The Annual Forum on Religion and Sustainable Development 2023, convened in Berlin, Germany from October 17 to 19, brought together a diverse array of stakeholders, including government agencies, multilateral organizations, civil society, and faith-based groups. As an active participant in these discussions and a member of the PaRD Steering Board, I gained invaluable insights into the global discourse on sustainable development and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this blog post, I will reflect on the critical takeaways from the forum’s content and explore the crucial role of faith-based actors in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Significance of PaRD
The International Partnership on Religion & Sustainable Development (PaRD) is a vital multi-stakeholder platform that unites governments, multilateral organizations, faith-based groups, civil society organizations, and academic institutions in the pursuit of sustainable development.
Key Insights and Recommendations
Throughout the Annual Forum, numerous sessions and discussions yielded important recommendations and insights. Here, I present an analysis of these recommendations..
- Partnering with Faith, Spiritual, and Indigenous Actors: Decision-makers must recognize the immense potential of collaborating with faith, spiritual, and Indigenous actors in advancing the SDGs. Faith actors bring influence, extensive networks, and the capacity to scale up initiatives across the SDGs framework. This partnership can bridge gaps and overcome barriers that other actors may face.
- Localisation of Humanitarian, Development and Peace Initiatives: The forum underscored the need for broader and more comprehensive localisation of humanitarian, development and peacebuilding activities. This approach involves collaborating closely with religious actors and institutions and offering flexible, multi-year funding. Localization ensures that initiatives are locally driven, owned, and sustainable, enhancing their effectiveness in achieving the SDGs.
- Climate Action with Faith Leaders: Collaboration with religious leaders and Indigenous Peoples in climate action was a recurring theme. This entails practical, values-based approaches covering mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and justice. Faith actors’ moral authority can significantly impact climate initiatives.
- Strengthening Social Services: Prioritizing the strengthening of social services through faith communities and institutions is crucial for ensuring human dignity, resilience, and sustainability. This aligns with the SDGs’ goal of leaving no one behind.
- Respecting Freedom of Religion or Belief: Decision-makers were encouraged to uphold Freedom of Religion or Belief as a fundamental element for unlocking the potential of religious actors in sustainable development. This underscores the importance of protecting individuals’ rights to practice their faith freely.
- Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS): The need for faith-sensitive and culturally adapted MHPSS interventions in conflict and displacement contexts was highlighted. Such interventions can facilitate trauma healing and break the cycle of violence, ultimately improving health and development outcomes.
Recommendations for PaRD Members
PaRD members, comprising a diverse range of actors, play a pivotal role in advancing sustainable development. Here are recommendations for strengthening the partnership and its impact:
- Demonstrating Impact: PaRD should actively showcase the impact of its activities and provide evidence of its contributions to sustainable development. This enhances its credibility and informs stakeholders of its value.
- Mapping Priorities and Alignment: Identifying shared priorities among PaRD members is critical. This facilitates joint action on areas of alignment, promoting collaboration and synergy.
- Visibility of Multiplex Collaborations: PaRD should increase the visibility of its multiplex collaborations by highlighting best practices and lessons learned. This inspires others and generates momentum for collaborative efforts.
- Involving Young People: Recognizing the vital role of youth and children, PaRD should explore effective means of involving young people in interfaith and intergenerational initiatives for sustainable development. This provides them with valuable leadership opportunities.
- Localization of Activities: Support for initiatives contributing to the localization of activities is of utmost importance. Localisation goes beyond simply adapting global agendas to local contexts; it involves the active leadership, participation, and engagement of local actors, including religious and faith-based actors, in decision-making, planning, and implementation. This includes ensuring the availability of relevant resources in multiple languages, promoting inclusivity, and cultivating cultural sensitivity.
The Annual Forum on Religion and Sustainable Development 2023 reaffirmed the indispensable role of faith-based actors in advancing sustainable development and the SDGs. As the world grapples with complex and interconnected challenges, collaboration among diverse stakeholders, including faith actors, is fundamental to achieving the goals set out in Agenda 2030. PaRD’s role as a facilitator of multiplex collaborations and its commitment to shared human values make it a vital player in the global journey towards a sustainable and inclusive future.