A group of diverse actors gathered in Jakarta for “The Strategic Learning Exchange on Religion and Diplomacy: Focus on Development and Humanitarian Partnerships.” The SLE convened actors for the development of a learned approach, and to advance a deeper understanding, regarding the importance of religion in advancing humanitarian and development initiatives. This was the first Strategic Learning Exchange (SLE) on religion and diplomacy to be hosted in South and Southeast Asia.
Religion undercuts and intersects with almost every aspect in daily life. It is only in the Western world where religion has been circumscribed to the domestic space. As the international community has recognized the importance of religion as a driver of daily life, religious institutions and actors are in a unique position to engage with local communities and support sustainable development. Partnerships between UN and its Agencies, religious entities, humanitarian organizations, governments and other inter-governmental actors are becoming a frequent method to advance peace and development.
In order to ensure the effectiveness and suitability of these partnerships, the United Nations, in a consortium of organizations – including the Network, gathered diverse actors in Jakarta for The Strategic Learning Exchange on Religion and Diplomacy: Focus on Development and Humanitarian Partnerships. The SLE convened actors for the development of a learned approach, and to advance a deeper understanding, regarding the importance of religion in advancing humanitarian and development initiatives. This was the first Strategic Learning Exchange (SLE) on religion and diplomacy to be hosted in South and Southeast Asia. Indonesia was specifically chosen to host the event as the nation is an example of coexistence in purity and diversity. This Strategic Learning Exchange specifically contributed to deep cross-organisational learning on how in this region SDGs are jointly advanced and how common challenges, particular to South and Southeast Asia, could be addressed.
The SLE aims to develop the capacities of the United Nations and its partners to enhance their programming through the realization of religious dynamics in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. The SLE addressed cross-cutting issues, including: human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, while noting how these developments impact the Sustainable Development Goals. These convening’s are essential to exemplify new and existing partnerships, avoid the duplication of work and incorporate lessons learned in previous contexts.
While FBOs and religious communities are important players, they are often overseen as partners and can even be viewed as an obstacle. Engagement with faith-based communities is still considered a “new” area for many donors and intergovernmental organizations. From a donor perspective, they need to develop better knowledge as well as clear frameworks on how to effectively engage with faith-based organizations and religious communities in order to implement the SDGs. Considering their outreach, better engagement between FBOs and religious communities will demonstrate their value-added.
In regards to non-governmental perspectives on religion-diplomacy and development, there is a need to create more safe and open spaces for dialogue across faiths and across different actors. There are several well-tested methodologies, approaches and resources to engage with local religious leaders and communities. These should be further amplified, replicated and promoted while noting synergies with humanitarian frameworks.
To advance the role of religious leaders and actors in achieving the SDGs, they should: (1) strive to engage more with youth, (2) be more vocal in peacebuilding and social cohesion while becoming role models to inspire communities and to engage with authorities when needed and (3) make better use of modern communication tools to foster dialogue across faiths and to approach and educate the media about the value of religion.
The Strategic Learning Exchange on Religion and Diplomacy: Focus on Development and Humanitarian was developed in partnership by the United Nations Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development – with National Cohosting partners, including Universitas Gadjah MADA Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies Graduate School, Netherlands-Indonesia Consortium for Muslim-Christian Relations, and the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI).Co-hosted by the Embassies of the Netherlands and Switzerland, UNFPA and UN Regional and National Offices, The European Union, including the EEAS and the Directorate General on International Cooperation and Development and Faith-Based Partners in the region as well as the UN’s international Faith-Based NGOs (FBOs) and academic Partners – including ACT Alliance and its members, ICCO, cooperation, World Vision, Islamic Relief, the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.
The Network has been engaged as a co-organizer of several UN Strategic Learning Exchanges over the past years and this landmark initiative has been led by the UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development. Previous Exchanges includes a Strategic Learning Exchange in New York: Religion, Gender & Youth Inclusion in Peace & Security
12 December 2019