capital city), Bizkaia (capital Bilbao) and Gipuzcoa (capital Donostia-San Sebastian).  Euskal Fondoa, gathers Basque municipalities and pools together part of their international development cooperation budgets to implement decentralised cooperation projects, with a focus on Latin America and West Sahara.

The bilateral or direct cooperation managed by the Basque country public entities is limited to the 20% of the overall public budget for cooperation. Under this modality, the most common activities are study visits of municipal experts, technical assistance and exchanges between local officials on urban planning, security and renovation, equality, climate change adaptation, water management and sanitation, peace building and eco-tourism.

The articulation between the different levels of government in their international development cooperation policies is a key feature of the region’s strategy. The dialogue with the CSO and NGO sector is seen as an important priority. To this end, the Basque Council for Development Cooperation helps articulating the region’s international cooperation programs and policies by regularly gathering the three levels of government (the Agency, the foral provincial governments and Euskal Fondoa on behalf of the municipal level) together with the CSOs and NGDOs (Non-Governmental Organisation for Development) and research institution such as the Hegoa Institute for International Cooperation & Development Studies.

Views on the 2030 Agenda

The Sustainable Development Goals’ framework is perceived by decentralised cooperation players as an entry-point to new topics such as the care sector or the blue economy. It is also seen as an opportunity to foster stronger political will in favor of policy coherence, citizens’ participation and multi-level articulation. Innovative approaches and alliances are increasingly sought with the cooperative sector or public companies (such as the Basque Water Management Agency), research centers or trade unions.

In the province of Álava, gender equality and the care sector are seen as two inter-linked dimensions that need to be mainstreamed in the local policies but also in international cooperation projects. This is the result of a long dialogue process promoted by the provincial government using the 2030 Agenda framework that has gathered citizens and CSOs in the last months. On the other hand, a working group within the Basque Development Cooperation Council has started developing the ToRs for a study on policy coherence in the Education sector aimed at analyzing how to better integrate education-related issues as a transversal policy in the region.

Interesting best practices 

  • Triangular interinstitutional cooperation in Central America (2018 – 2021) is a triangular development cooperation project launched in 2018 with a focus on SDG 6 that involves the Basque Agency for Development Cooperation, various provincial and city councils and public water management companies of the territory, in cooperation with their peers in El Salvador and Costa Rica. The program will include exchanges of experiences and good practices, training and technical cooperation actions to improve access to water in El Salvador and Costa Rica.
  • The Basque Public Cooperation Portal was launched in 2018 and presents detailed references of development cooperation projects and budgets in the Basque country for the last 25 years. It is the result of an inter-institutional effort to foster transparency and provides an overview of the main modalities, sectors or geographic priorities of the development cooperation in the Basque country.
  • The “Gipuzkoa Coopera” project (2017) promoted by the Gipuzkoa provincial government funds and showcases innovative alliances in development cooperation, involving key players of Gipuzkoan culture, sports or science as drivers of the local and global sustainable development. The international Donosti Film Festival, a football club or a world-known culinary school are partners of cooperation projects across the 5 continents in the field of gender equality, environmental issues, diversity and inclusion or development education.

The intense program of visits and meetings across the region was possible thanks to the support of Camila de Espalza from the Delegation of the Basque Country to the European Union in setting the agenda, and to the close accompaniment and warm hosting offered by Juanma Balerdi, Euskal Fondoa’s director, and Paul Ortega, Director of the Basque Agency for Development Cooperation.

Laia Vinyes also interviewed Itziar Urtasun, the local councilor in charge of Development Cooperation of the city of Bilbao. Read the interview here.