I’m visiting Spain this week to share a simple message with the Spanish people – that aid works.
Over the last 30 years Spain has experienced incredible economic growth, allowing it to make the dramatic leap from being a recipient of aid to becoming one of the world’s most generous donors.
Spain’s investments in global health and agriculture have saved millions of lives with innovations like vaccines and helped millions more lift themselves out of poverty.
But Spain is the midst of one of the worst economic periods in its history. The financial crisis brought an abrupt end to years of strong growth. Unemployment is currently around 23% and the government is considering severe budget cuts, including cuts to its foreign aid spending.
These foreign aid cuts may seem inevitable. But they don’t need to be. This is a moment for Spain to maintain its spending and explore new ways to improve the quality and impact of its aid interventions.
By focusing on the world’s poorest people, funding the interventions that achieve the greatest impact, and participating in innovative global partnerships like those with the GAVI Alliance and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Spain can make the most of every Euro it has to spend.
Spain already has many great examples of this kind of innovative aid spending, including the Manhica Health and Research Center in Mozambique.
Started in 1996 with funding from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation and other donors, Manhica started conducting cutting-edge research into malaria, diarrheal diseases, and other health challenges facing the Mozambican people recovering from years of war.
The founder of this center is Dr. Pedro Alonso, a Spanish physician and medical researcher. He shares the story of the center in this video.
Especially in hard times, some people will say rich countries should cut their overseas development assistance. But the fact is that aid accounts for less than 1 percent of public spending in most donor countries. That amount of money isn’t causing the world’s fiscal problems, and cutting back on foreign aid isn’t going to solve them.
Now, more than ever, we have a real opportunity to help people build self-sufficiency and overcome the need for aid. Innovations in health and agriculture have already saved millions of lives and it can save millions more.
That’s why it is so important for Spain to continue its remarkable role as a leadership in health and development.
I know Spain wants the poorest people in the world to have better lives. Yet the current economic crisis makes us look for excuses. We say we can no longer do what we know is right because it’s too expensive or too hard.
But in tough times, we have to do the opposite; we have to stand up for what we believe.
We also must stand together. As you can hear Dr. Alonso say in the video, “The future will depend not only on what happens to us but on what happens to our neighbors and the rest of humanity.”