The Minister for Foreign Action and European Union, Meritxell Serret i Aleu, appeared this Thursday before the Catalan Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Action, European Union and Cooperation to present the 2023-2026 Development Cooperation Master Plan, a document that sets out the strategic priorities of Catalonia’s policy for the next four years. The Catalan chamber has given the green light to the Plan by a large majority, marking its definitive approval following the Catalan Government’s approval last May. Serret stressed the importance of having obtained a “consensus” in the approval of the Plan, which has been worked on “extensively” with stakeholders in Catalan cooperation.
In her speech, Minister Serret argued that, “in a context in which the extreme right and fascism is growing and entering our institutions, strengthening cooperation policies is the best way to combat hate speeches,” and called for “more cooperation to help address the complexity of the world, create consensus and bridges between peoples, and move towards a more just world”. With the new Plan, the Catalan Government consolidates “its firm and clear commitment to a public policy of feminist and transformative cooperation to advance in the consolidation of cooperation that has an impact across the whole region and on all generations, especially young people, and which acts both globally and locally”.
Concerted effort to achieve a method of consensus towards 0.7%
One of the new developments contained of the Master Plan is regarding funding, with the document including a method for reaching the historic objective set by the United Nations of dedicating 0.7% of the Catalan Government’s own revenues to cooperation by 2030. “I would like to highlight the importance of the consensus agreement that the Plan embodies, which includes a formula without the bombast, which abandons the repeatedly failed path of talking about absolute amounts” and which outlines “a path that consolidates each step forward to reach 0.7% by 2030”. It is a solid method that guarantees there will be no reduction and that is built “on the basis of thorough and honest work to increase confidence among all the stakeholders involved in this consensus”, Serret said. “It is an important step, and an achievable one, because what we want is to secure progress,” she went on to say.
Specifically, and taking into account that in the budget for the year 2023 this percentage stands at 0.21%, with 67 million euros in official development assistance (ODA) from the Catalan Government as a whole – a historic figure – an increase of 0.49 percentage points over the following seven years is necessary. The proposal put forward in the 2023-2026 Master Plan is to increase this percentage by at least 0.07 points per year, so that by 2030, ODA represents 0.7% of unconditional current revenue.
During her speech, Minister Serret highlighted three points of the Plan to the members of Parliament present on the Committee: “The solid and reliable path to reach 0.7% by 2030, the broad consensus with the sector and the agents of Catalan cooperation and also with the local world, and the commitment to feminist cooperation that also works within the objectives of usefulness, credibility and reputation of Catalan foreign action”.
Strategic priorities for Catalan cooperation
The new Plan consists of sector, geographic and improved funding priorities for development. Sector-based priorities include the defence and promotion of human rights and gender justice, the promotion of global health, conflict prevention and peacebuilding, the promotion of climate justice, the defence of the right to refuge and the promotion of transformative economies.
In terms of geographic priorities, the priority countries continue to be Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Gambia, Guatemala, Honduras, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Senegal and Tunisia, while the regional focus is on Central America, Mesoamerica, the Mediterranean and the Sahel region. Another priority will be to maintain cooperation in Palestine, Western Sahara and Kurdistan, as well as support for regions suffering from long-term conflicts and to the diaspora and countries of origin of the migrant population in Catalonia.
Global education strategy
The document also incorporates the will to deepen the transformation of global education and to endow it with a strategy shared by all stakeholders, with a commitment to strengthen it by allocating 25% of ODA. The Plan is based on the premise that the transformation of Catalan citizens is essential to maintain and promote a country of solidarity, aware of its shared responsibility in tackling global challenges.
In this regard, according to the recent government survey on development cooperation, while 84% of the population considers it important to dedicate money to the development of impoverished countries, this broad consensus coexists with the fact that 69% of the population in Catalonia have never heard of cooperation, or have heard of it, but do not know exactly what it is. According to Minister Serret, these figures reveal the need to “reinforce this knowledge, with special emphasis on the younger population”.
Along these lines, in recent years, the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation has focused on creating innovative partnerships, especially in the artistic and cultural world, which allow new formats and appealing languages to be deployed. Examples include the Espai Transforma’t at the Cruïlla Festival this week or the Acció>Cinema programme, among other initiatives. In addition, the Catalan Government has launched the #AFavor campaign to highlight the value of its cooperation, with a positive and constructive slogan, which reflects the social consensus corroborated by the survey on this public policy.
Serret appeared accompanied by the Secretary General, Bernat Costas, and the Director General for Development Cooperation, Yoya Alcoceba. The 2023-2026 Development Cooperation Master Plan was approved with 13 votes in favour from the PSC, ERC, Junts and CUP, 1 abstention from En Comú-Podem and 1 vote against from Vox.