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UN Strategic Learning Exchange on “Engaging with Faith-based and Faith-inspired Organizations and Communities for Sustainable Development”

The Strategic Learning Exchange aims to develop the capacities of United Nations and partner faith-based entities to appreciate and enhance their programming, as well as the impact of delivery, through a realistic appraisal of religious dynamics in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Excerpt of the full report provided by UNFPA/UNIATF.

In its seventh annual iteration, the United Nations Strategic Learning Exchange (SLE) to Develop Literacy Around Religion and Development expanded the collective literacy and understanding of UN system entities and some of their governmental counterparts, in their work with faith-based organizations (FBO) and religious actors. Convenings such as the SLE are a vital link to writing more informed and grassroots-savvy policy and programming by magnifying the positive outcomes of existing and new partnerships, avoiding the duplication of historic missteps and incorporating lessons learned and through strategic leveraging of available resources.

As is the case in certain countries where faith-based actors provide significant amounts of health and educational services, accomplishing the 2030 Agenda will – in many cases – be in direct proportion to the effectiveness of partnerships with this set of actors. This report is an effort to synthesize what this year’s SLE identified as vital to creating better policy and approaches to collaborate with the faith-based sector, gleaned from the experience of historic partnerships. This year the partnership between UN agencies and FBO’s was underscored by hosting it one day at the UN and a second day at an FBO.

Select recommendations include:

  • Support UN agencies and other governmental entities in developing and implementing FBO-engagement strategies;
  • Create spaces for learning across UN – FBO spaces to foster mutual knowledge about faith/religious dynamics and international development;
  • Explore nexus of the human rights framework and FBO – UN and governmental partnerships (with particular attention to gender (and sexuality) equity and norms, religious freedom and protection of minorities).
  • Increase religious literacy within UN agencies and governmental entities to support the above goals.


There is growing recognition in the international development and humanitarian community that religions play a critical moral, social, and political role in human development. The collective resources they bring to the table (human, financial and spiritual) require study and honest appreciation from all working to serve these same communities. Many UN organizations are now partnering with faith-based or faith-inspired service-delivery non-governmental organizations, as well as local faith communities and religious leaders. However, these forms of engagement and the challenges inherent in them demand attention. Moreover, the various means of outreach need to be collectively reviewed and considered.

The Strategic Learning Exchange brings together staff from across UN (and governmental) entities who have experience working with FBOs and/or religious communities in the course of their respective work at policy and programmatic levels to achieve the SDGs.

The purpose of the Strategic Learning Exchange is to explore the linkages between faith and the continuum of humanitarian to development and peace and security work,

and to discuss the why and how of partnerships and collaboration between the UN system (including intergovernmental entities and governments) with faith-based organizations and local faith communities (including religious leaders), with a view to realizing the SDGs.

Several key faith-based organizational representatives and resource persons reflected on their experiences partnering with UN entities (including policy advisers, Program Officers), in service delivery, advocacy and capacity building. Participants were expected to bring their expertise on the linkages between religion and SDGs, including the issues of conflict and peace building, security, education, health (including HIV/AIDS and SRHR), gender equality, environment, and climate change.


Further information on PaRD

If you would like to learn more about PaRD, please access How PaRD Works, read our mission statementpartnership principles, and visit our World Map. You can also find out about our members and partners, or download our introductory presentation.