With seven and half years left to the achievement of what is arguably one of the world’s most ambitious vision – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030 in general; there is growing urgent need for multistakeholder collaboration if the SDGs are to be achieved by the set timeline – 2030.
At the centre of this collaboration to achieving the SDGs are faith communities. Endowed with spiritual and moral capital, faith communities are deeply rooted in local populations and global communities, with a unique reach to people living in poverty, filling in information deficiency and strengthening vulnerability to disasters and climate change. FBOs support such people through their development and humanitarian activities, community leadership and spiritual support.
Recognizing the great power of cooperation, the Trilateral Partnership of Regional Faith-based Networks for the SDGs, from Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean held a high-level event on 18 September during the 2023 SDG Summit in New York, USA.
The hybrid event brought together over 150 people including faith actors, development partners and academia. Themed; Inspiring Faith, Hope and Transformative Action to Accelerate Progress Towards the SDGs, the event sought to leverage the expertise, experiences, and collective strength of these regional networks to inspire faith and hope, promote moral and spiritual imperatives, and provide high-level political advocacy for transformative action.
At the opening of the event, the Arigatou International emphasized on the crucial role of cooperation towards realizing the SDGs, lauding the Trilateral Partnership of Regional Faith-based Networks for the SDGs as a ‘beacon of hope’ towards collaboration for the SDGs.
“In the face of these daunting challenges, we must instill faith, hope, and moral and spiritual imperatives into our pursuit of the SDGs. As we engage in panel discussions, and work toward actionable recommendations, let us remember that our collective strength lies in our unity” Rev. Fred Nyabera, Director of End Child Poverty said as he concluded the opening remarks.
Speaker after speaker commended faith communities for their richness in community mobilizing, influence and moral resources towards achieving the SDGs. The Trilateral Partnership of Regional Faith-based Networks for the SDGs was lauded as centre of collaboration with faith communities for the SDGs.
“Religious leaders possess unique relationships with local communities, based on trust, earned respect and a shared history that comes from the lived experiences of being with and in their communities. This level of influence is unmatched” emphasized Ambassador Rashad Hussain, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, United States Department of State.
Among other speakers, Khushwant Singh, Head of Secretariat, International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) passionately expressed the need for urgent collaboration towards achieving the SDGs, saying that collaboration was not merely an option but an imperative element if we have to achieve the SDGs.
“For the achievement of the SDGs, we must consider the ability of local actors to connect the local to the global, and the global to the local and this is exactly what religious communities are capable of doing” he said.
Dominant among the discussions at the high-level event was the need to reduce inequalities especially between Low Income Countries (LICSs) and High-Income Countries (HICs), with the recent Sustainable Development Report that has sounded a clarion call, warning that the gap in SDG outcomes between low-income and high-income countries may widen by 2030.
Speaking on the issue, Rev. Nicta Lubaale, Secretary General of the Organisation of Africa Instituted Churches (OAIC) focused on SDG 2 (zero hunger), citing example of how small-holder farmers are often excluded in climate change conversation yet they account for 70% food production especially in Africa.
“If we’re going to succeed in implementing the SDGs, we need to transform the structures that have maintained unbalanced power, which are still in place. We call for transformation of relationships between the global north and the global south; between the rich and the growing economies; between governments of Africa and their countries.” He said.
The event would not be complete without conversation and inclusion of voices that represent the present and future of the SDGs – youth and children. There is need to empower and listen to youth and emerging leaders and strengthen intergenerational bonds.
“Youth want to be catalysts of transformation and agents of hope. Youth need tools” Elena Lopez Ruf, Lead, Faith and Development, Regional Ecumenical Advisory and Service Center (CREAS).
Grace Orao, Executive Director of WOPOV and part of Arigatou International – End Child Poverty’s Youth In Action, called for bridging the intergenerational gap in peace leadership by empowering youth leaders, terming the youth as innovative and creative agents for transformation of communities.
Rebeca Rios Kohn, Director of Argatou International – Prayer and Action and Jeniffer Kaberi the Executive Director of Mtoto News, both emphasized putting children at the heart of the SDGs. “We share a lot of values and commitments, but we are not doing the do-able. We have to do the do-able, and that involves engaging children in a meaningful way” stated Rebeca.
In sum, the event’s clarion call was collaboration for the SDGs while addressing global issues surrounding implementation of the SDGs – these including but not limited to: climate change, conflict, inequalities and COVID-19.
This, better expressed by the words of Xavier Longan, Lead for Partnerships and Operations, United Nations SDG Action Campaign, concluding, “Let us re-energies, supercharge our actions and work together to achieve the goals.”
The High-Level Meeting was jointly organized by the Trilateral Partnership and regional faith-based networks for the SDGs, from Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, in cooperation with Religions for Peace, Arigatou International, the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD), ACT Alliance, World Vision International (WVI), Soka Gakkai and the Baha’i International Community (BIC).