The Basque Country is synonymous with solidarity. Over our history, we Basques have carried out intense activity in the field of cooperation, something which has been recognised all over the world. Names like Ignatius of Loyola, Juan de Zumárraga, Ignacio Ellacuría, Andrés Urdaneta and Juan de Garay, among many others, symbolise the tradition of solidarity which has characterised the Basque Country for centuries and continues to do so today. And the year 2019 was yet another example of this.
Last year, the Basque Agency for Development Cooperation, a Basque Government body dedicated to fighting inequalities and poverty and promoting human development, allocated a total of 37.6 million euros to funding some 120 cooperation, education and humanitarian action projects. More than a third of these resources made it possible to support one of the objectives considered strategic by the Agency, women’s empowerment, by means of the numerous programmes and initiatives promoted during the financial year.
The majority of the Agency budget, 30 million euros, was earmarked to fund development cooperation programmes. Specifically, within this chapter, plans have been promoted to fight poverty in depressed Central and South American countries, Senegal, Mali and India. Within this same chapter, the Agency set in motion four production development, training and technological assistance initiatives for a value of 1.1 million euros in Pakistan, Cuba and the Basque Country, as well as approving a total of 17 education plans for social transformation in the Basque Country to address the structural causes responsible for generating inequalities on the planet.
The Agency activity in 2019 was complemented with the backing of initiatives to protect people affected by humanitarian crises, especially those suffering situations of prolonged violence and those affected by armed conflicts. The almost four million euros assigned by the Agency to these objectives were distributed between humanitarian action projects in Palestine, Lebanon, Central African Republic, Venezuela, Columbia and Ecuador.
Furthermore, for the first time the Basque Government body destined a total of 100,000 euros, a sum it intends to maintain in 2020, to the Central Emergency Response Fund, established by the United Nations to generate a fund for providing early action and response to zones affected by natural catastrophes and humanitarian crises.
These activities have been developed alongside other initiatives, such as the Central America-Basque Country Inter-institutional Programme on Water and Sanitation, set in motion in 2018 with the collaboration of the Basque Water Agency-URA, which received almost 120,000 euros of the revenue obtained from water tax, and plans to foster gender equality. Specifically, five projects were developed by Non-Governmental Organisations for this purpose, absorbing almost 150,000 euros earmarked for promoting actions to eradicate gender inequality in different areas.
The Agency also repeated more than a dozen scholarships to guarantee periods by voluntary workers in different United Nations projects in impoverished countries, and has collaborated with the Basque Government Office of Youth Affairs to fund the presence of around a hundred voluntary workers in depressed countries as part of the Juventud Vasca Cooperante programme for young Basque voluntary workers.
Lastly, its activity includes presentation of the Ignacio Ellacuría prize, coming with 15,500 euros and which recognises work in favour of equality and justice. This accolade, which has already acknowledged the work of people such as the journalist Mikel Ayestaran and the Guatemalan activist Lolita Chávez, will be presented at the beginning of the year.