Cablegate: Volunteerism and Community Service in Spain

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R 170607Z AUG 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Volunteer activity is increasingly common in Spain,
although there are lingering historic, social and cultural factors
that affect the ability/willingness of individuals to engage in or
initiate activities. This report provides an overview of Spanish
volunteerism and charitable activity. It outlines Spanish
government support for volunteerism and identifies key ministries
involved in program support. A review of the political parties,
private sector, education system, press, and non-governmental
organizations highlights the broad range of civil society activism.
End Summary.

2. Volunteer activity is increasingly common in Spain, although
there are lingering historic, social and cultural factors in play
that affect the ability/willingness of individuals to engage in or
initiate activities. Community service and social assistance are
closely-linked and typically regarded as a government responsibility
in Spain. Instead of organizing discreet volunteer activities to
"fill a perceived gap", many Spaniards might lobby for the
government or a NGO to provide a needed social service, believing
that it would also create a job opportunity as well. While the
Church may not be deemed primarily responsible for charitable
initiatives, its role is often assumed, especially given the
Catholic Church's historically prominent role in Spanish society.
Also, Spanish law requires financial institutions to set aside a
percentage of profits to fund social welfare institutions, thereby
reducing the inclination of private citizens to devote their leisure
hours to volunteerism. Some social commentators attribute the lack
of widespread volunteerism to the long-term effects of the Spanish
Civil War. Many people participated in civic action groups
affiliated with political parties during the 1920s and 30s, only to
face severe repression as territories and allegiances shifted during
the war years. During the Franco dictatorship, there were similar
disincentives for citizens to initiate volunteer activity, outside
of officially sanctioned programs by the central government or the
predominant Catholic Church. Reliance on government assistance
combined with cultural norms results in a disinclination toward
regular volunteer activity. Other factors include common strong
family ties whereby people have obligations with their parents and
grandparents during weekends and other free time that might
otherwise be devoted to volunteer activity. Similarly, many people
remain close to their place of birth as they enter the work force.
Therefore, they may not seek out volunteer opportunities as a way of
entering a new community, making new friends or acquiring new

3. Spaniards understand the concept and value of volunteerism and
almost everybody knows somebody who has volunteered. However, many
say that they do not volunteer on a regular, formal basis. For
example, unlike in the U.S. and other European countries, for
Spaniards entering the job market, volunteer work is not a valued
addition to one's resume when seeking employment. The typical
volunteer profile generally consists of youth/university students
interested in community activism, members of a religious community
motivated by charitable works, or wealthy patrons subsidizing
charitable organizations with financial contributions.

4. A study by Universidad de Zaragoza professors claims that 17.6
percent of the citizenry has participated in volunteerism in Spain
and that one in four employed Spaniards work in the civil society or
NGO sector, as opposed to the private or public sectors. However,
this statistic is easily misinterpreted -- one in six people
volunteering once in his/her life does not necessarily signify a
strong volunteer environment in Spain. The survey reflects the
occasional participation of Spaniards in community service
activities. Volunteerism takes many forms. For example, Spain has
several programs in which families bring disadvantaged youth or
refugee children (from Western Sahara, Eastern Europe, Palestine,
Sub-Saharan Africa, etc.) to live in their homes for 6-8 weeks each
summer. Umbrella organizations organizing the homestays include:
Paz Ahora, Movimiento Contra La Intolerancia, Sunrise Africa, and
Infancia Solidaria.

5. While most Spaniards do not actively volunteer, there are
opportunities available. The number of NGOs has increased
exponentially since the 1980s and since the 1990s the Spanish
government has institutionalized support for volunteerism. In 1980
there were 10 registered NGOs operating in Spain. According to a
recent article published by Europa Press, there are currently 400
NGOs registered in Spain and one in four Spanish citizens work in
civil society. There is no doubt that volunteerism is gradually
increasing in Spain, as evidenced by official government support for
civil society action and the wide range of NGOs soliciting
volunteers, however, many groups rely on paid staff to carry out
their activities.

Volunteerism Embraced by Spanish Law

6. Spain passed a Volunteerism Law in January 1996. The
Volunteerism Law acknowledges that social initiatives and civic
participation promote greater solidarity and a higher quality of
life and guarantees that Spanish citizens have the legal right to
volunteer for whichever causes they see fit. Secondly, it
recognizes the obligation of the State to work to improve the
efficiency of volunteerism in Spain.

National Plans for Volunteerism

7. There have been three "plans" for Volunteerism in Spain, to
prioritize and align volunteerism strategies. The first plan lasted
from 1997-2000 and the second from 2001-2004. The third and most
current plan for 2005-2009 seeks to improve the citizen solidarity
and strengthen social action in Spain. The National Plan is based
on inputs from public administrations both at the autonomous and
local levels, NGOs, universities, labor unions and the business
community. The plan presents a cross-sector consensus on social
welfare policies; it outlines coordination strategies, designates
areas that need attention and assistance and establishes goals,
indicators and program evaluations.

Spanish Government Entities Support Volunteerism

8. The Ministry of Labor and Immigration:
The primary Spanish government ministry that oversees and promotes
domestic volunteerism in Spain is the Ministry of Labor and
Immigration. It oversees and funds "La Platforma del Voluntariado
de Espaa" (PVE). This NGO (known as an ONG in Spain) created in
1986 coordinates and promotes volunteerism and social action in
Spain. PVE is comprised of 77 volunteer organizations representing
more than 800,000 volunteers throughout Spain. It also represents
Spain at the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE),
which claims to be the only international organization that exists
to solely promote and support volunteerism among all people. The
PVE and the Labor Ministry co-manage Spain's annual National
Volunteerism that brings together people from all over Spain
including youth, NGOs and government ministries to discuss enhancing
volunteerism in Spain. The Ministry of Health and Social Policy
also plays a role in the National Volunteerism Congress, and
coordinates Spain's State Plans for Volunteerism.

9. The Ministry of Health and Social Policy:
The Health Ministry manages the National Council of Social Action
NGOs (a consultative body, comprised of some of the country's
largest NGOs) whose aim is to encourage NGO participation and to
assist Spain's vulnerable populations. The Council contains member
groups spanning issues from Social Inclusion and Employment to
Volunteerism to Gender and Equality.

10. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation:
Spain's volunteer efforts in the international arena are funded
within the Foreign Affairs Ministry by the Spanish Agency for
International Cooperation and Development (AECID), which focuses on
the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and combats
global poverty. It works with a variety of development-focused NGOs
throughout the world utilizing volunteer services. AECID also
subsidizes Spain-based development NGOs with public funds totaling
almost 187 million euros in 2009.

Political Parties Support Civic Action Rather Than Specific
Volunteer Programs

11. Spain's two major political parties encourage civic action as
part of their social development objectives. While each party
supports various organizations, the parties themselves do not
actively promote volunteerism. Within the governing Spanish
Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE), a "Social Movements Secretariat"
promotes volunteerism in several different organizations including
the Development NGO Coordinator (CONGD) and Solidarity
International, both which focus on international issues such as
expanding human rights and combating poverty in underdeveloped
nations. Domestically, the PSOE encourages young people to take an
active role in the Jaime Vera School, a national foundation aimed at
reshaping today's youth and encouraging PSOE affiliation, and
another organization promoting rights of the PSOE's Lesbians, Gays,
Transsexual or Bisexual (LGTB) members.

12. The opposition People's Party (PP), supports its affiliate
think tank, the Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies, which is
committed to the political ideas and activities of the reformist
center-right. The PP also funds the Humanism and Democracy
Foundation, which addresses international development issues and
promotes liberty, democracy and tolerance. Another organization in
which the PP encourages civic participation is Women In Equality,
which promotes the advancement and participation of women across all
aspects of society.


13. Spanish law requires financial institutions to give a
percentage of their profits to social causes through "solidarity
funds". These funds typically take the form of foundations created
and controlled by the banks. In 2007, savings banks donated more
than 1.8 billion euros to NGO activities, up from 660 million euros
in 2006. For example, Bank Santander's foundation is a cultural
organization to increase accessibility of arts. It organizes
exhibits, hosts conferences and seminars, promotes classical music
and supports education and research programs, among other things.
Banesto's foundation works with Microsoft Iberca to help smaller
businesses to apply new technologies and approve their efficiency,
capacity and competitiveness through an online media portal named
Escuela Banespyme. The BBVA Foundation promotes scientific training
and research, specifically in the areas of Environment, Biomedicine
and Health, Economy and Society, Basic Sciences and Technology, and
Arts and Humanities. It funds research, educational seminars,
training and grants. Another bank, Caja Madrid, sponsors the PVE
and Ministry of Labor's social development agenda. Additionally,
Caja Madrid's Foundation promotes knowledge and cultural development
in Spain. It also has a social work branch that creates and helps
disabled and socially excluded people find employment and live
stable, productive lives. Caja Madrid claims responsibility for
creating 13,000 jobs for these populations.

Private Sector Beginning to Focus On Corporate Volunteerism

14. Aside from the legally required financial institution
foundations, corporate community activism/volunteerism is not
widespread in Spain. Just as many U.S. companies encourage and
often require staff to participate in volunteer projects, a small
number of American firms operating in Spain also promote corporate
volunteerism here. CitiBank Spain funds Junior Achievement
promoting financial education for at-risk youth. In 2007, 30
percent of CitiBank Spain employees participated in volunteer
activities, 67 employees taught in schools in disadvantaged areas of
Madrid, Barcelona, Seville Valencia and Huelva and the firm
estimates that more than 1,000 people benefitted from the work of
CitiSpain's 400 volunteers. Another U.S. company, Canon, supports
Barcelona-based Global Humanitaria, an NGO that works in Latin
America, Africa and Asia to address children's education, health,
socioeconomic development and human rights.
One Spanish enterprise of great social significance is the
Corporacisn Empresarial ONCE (CEOSA), whose goal is to make a profit
while rendering social services and creating jobs for the disabled.
Its non-profit side, ONCE, assists the blind in Spain by teaching
orientation and mobility techniques as well as helping treat the
psychosocial effects that going blind can cause. In 2003, the
profit center, CEOSA, employed almost 1,500 disabled people -
primarily through a very popular lottery program that ONCE operates
throughout Spain.

Volunteerism and the Education System

15. Most Catholic high schools, and some private secondary
schools, require a community service component. Additionally, most
universities have a volunteer office to link students with
opportunities. The following is a partial list of universities that
offer volunteerism opportunities: Extremadura, Pablo de Olavide de
Seville, Autonoma de Madrid, Santiago de Compostela, Zaragoza,
Murcia, Salamanca, Tenerife, Deusto, Alcala, Malaga, Ianza Instituto
Internacional Juan Pablo II, Valladolid, Cantabria, Cdiz, Rey Juan
Carlos, Europea de Madrid, Granda, Seville, Almera, Catolica de
Valencia San Vicente Martir, Francisco de Vitoria, Catolica de
Murcia, Huelva, Burgos, Navarra, Cataluna and Vigo. In Andaluca,
all universities in the region participate in a joint volunteer
program, known as Programa Andaluz de Voluntariado Universitario
that focuses on natural resource conservation and other
environmental issues.

Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)Utilize Volunteers

16. The largest NGOs in Spain are Cruz Roja Espanola with 750,000
members (483 million euro budget), Medicos sin Fronteras with
370,000 members and Intermon-Oxfam with 257,000. Caritas,
affiliated with the Catholic Church, counts 65,000 volunteers and
has a 185 million euro budget. Other influential NGOs that offer a
variety of social services include El Instituto de Trabajo Social y
de Servicios Sociales (INTRESS), the Red Espaola de Desarrollo
Rural (REDR) and Spain's branch of the European Anti Poverty Network
- EAPN (Red Europea de Lucha contra la Pobreza y la Exclusisn
Social). In addition, many of the same NGOs that are powerful in
the U.S. are also influential in Spain. These included
organizations like the Salvation Army, the Multiple Sclerosis
Foundation, Greenpeace and World Vision. The following website
contains a comprehensive list of Spain's NGOs and links to their
websites: [search
FromResult]=0. Other internet listings of volunteer opportunities
are and

--------------------------------------------- --
Catholic Church's Significant Volunteer Profile
--------------------------------------------- --

17. The Catholic Church's social work in Spain is primarily
through Caritas, its official social and charitable arm. Caritas is
an international charitable organization with a presence in 198
countries. Its official goal is to inform, support and raise
awareness of poverty, its causes and consequences and offer
opportunities for people to participate to induce change. The
Spanish Caritas network is comprised of 5,000 Caritas parishes, 68
Dioceses and their corresponding regional and autonomous parts. In
Spain, Caritas has 65,000 active volunteers, which Caritas claims to
be 90 percent of Spain's active volunteer pool. Its 185 million
euro budget makes it one of the wealthiest NGOs in Spain. Caritas'
activities are wide ranging; volunteers work with the homeless, drug
dependents, prison populations and ex-convicts, the elderly, women,
immigrants, youth, the disabled and others.
It also has an analytical branch, the Fundacisn para el Fomento de
Estudios Sociales y de Sociologa Avanzada (FOESSA), which examines
social statistics in Spain and also maintains documentation of its


18. The Spanish press actively promotes volunteerism. At regular
intervals, the major newspapers run articles, typically in weekend
"lifestyle" supplements or magazines geared toward women, about the
importance of volunteerism. These press articles are accompanied by
listing of volunteer opportunities with contact information.

Embassy Community Charitable Contributions and Volunteerism

19. The U.S. Embassy in Madrid has many connections with the
volunteer sector in Spain. Students in the International
Baccalaureate Program at The American School, attended by many
children of Embassy staff, are required to participate in community
service activities as part of their curriculum. This year the
students raised over 4,000 euros for Operation Smile. The American
Women's Club in Madrid holds an annual fundraiser to support its
volunteer activities. The British Ladies Association's charity
shop is staffed by volunteers who raise money for local charities.
The Diplomatic Women's Association raises charitable funds via its
annual October Bazaar; this year, almost 50 embassies participated.
Our Embassy's American Employee Association donates money to worthy
causes. This year Embassy fundraising supported the Centro de
Asistencia a Vctimas de Agresiones Sexuales (CAVAS), another
organization, SAF, as well as the above mentioned Diplomatic Women's
Association. CAVAS has a close relationship with the Embassy as it
often works with the Consular Section and Fraud Prevention Unit of
the Embassy. The Embassy Marines support the U.S. program, Toys for
Tots, each Christmas and donate items to a local orphanage --the
2008 recipient was Hogar Nuestra Senora de los Desamparados.

20. Individuals within the Embassy community, officers and family
members, volunteer with local faith-based organizations or their
children's schools. Many parents volunteer with sporting or
scouting programs. Additionally, Embassy family members and summer
interns have volunteered their time supporting diplomatic outreach
activities in the U.S. interest, including the Public Affairs
Section's speaker program at primary and secondary schools, and
youth activities at cultural events.

21. A sample of some volunteer organizations in Madrid includes:

Cruz Roja -

Accion Familiar -

Rescate -

Manos Unidos -

Alzheimers -

Save the Children -

Intermon Oxfam -

Caritas -

Asociacion Infantil de Oncologia de Madrid - +34 91 504 0998

Comision Espanola de Ayuda al Refugiado -

Solidarios para el desarrollo -

Coordinadora Estatal de Asociaciones de Apoyo al Pueblo Saharaui -
+34 91 531 7604

Fundacion Deporte y Desafio

Banco de Alimentos -

Amigos de los Mayores -

Global Nature Fundacion -

Asociacion Nacional de los Animales -

Apoyo Positivo (HIV/AIDS Support) -

Asociacion Contra la Anorexia y Bulimia -

Confederacion Espanola de Agrupaciones de Familiares y Personas con
Enfermedad Mental -

Asociacion de Ayuda a Familias de Drogodependientes -


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