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Exploring Collaborative Efforts between Faith and Development

Amid the 2023 SDG Summit in New York, members of the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) addressed the theme “Inspiring Faith, Hope, and Transformative Action.” Khushwant Singh, the Head of PaRD Secretariat, offered insights into collaborative endeavours uniting faith and development, marking a significant milestone in the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Read his full speech.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, esteemed colleagues,

It is an honor to address you today. I would really like to speak to you in person. But sometimes circumstances do not allow. Yet, I am grateful that technology allows to speak to you and keep the CO2 footprint low. Allow me to focus in my remarks on the specific objective of this consultation that deeply resonates with our work at PaRD, namely, objective three: „Strengthening Collaboration“.

This objective is at the heart of PaRD. Our partnership was founded based on SDG 17: “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.” Partnerships are the glue for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. This goal underscores the importance of providing a safe space which fosters learning and collaboration among stakeholders from various backgrounds, including faith and other civil society organisations and initiatives, multilaterals like United Nations (UN) agencies, governments, and academia. I am very thankful to the German government and everyone else who has been supporting PaRD since its inception in 2016 and helped bringing SDG 17 to life.

Multiplex Collaboration is an Imperative in a Multipolar World

Collaboration is not merely an option. It is an imperative if we want to make meaningful progress. Especially in a world where wars, hatred, fake news, materialism, and exploitation are increasing. In a world, where so many are suffering and living in undignified conditions. Therefore, it is our responsibility to nourish all values that enhance collaboration. Faith actors have a unique role to play in this realm. Our shared commitment to sustainable development is underpinned by values that are the center of spirituality: compassion, courage, justice, humbleness, frugality, far-sightedness and the ability to dialogue. Values that unite us across regions, traditions, and cultures.

Therefore, I invite everyone to help nourishing these values and make the best out of the collective power of faith and its actors like the Trilateral Partnership and work hand in hand. Today, let us collectively identify ideas and opportunities for joint initiatives, knowledge sharing, advocacy and engagement at local, regional and global level. We need long-term multi-actor collaboration to change the course of politics and economy. All hands of good will are needed.

Overcoming linear and growth-based paradigms and fostering circular thinking

We at PaRD recognise the importance of multiplex collaboration in an increasingly multipolar and globalised world. Multiplex collaboration acknowledges the interconnectedness of actors and networks. It involves inclusive efforts of stakeholders across key sectors and levels of society. It also encompasses considering their ability to leverage their unique strengths and resources in a complementary way. Nurturing human values that foster well-being, respect, inclusion, equity, cooperation, and long-term thinking is key for multiplex collaboration and sustainable development. A prerequisite to real sustainability is an openness to overcome linear and growth-based paradigms and foster circular thinking. This involves a holistic approach that considers the interdependencies within social, economic, and environmental systems.

I personally take inspiration in my work from an overarching vision. This vision is about establishing a binding Holistic Well-being Index. This vision is about measuring development not based on income or fragmented targets. It is based on the well-being of all sentient beings.

Let me transition from vision to concrete action. Allow me to name a few key opportunities for collaboration:

  1. We can share knowledge and wisdom: Sharing knowledge, wisdom and good practices is fundamental for success. Faith actors have accumulated invaluable experiences in the field of inner and outer development, humanitarian aid and human rights work. By creating respectful space for exchange, we can accelerate our learning curve and avoid reinventing the wheel. I can tell you from my own experience, for instance through the PaRD Annual Forums, that the insights I gained there, helped me to gain new perspectives and take them along beyond my professional engagement into my volunteer work with young people and interfaith dialogue.
  2. We can engage in joint initiatives: Collaboration opens the door to innovative initiatives. It also helps pooling resources, expertise, and networks for concrete actions. It also means avoiding duplications. Initiatives can range from countering fake news for instance on medical services, strengthening value-oriented education and the mental health of marginalized people, especially of children, to poverty alleviation and environmental protection. We at PaRD work in various Workstreams and Taskforces on such pressing issues.
  3. We can foster local engagement: Faith organisations have a strong presence at the local level. They were there before nations states were created. And they are there when government services reach their limits. Collaborating with regional faith networks can help us reach communities in a culturally sensitive and impactful manner. That is why I invite all of you who have not joined our partnership so far to become members of PaRD. Come and work with over 160 members from 40 countries and engage in our new Taskforce on Localisation which my colleague Fred Nyabera from Arigatou International and others have recently initiated. For us localization does not primarily mean to provide financial support to local initiatives. It means to consider their ability to connect the global with the local and the local with the global. For this, we require actors deeply rooted in the local and yet have the capacity to reach a global audience at the same time. This is exactly what religious communities and actors are capable of.
  4. We can advocate for policy change: We can only benefit from engaging with governments, multilaterals, and other important stakeholders to shape the future in a better way and promote policies that ensure social and environmental justice. Together, we can amplify our voices in advocating for just policies that „leave no one behind” and align with the SDGs. When I say to “leave no one behind” I mean also not to leave nature behind. I also mean not to leave animals behind. We need a holistic approach. Because, at least for me as a Sikh who takes inspiration from timeless spiritual wisdom (Gurmat), all sentient beings belong to one spiritual family: Ek pita ekas ke ham barak tun mera gur hai (GGS, 611, M.5).

When we regard all sentient beings as part of one spiritual family, we intuitively leave no one behind. Neither nature nor people and animals.

Let me conclude. Strengthening collaboration is not a mere aspiration but a concrete need for achieving the SDGs. Our meeting today provides a unique opportunity to deepen existing and forge new partnerships, and set in motion a wave of compassion and joint action that can accelerate progress towards our shared goals.

I am so grateful to the organisers along with all the people of good will who made this event possible. I look forward to the fruitful discussions and initiatives that will emerge from this important meeting. I hope to meet you soon in person. Thank you so much for your attention.