This year’s Annual Forum and General Assembly of Members (GAM) was planned to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, but had to be postponed to 2021 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Steering Group (SG) of PaRD considered this rescheduling necessary due to the ongoing travel and social distancing regulations in place.
Nevertheless, as regular exchange is essential for PaRD, all members were invited to a series of virtual meetings between September 1 - 4, 2020. The discussions focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sustainable development and on ways of better communication between Faith-Based Organizations (FBO), Local Faith Actors (LFA) and Governmental Organizations responding to challenges posed by the pandemic.
Few PaRD members and the secretariat team attending the meeting in person, gathered in the Senate Hall of Humboldt University in Berlin. As member of PaRD, the University’s Research Programme on Religions and Sustainable Development also hosted a capacity building workshop together with PaRD’s work-stream WECARE and presented its findings and expertise around religious actors and COVID-19 response at the Annual Forum. In addition, the PaRD Gender Equality and Empowerment work-stream launched a new series of critical dialogues at the Forum with a focus on ‘Visioning a Just World Post-COVID19: Religion, Sustainable Development and Gender Justice’.
On September 3rd, around 80 members and high-level panellists attended and spoke at the virtual Forum, including the Minister of Health of the Republic of South Africa, Dr Zwelini Mkhize, and Mr Alvin Botes, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, among others. Also, the president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, gave a keynote address, as well as many other valued PaRD members such as the International Dialogue Center (KAICIID), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), US Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank Group, World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD) of the Georgetown University, Christian Aid, ACT Alliance and more. These virtual sessions provided an opportunity to discuss current challenges within the partnership and to work towards the next in-person forum in 2021.
On September 4th, PaRD’s General Assembly of Members (GAM) was held online with around 80 participants. The PaRD Steering Group, Sub-Committees, Secretariat and work-stream co-leads reported to the PaRD members on their latest activities and presented their work-plans for 2021.
Report from the Steering Group and Sub-Committees
After the former PaRD Head of Secretariat, Ulrich Nitschke, had resigned in December 2019, the PaRD Steering Group co-chairs expressed the wish to meet with GIZ (Host of the PaRD Secretariat) and The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) (the main sponsor and currently the only core-funder of the secretariat) to discuss the way forward regarding vision and governance of PaRD as well as recruiting a new Head of Secretariat. Therefore, a meeting of PaRD co-chairs (Prof Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Rev Jørgen Thomsen and Ms Kirsten Evans) and BMZ (Michael Plesch, Hanno Spitzer and Berthold Weig), GIZ (Ulrich Wehnert and Timo Biank) and the PaRD Secretariat was convened on Monday, August 31st, 2020, at the BMZ office in Berlin. Due to the officially imposed travel restrictions, the co-chairs could not participate in person, but joined by video-conference. The participants discussed the Terms of Reference and recruitment process for a new Head of Secretariat, who is to take office by January 2021. Additionally, the group underlined the need for an Annual Work Plan for PaRD for 2021, the launch of a Strategic Planning Process for PaRD, and related matters of the PaRD Secretariat (structures, core-tasks and personnel). The SG informed that they had been reviewing the PaRD governance document from the GAM2018 ‘Vision, Governance and Modalities of Work’. The participants agreed that the strategic planning process will go hand in hand with the revision of the Vision, Governance and modalities of work as well as the comprehensive work-programme 2020/2021 of PaRD.
Budget and Finance Sub-Committee
Mohammed Abu-Nimer (KAICIID), Atallah Fitzgibbon (Islamic Relief Worldwide), Jonas Lucas (PaRD Secretariat), Mercy Niwe (The World Bank Group), Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati (Global Interfaith WASH Alliance), Hanno Spitzer (BMZ)
The PaRD budget for 2020 has been subject to some significant variations. Since the position of the Head of Secretariat has been vacant since December 2019, PaRD has experienced less spending than anticipated. Furthermore, the in-person Annual Forum/ GAM 2020 had to be postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in a much lower level of spending. The overall planned budget for 2020 had been 817.929,38 Euros, including remaining funds from 2019 (work-streams) that had been rolled over to 2020. Additionally, 20.000 Euros have been approved in 2020 by the SG to support initiatives and responses in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to reduced expenditures, a surplus of 72.312,46 Euros is envisioned by the end of 2020 that could be shifted towards financing the GAM/Annual Forum 2021 in South Africa. Additional core-funding beyond the existing engagement has been identified as the highest priority by the PaRD Steering Group and the PaRD membership at large. With the continued growth of PaRD, additional funding is required for envisioned joint activities as well as central services. The participants of the sub-committee have agreed that a stronger engagement with existing and potential new governmental members has the highest priority.
Membership Growth Sub-Committee
Kirsten Evans (USAID, co-chair) Thomas Lawo (PaRD Secretariat) Hellen Mugo (CYNESA) Mercy Niwe (The World Bank Group) Peter Prove (WCC) Maria Lucia Uribe Torres (Arigatou International) Claudia Zeisel (PaRD Secretariat)
As of September 2020, PaRD has grown to have 135 institutional members, the latest additions being: Fondazione Bruno Kessler, United Evangelical Mission, Ibrahimia Media Center, AEM e.V., Green Faith, Action Health Incorporated, and Youth Association for Development. PaRD has increased its membership steadily over the past four years, starting with 35 members in 2016. PaRD’s unique value lies in introducing and connecting governmental, intergovernmental entities and FBOs/ FIOs/ ROs/ CSOs with each other. Almost 90 percent of the members are FBOs/ FIOs/ ROs/ CSOs. Therefore, PaRD wants to engage in increasing the number of governmental members, which so far make up only 6 percent of the total membership. Furthermore, majority of members are headquartered in the Global North. Providing ample and appropriate opportunities for members of the Global North and the Global South to engage with one another will pave the way for a greater mutual benefit. Therefore, PaRD will focus on increasing representation of the Global South. Additionally, members agreed that it should be a priority of PaRD’s Membership Growth Strategy to ensure inclusivity and diversity of organizations within PaRD, both regarding size as well as religious affiliation.
Thomas Lawo (PaRD Secretariat), Hellen Mugo (CYNESA), Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati (Global Interfaith WASH Alliance), Claudia Zeisel (PaRD Secretariat)
At the SG and co-leads Meeting in Vienna in December 2019, a new Sub-committee had been formed to guide the Secretariat and the SG regarding internal and external communication. The members include Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati (Global Interfaith WASH Alliance), Hellen Mugo (Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa CYNESA), Claudia Zeisel and Thomas Lawo from the PaRD Secretariat. To provide content that represents all PaRD members and to better coordinate the development of publications, the following rules of procedures had been agreed upon: drafts of articles, newsletters etc. need to be approved by the PaRD Head of Secretariat, the Communications Sub-committee as well as the PaRD SG co-chairs. The Steering Group had in the meantime agreed on a disclaimer to guide the publication and branding of PaRD-products. The PaRD website will be further used for publication of articles, events and scientific studies. Newsletters will be shared for further dissemination of PaRD news. Furthermore, the PaRD Twitter account is being used actively. Social media presence should be expanded.
Report from the Secretariat
It was formally announced that Ulrich Nitschke, former Head of the PaRD Secretariat had resigned from his service at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH as of early December 2019 and therefore had simultaneously concluded his service to the PaRD Secretariat. Dr. Thomas Lawo, Coordinator of the PaRD Secretariat, has been appointed to serve as acting Head of Secretariat. The recruitment of a new Head of Secretariat is foreseen for January 2021.
PaRD Work-Streams: Report and Outlook 2020/21
Health (SDG 3)
Since its inception, the work-stream has been focusing on SDG 3 sub-goal 3.8 Universal health coverage, with a focus on maternal new-born and child health (3.1/3.2) and Sexual Reproductive Health/HIV/AIDS (3.3/3.7). However, a survey conducted by the work-stream members in 2019, showed a growing interest in focusing on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS). After further consultations and evaluation on the gaps and role of faith/religious actors in MHPSS, the work-stream saw it fit to collaborate with actors working on mental health in the humanitarian field, especially children living in fragile settings. In collaboration with Islamic Relief Worldwide and the Institute for Global Health & Development at Queen Margaret University (Edinburgh) – both institutions having long history of research in the area of MHPSS with displaced populations – the work-stream has commissioned a research on ‘faith-based MHPSS with children in humanitarian setting’. The research aims at establishing the effectiveness of the different types of faith-based approaches to MHPSS (i.e. what works where, with whom, why and how?) and providing an overview of the gaps in knowledge, skills and technical support that both secular organizations and FBOs need in regard to faith literacy and/or MHPPS expertise. In addition, the research will examine new developments and needs caused by the recent COVID-19 crisis in relation to children’s wellbeing and the ability of faith-sensitive programmes to respond to these challenges.
The work-stream currently plans to host an online seminar to presenting projects by religious/faith-based-organizations working on MHPSS. During the Geneva Peace Week, Health together with the three other PaRD work-streams will participate at a roundtable.
As a collaborative work among the PaRD work-streams, the health work-stream has participated in the production of a podcast together with the Sustaining Peace (SDG 16) and the Gender Equality and Empowerment (SDG 5) work-streams. The podcast titled: Identifying Funding and Resource Gaps with COVID-19 in the Field: A Religious Actors Perspective on Health, Gender, Environment and Peace has been submitted to the Geneva Peace week and will be launched as a digital product under the theme?Peacebuilding in a COVID-19 era and beyond during the Geneva Peace Week, 2- 6 November 2020
Gender Equality and Empowerment (SDG 5)
The work-stream focuses on achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. The work-stream aims to achieve this goal through knowledge exchange among actors, capacity building and advocacy actions .For instance 2019 the work-stream collaboration with the Danish, Canadian and UK Governments to host two advocacy events during the 63rd Commission on the status of women (CSW), NYC, 11th-22nd March 2019. The work stream held two side events on:
• Unlocking the Power of Faith-Based Partnerships: Enabling the Right to Social Protection: The forum provided an opportunity to discuss the role of faith-based partnerships in enabling the right to social protection through challenging gender-norms and stepping in when the state and society fail to deliver.
• Faith, Feminism and Human Rights Frameworks: The forum brought together secular and religious actors in order to address the perceived tensions between religious-based, human rights-based and feminist frameworks, and examine how these frameworks can be interconnected and learn from each other.
Number of events had been planned for this year‘s 64th CSW with Germany, Canada and Denmark, but had to be postponed due to COVID-19. Therefore, the work-stream will focus on the 65th UN Commission on the Status of Women March 2021.
The second key area, Knowledge Exchange, aims to address gaps between religion and gender equality. In March 2019, the work-stream together with the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities published the Religion, Development and Gender Based Violence Report. A new report Looking Back to Look Forward: The Role of Religious Actors in Gender Equality since the Beijing Declaration will be published in 2020. The report aims to review the roles religious actors have played in advancing and hindering gender equality since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995; identifying strategies to overcome current barriers; and provide an understanding on the roles attributed to religious actors in UN policy documents.
The PaRD Gender Equality and Empowerment work-stream will furthermore host a series of interactive dialogues. With different members, and invited guests, creating a space for diverse stakeholders to engage on gender equality, religion and COVID-19. Alongside the hosted dialogues, they will share a call for Papers for religious actors to co-create a publication on Visioning a Just World Post-COVID19: Religion, Sustainable Development and Gender Justice. To encourage participation from new voices, they propose awarding 8 papers selected for publication, a small travel bursary to support their participation in the General Assembly of Members in South Africa, September 2021.
WECARE (SDGs 6, 13, 14, 15)
The work-stream known under the abbreviation of EWCA (Environment, Water and Climate Action) has been renamed WECARE (Water, Environment, Climate Action work-stream). In line with the idea of knowledge exchange the WECARE work- stream launched a WECARE Resource Catalogue. The WECARE Resource Catalogue is a living document which illustrates knowledge resources from the WECARE work-stream members and PaRD members alike, related to green and blue SDGs (6, 13, 14 and 15). Members willing to contribute resources are welcomed to contact the PaRD Secretariat. WECARE successfully contributed to the Climate Summit 2019 (New York, United States of America) and the Season of Creation in September 2019. Various activities were planned for the year 2020. WECARE planned its participation at the World Water Week (Stockholm, Sweden), the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 (Glasgow, United Kingdom) and the G20 Interfaith Summit, however, due the COVID-19 pandemic some events were postponed.
In collaboration with Humboldt University Berlin (HU), WECARE co-hosted a Capacity Building Workshop on the topic Religious Communities and Ecological Sustainability in Southern Africa during the 2020 PaRD Virtual Annual Forum and General Assembly of Members, in which more than 50 people attended.
Building on the findings of the WECARE-HU co-hosted Capacity Building Event, the HU will develop a comprehensive report, including research findings as well as policy recommen-dations, which will be presented to the Annual Forum 2021 in South Africa. WECARE participates at the Climate Week during the UN General Assembly 2020 (virtual, Sep. 2020), by joining a panel discussion hosted by World Vision International on the topic COVID-19 Child Sensitive, Inclusive & Greener Recovery Strategies to Build Back Better. During the Geneva Peace Week (virtual, Nov. 2020), WECARE joins other PaRD work-streams in a Joint Roundtable Discussion on Funding Gaps during COVID-19. Also, WECARE is planning a comprehensive mapping of faith-based work on green and blue SDGs to be conducted by the International Network on Conservation and Religion (INCR) in potential co-sponsorship of UNEP and potentially other WECARE work-stream members.
Sustaining Peace (SDG 16)
In July 2019, the Sustaining Peace work-stream launched a scoping study on Partnering with Local Faith Actors to Support Peaceful and Inclusive Societies during the High-Level Political Forum in NYC, USA. The scoping study was presented and discussed during the 10th Religions for Peace World Assembly in Lindau, Germany in August 2019 and at the Tony Blair Insights Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, in November 2019. Furthermore, the work-stream co-hosted an online seminar with JLI on Ending Violence Against Children in September 2019 and supported Faith Action for Children on the Move, i.e. for the Global Refugee Forum, in December 2019. Besides, the Sustaining Peace work-stream co-hosted an online seminar with World Vision and the Conflict Sensitivity Community Hub (CSC-Hub) on Navigating the Nexus in the DRC in June 2020. During the Geneva Peace Week (November 2-6, 2020), the work-stream together with the other PaRD work-streams will convene a panel discussion on Identifying Funding and Resource Gaps with COVID-19 in the Field: A Religious Actors Perspective on Health, Gender, Environment and Peace. To make the virtual discussions more vivid, Geneva Peace Week asked the participants to submit a digital product related to their panel input. PaRD will submit a podcast with voices from local faith actors from all over the world.
As a further outlook, based on the insights of the existing scoping study and consultations on PaRD members interests, the Sustaining Peace work-stream is commissioning a study that will look more closely into the level of effectiveness of local faith actors (LFAs) including religious institutions, faith-based organisations, and religious actors and leaders who have been working towards the achievement of SDG16 in the context of Myanmar, using the humanitarian-development-peace, or “triple nexus” as a lens for analysis. The study aims to identify the areas of challenge, highlight successes and identify the particularities of what is working in the context of Myanmar. Further, the work-stream will organize a side event on Faith Action for Children on the Move (FACoM) in coordination with the FACoM Steering Committee. It will co-host online seminars with topics pertinent to SDG 16 through co-leadership of different work-stream members, represent the SDG 16 work-stream in external conferences and events such as the Geneva Peace Week and the Alliance for Peacebuilding in December 2020. Additionally, it will address the implications of COVID-19 for peacebuilding in online seminars, joint papers, conference panels, etc.
PaRD’s Outlook 2021
Not only the year 2020, but also 2021 will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the last SG meeting in Vienna, the Strategic Planning task group has been formed and will continue working on a strategy process. The Secretariat will develop a comprehensive annual work plan for 2020/2021. Once the new Head of Secretariat has taken office, follow-up consultations will continue the process. Communication between SG, members and the Secretariat will be further improved. An envisioned engagement in areas such as FoRB and an upcoming in-person meeting with Wilton Park and the SG had to be postponed and will be addressed more in detail coming year.
Extension of SG Mandate
The postponement of the in-person Annual Forum and GAM raised challenges for the Steering Group (SG) elections as well, which were due to be held this year, after the current SG served a two-year mandate starting with the elections during the first General Assembly of Members in Château de Bossey/Geneva, Switzerland in 2018.
The PaRD Steering Group prior to the virtual meeting informed the membership that they would like to postpone this year’s election to the next in-person GAM and Annual Forum in 2021. After fruitful deliberations and consultations with the whole SG, all current organisations present in the SG, had agreed to the voluntary extension of their mandate by one more year and keep serving the PaRD membership until the elections during the GAM 2021. During the GAM event, PaRD members agreed and expressed their support to the decision. Regarding the governance matters, changes to the statutes Vision, Governance and Modalities of Work were proposed and discussed among the Steering Group, GIZ and BMZ. Especially the use and handling of the term of advocacy must be reconsidered. The SG postpones the sharing of the new version to the end of this year.
Members noted the need to increase governmental participation in PaRD’s various work-streams. The Secretariat welcomes suggestions for cooperation with governmental representatives.
The way forward
Perspective on the G20 Interfaith Forum 2020
In the Closing Session of the General Assembly, KAICIID Secretary General HE Faisal Bin Muaammar provided an overview of the G20 Interfaith Forum, which KAICIID is organizing with its partners, the G20 Interfaith Association, the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations and the National Committee for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Saudi Arabia. The G20 Interfaith Forum as well as PaRD’s members strive to achieve the same goal; amplifying religious voices in policy discussions by highlighting their significant role and prowess in serving communities in need.
“The G20 Interfaith Forum will be a platform to highlight and document the networks of religious and policy actors that have been built through the G20 Interfaith Process. It is our hope, as the organizing committee, that one of the outputs of the forum will be a formal recognition of the G20 Interfaith Forum as an engagement group within the G20 process. This would be a powerful recognition of our goal, and one that we share with PaRD, of advocacy and partnership between religious and policy actors on our shared challenges and crises,” he concludes.
Closing and Outlook Annual Forum and GAM 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa
Dr. Renier Koegelenberg, the National Religious Association for Social Development (NRASD), South Africa and PaRD co-chairs, invited the members to the Annual Forum/ GAM 2021 in Cape Town. He emphasized the importance to involve political leadership to the forum and pointed to the positive feedback from both the South African ministers’ engagement in this year’s Annual Forum. “They really are keen to build the link with PaRD”, Koegelenberg said. “The key to get governments involved is to focus on the issues that are important on a regional basis. In South Africa, it’s climate change and food security”. With regards to the current pandemic, the Minister of Health in the Republic of South Africa, Dr Zwelini Mkhize, emphasized that governments alone could not cope with these challenges. “I do believe that as we come here together with PaRD, your commitment to action will prove to be a powerful instrument of cooperation towards attaining our sustainable development goals for our deserving citizens”, he said.
Mr Alvin Botes, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa added: “It should be of interest for PaRD on how to activate closer cooperation between state and non-state actors. The South African government wants PaRD and all participating stakeholders to increase its footprint and to deepen partnership in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa”, Mr. Alvin Botes said. His suggestion to PaRD was to discuss how religious communities could become a reliable and trustworthy partner for social cohesion, in the effort of poverty reduction and in their incorporated role in development work.
Finally, also the president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, highlighted: “It is my hope that when we meet next year, here in South Africa, we will be able to evaluate the extent of our success and where we have failed and note the reasons for such failure and to avoid them in the future”, the Bishop said.