Remarks UN Resident Coordinator on Strategic Learning Exchange (SLE) on Religion and Diplomacy: focus on Development and Humanitarian Partnerships

Strategic Learning Exchange (SLE) on Religion and Diplomacy: focus on Development and Humanitarian Partnerships
Erasmus Huis, Jakarta, Thursday 28 November 2019
Remarks by UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Anita Nirody

Selamat pagi semua, Good morning everyone

I would like to thank all the sponsors of this event for the opportunity to offer remarks at this strategic learning exchange on such an important topic as religion and diplomacy which I will link to development and humanitarian partnerships. We at the UN are pleased to partner with you and engage jointly in this important exchange.

Thank you also to the Embassy of the Netherlands for hosting this event at the Erasmus Huis this morning.

As we all know, there is a growing recognition in the international development and humanitarian community that religious organizations have a lot to offer in terms of being critical moral, social and political agents of human development.

The resources they bring to the table, whether human, financial or spiritual, provide important support to the communities they work in. Faith actors are capable of social mobilization that can shift attitudes and behaviours towards those more conductive to sustainable development.

In Indonesia, just as other parts of the world, religion plays an important role that continues to shape and influence all aspects of life for their followers, including but not limited to, providing awareness on development issues such as family planning to their followers through faith-based educational systems and religious gatherings.

Engaging with Faith-based Organizations (FBOs) and Religious Leaders where they could add value is therefore important for successful inclusive programming in development work. In the humanitarian space, FBOs are providing critical assistance to those impacted by disasters and there continues to be potential to engage FBOs in disaster prevention and strengthening the resilience of communities to disasters.

Many UN agencies in Indonesia are partnering with faith-based or faith-inspired service-delivery non-governmental organizations, local faith communities and religious leaders to help advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

One such example is the “Better Reproductive Health for All in Indonesia Programme 2018-2022” in which UNFPA and UNICEF work with relevant authorities to improve the lives of women and girls in Indonesia through strengthened capacity for religious and community leaders on Maternal Health Matters (MHM), Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), family planning and child marriage.

UN Women is increasingly bringing together religious leaders, faith actors, civil society and women organizations to develop a new narrative to promote greater tolerance and peaceful society. It focuses on promoting women voices and their important role as peace agents. Engaging with religious leaders and faith actors, UN Women focuses on promoting women’s rights to physical integrity, autonomy, security and safety. Equal emphasis is placed on women’s economic empowerment and right to participate in public sphere, including education and decent work. Most importantly, UN Women advocates for greater social dialogue across different social groups through numerous initiatives with faith-based institutions, civil society organizations and actors at all levels. One example was in Sumenep village, on the island of Madura in East Java, under the auspices of UN Women’s “Empowered Women, Peaceful Communities” programme supported by the Government of Japan. It brought together more than 5,000 people from women’s economic groups, religious leaders, and female and male students at the Pesantren Annuqqayah, Indonesia’s oldest Islamic boarding school to promote social dialogue to identify specific ways that women in Madura contribute to peace. This included the demonstration of women entrepreneurs’ work to create community resilience, theater and other artistic performances.

Another example is the UNDP’s collaboration with the Center of Islam and Society at the Islamic University of Jakarta through a youth-targeted programme on the prevention of violent extremism through religious education. Our collaboration has produced policy recommendations that have since been adopted by the Government.

Development Financing is a key for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a globally agreed upon sustainable development agenda to improve people, planet and prosperity, and leave no one behind. Islamic finance presents a big potential in Indonesia and the UN is leveraging several financial instruments to support the SDGs. For example, UNDP has collaborated with the National Board of Zakat, who through a blended finance modality, contributed to the development of micro hydropower plant in Jambi Province. The contribution by the National Board of Zakat marked a landmark step that formalized the channeling of zakat funds to advance the SDGs.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In recent times, we are seeing growing religious conservatism across the world which might undermine pluralist and multicultural societies.

We are seeing religion being manipulated to justify incitement to violence and discrimination. In 2017, the UN Secretary-General Launched the Fez Plan of Action that outlines way in which religious leaders can prevent incitement to violence and contribute to peace and stability.

This makes inter-faith dialogues aimed at building bridges and understanding among different religious groups, government institutions, development partners and civil society essential. The overarching purpose of this dialogue rests on the fact that there is richness and strength in diversity - it is never a threat. Profiting from that diversity requires a strong investment in social cohesion policies.

Earlier this year, His Holiness Pope Francis, along with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, His Eminence Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, signed a moving testament for mutual respect. It stated that the diversity of religions is willed by the Creator. “This divine wisdom,” they wrote, “is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derive.”

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Overall FBOs can play an important role in the development and humanitarian space. At the same time, it is worth noting that working with FBOs also presents few challenges.

In some contexts, religious institutions may be involved in political processes or dynamics, which compromises their neutrality as agents of development and humanitarian work.

In others, fragmentation among religious institutions can make it difficult to systematically include them in humanitarian and development partnerships and which can impact the potential for inter-religious collaboration as well as learning from each other.

These are all issues which can be overcome with strengthened dialogue and collaboration.

Broader engagement and partnerships with FBOs in development and humanitarian work is fully aligned with SDG Goal 17 on transformative partnerships, to ensure that no one is left behind.

I do believe that this strategic dialogue and learning on religion and development will further enhance our mutual understanding on how to best work with and harness the potential of FBO’s in our humanitarian and development work.

I would like to convey my appreciation to all parties, government partners, development partners, academia, civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, and UN agencies who worked together to make these discussions possible today.

I wish you a productive learning session.

Terima Kasih Banyak
Thank you very much


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