Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Government Guidelines on Partnership with Faith Groups

The Department for International Development has just published guidelines on partnership working with faith groups. It's a mercifully brief and well-written document, some snippets reproduced below.

The issues in development parallel those faced within the UK as well. The document recognises the role of faith groups in relief, development, education, health etc., but also that faith can give rise to conflict. DFiD identifies 3 principles for working in partnership
 - Transparency - that faith groups are open about their goals and priorities
 - Mutual respect - everyone recognises what others bring to the table
 - Understanding  - the role faith groups play in development.

It also recognises several issues that need to be wrestled with to make the partnerships as effective as possible.

It's an encouraging read, not least for the stories of effective work between our government and relief agencies. I'm glad that at least one government department is functioning as it should, even if the rest of it resembles a drunkard on rollerblades. It also strikes me that nearly all of the document could apply to partnership working in the UK, which is pretty patchy, and faces a lot of the same challenges.

Faith groups are doing excellent work in providing not only humanitarian relief, but delivering health, education and other services in some of the most troubled parts of the world. They are making a real difference to countless lives. The work of governments alone will never be enough. For lasting change, states must fully engage with a range of civil society organisations. I recognise the unique contribution of faith groups in both delivering development and connecting with communities in the UK and abroad, particularly those that are marginalised or can’t be reached by other means. (from the introduction by Andrew Mitchell, International Development Secretary)

Tearfund analysed the costs and benefits of the DFID funded disaster risk reduction programme implemented by Presbyterian Church in 53 remote villages of Mzimba District, Malawi. The study found that for each dollar invested, there was a positive return of 24 dollars to the community. The return of investment reflected increase in crop production, increases in small livestock production, reduced education drop-out rates and reduced mortality.
In 2010

Challenge: Many development organisations have avoided the issue of faith and religion and its contribution to development. Many development agencies were heavily influenced by a Western tradition that draws a sharp distinction between religion and the state. Religion and faith has sometimes been regarded as a barrier to development and inherently contentious. Faith groups are sometimes excluded by development agencies and believe that when they are allowed in, they have to "leave their faith at the door". This estrangement however is not just one-sided. Some faith leaders typically see themselves as the defenders of traditional moral values amid the onslaught of a secular and materialistic world - and some want to have ‘nothing to do with official donors’ or with other faiths.

Press release here, (see God and Politics for some quotes from itand it's encouraging to look at the headlines in the DFiD Annual Report, published on Monday. I'm proud to be part of a country which has got emergency food aid to 6m people, given out 12m anti-malaria nets, and helped over 5m children into primary school.

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