KAICIID Secretary General Bin Muaammar to Co-Chair the Faith Advisory Council of the United Nations Interagency Taskforce on Religion and Development
At a meeting in New York, KAICIID Secretary General Faisal Bin Muaammar was elected co-chair of the Faith-Based Advisory Council for the United Nations Interagency Taskforce on Religion and Development. His Excellency Bin Muaammar will co-chair the Council together with Ms. Tarja Kantola, Chair of Finn Church Aid’s Board of Directors. The Council met in the UN Office for the Baha’i International Community in New York to discuss how faith-based organizations and religious actors can contribute to the realization of Agenda 2030.
The UN Interagency Taskforce was formed in 2010 as a mechanism to generate more learned and systematic knowledge about faith-based engagement around the development and peace building agenda of the United Nations. In 2018, the UN Taskforce and over 50 of the faith-based partners agreed to develop an Advisory Council, whose responsibility is to provide strategic advice to the UN Taskforce in order to strengthen collaboration and engagement with faith-based entities, and to focus on the representation of religion in building and sustaining peace.
The Council’s membership comprises representatives of community-based organizations on the grassroots level, the national level, and the international level. They shared their recommendations and discussed foreseen challenges in the context of how the Council’s collective efforts can be streamlined to contribute to the achievement of Agenda 2030.
At the meeting, members discussed the disconnection between the world of faith-based organizations and Agenda 2030. There was a consensus that international organizations like KAICIID are in a position to bring together faith-based institutions and religious actors to work towards sustainable development, and more particularly, sustainable peace in the context of SDG 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development...”
KAICIID Secretary General Faisal Bin Muaammar framed the challenge, starting with the idea that interreligious dialogue frightens many people: “We have witnessed over the past ten years, the misuse of religion and politics. But how can we bridge the gap? With 84% of the world’s population being set in religious beliefs, it is crucial to bring them to the dialogue table. The challenge for us is in the process of how we build trust between institutions, religious leaders, and individuals; and to connect them with policy makers.”
He went on to describe the reality of the situation, highlighting the importance of engaging religious leaders, and the tremendous opportunity for a paradigm shift, overcoming the fear of interreligious dialogue: “Religious leaders move the public when they hold a microphone and give speeches… they can do a lot with their influence. We should see religious leaders and actors as part of the solution and not part of the problem, because only then can we truly work together towards promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.”
The Council agrees that it is particularly important to work with religious leaders to translate the message of the SDGs to one that is culturally and faith-sensitive, to help religious communities relate to and better understand the SDGs – hence gaining their buy-in, support, and collaboration. Institutionalizing the Council in the form of a formal body under the UN umbrella is a critical step to reimagining multilateralism and enhancing inclusion.
KAICIID has a unique structure that enables it to be a convener for religious actors and policy makers. On one hand, its Council of Parties is comprised of its founding member states Austria, Saudi Arabia, and Spain, with the Holy See as a Founding Observer, while its Board of Directors is comprised of religious leaders from five major world religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism). Bridging the gap between religious actors and policy makers is not only at the top of the Centre’s priorities, but it is imbedded in its structure. Bringing this collaboration model to the UN level makes it even more concrete; it is vital to the success of the global community that religious actors have a place at the dialogue table on all levels, particularly within the United Nations.