BGR and the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD)
By Tom Spies
I recently represented BGR at the annual meeting of the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) held on November 12-15, 2017, at Wilton Park, UK.
PaRD was established in February 2016 and brings together governmental and intergovernmental entities with civil society organizations such as religious and value-driven organizations to harness the positive impact of religion and values in sustainable development and humanitarian assistance. BGR applied for and became a Partner in PaRD in late 2016 as a means of gaining exposure and because of the tangential mission of the organization.
PaRD governance currently lies with its Members who are governmental and intergovernmental entities active in the fields of religion, development, and humanitarian assistance. It is being funded by USAID for approximately the next year, and by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) for the 18 months after U.S. funding ceases.
PaRD Partners such as BGR, are civil society and non-governmental organizations such as religious and value-driven organizations, secular NGOs, community initiatives, foundations, and academic institutions.
The PaRD Secretariat supports the Members and Partners in implementing the goals of PaRD and its annual working program. It maintains the website, coordinates the annual and semi-annual meeting, and provides the administrative support for the organization. The Secretariat's offices are located in Bonn and Berlin.
PaRD's areas of interest are the UN-led Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) also known as "Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development". Of the seventeen SDG's on the agenda, PaRD is currently focusing on three:
- SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being
- SDG 5: Gender Equality
- SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Three workstream task groups have been formed within PaRD, one for each SDG. Each workstream is led by one governmental Member, one intergovernmental Member, and two Partners. Numerous Partners commit to contribute to each workstream, and BGR has signed on to assist with the Gender Equality workstream, since many of our projects focus on the empowerment of women and girls.
Within each workstream, PaRD Members and Partners have agreed to jointly implement activities in the following areas of cooperation:
- Knowledge sharing and learning exchange
- Networking and dialogue
- Capacity building, and
- Policy advice
Accordingly, activities include, but are not limited to, conducting training on religious literacy, piloting projects with global partners, compiling and making existing literature accessible, as well as collaborating on policy briefs and discussion papers.
The three-day conference included presentations and discussions on: knowledge sharing tools currently available on the PaRD website to members and partners; negotiation/ mediation/facilitating practices; PaRD governance and how to ensure a structure that achieves its goals; Partners’ presentations on their current projects and tools that could be of value to PaRD's mission; availability of physical mapping of areas of engagement; and PaRD involvement in the G20 process. There were also workstream breakout sessions as well as presentation of workstream progress reports.
An underlying message PaRD participants received during the conference from the various UN representatives in attendance was that there is already an enormous amount of work being done by the UN in mapping and identifying areas of crisis, surveying, compiling statistics, as well as the provision of relief in these crisis areas. PaRD should not re-create the wheel. Where the UN needs PaRD’s help is in the area of prevention. PaRD partners can bring effective best practices for prevention that the UN may not be aware of. PaRD should advocate at the governmental level, and it should work to change cultural norms and practices which deter health, gender equality, and peace and prosperity at both the national and local levels. Faith leaders have a strong potential to influence the lives and behaviors of those who follow their faiths, and can be the agents of this change.
Tom Spies is the Executive Director of Buddhist Global Relief.