The programmes and projects implemented under the EEA Grants has not been randomly chosen. Each country agrees on a set of programmes with the donor countries based on needs, priorities and challenges. In Spain, priorities are: Research and Development in environment, climate change and renewable energy; gender equality and domestic and gender-based violence; ONGs support against poverty and social exclusion; cultural heritage and cultural diversity and exchange; and scholarships. See some reasons why these particular programmes areas have been selected:
Undoubtedly, energy and climate change are two of the main priorities in our society. Achieving an eco-efficient economy is a key objective of a post-Lisbon strategy (EU 2020). Also, United Nations is repeatedly warning against the serious consequences of human action in climate, such as droughts or floods in Europe. The last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report informed that Earth temperature will grow in 2-4 degrees, 95% man-made.
A sustainable and environmentally friendly Europe requires extensive environmental research and development. We are living an unprecedented energy revolution. International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2013 suggests some trends: the increasingly leading role of renewable in the energy mix and technology as a key factor. So, it is important to support actions improving innovation processes and moving inventions from research and laboratories and into the market.
Poverty is the most visible face of the current economic and financial recession. A Caritas report discloses that 27% of the Spanish population is at risk of poverty and social exclusion. The situation is even worse for children. NGOs play a key role in building cohesive societies, targeting the needs of and empowering specific groups, including those most at risk of inequalities, exclusion and discrimination. They play also a key role in promoting active citizenship and participatory democracy.
Economic difficulties are taking its toll in almost everyone, but some reports states that women are the worst affected. Poverty has a woman’s face. 9 out of 10 single-parent households are headed by women, and faces an increased risk of poverty. On the other hand, issues like pay equality or the presence of women on boards has taken second place. A woman must work 84 more days a year to be paid the same than a man, according to a Spanish Union report.
Although there have been made some significant progress to promote gender equality, our societies are still facing considerable challenges in areas as access to employment, reconciliation of work, private and family life, pay gaps or participation in political and economic decision-making. According to the World Bank report Gender at Work, women work in a lesser extent, with lower salaries and they have less access to opportunities.
In times of economic crisis, the cultural sector is one of those hardest hit by budget constraints. However, culture is an important factor of socioeconomic development. In consequence, it is particularly important to conserve cultural and natural heritage and to foster diversity and cultural exchange because it contributes to a country growth and development and to social cohesion.
Education plays an important role in order to reduce social and economic inequalities; and cooperation within the fields of education and research is an objective shared by all European countries. A European University Association report about mobility shows the increasingly growing figures of student mobility. Internationalisation is more a necessity than an option. The current financial crisis has made access to scholarship funding even more important both for individual applicants and for European educational and research institutions.