UN AGENCIES APPRECIATE WORKING WITH FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS

The last few years have led to a reassessment of the role of faith in development efforts. The influence of religion is rising in most parts of the developing world. This, in turn, has increased the role of faith-based organizations (FBOs) in development and public life. Because of their deep ties to local communities, their partnerships with powerful religious institutions and FBOs, and their role as cultural influencers, religious leaders (RLs) have also become key stakeholders in development efforts.” – United Nations Development Program Draft Guidelines for Working with Faith-Based Organizations.

Mary Jo FBO articleMany UN Agencies and Permanent Missions have recognized and value the fact that local grassroots communities trust religious NGOs. Religious NGOs are known for efforts to listen and learn from the people they serve; that is why they can act as intermediaries of change for the better in a variety of issues. They find effective ways to educate children, especially girls, in rural and marginal areas. As with many other NGOs they are known for being able to operate “on a shoestring” and are often supported and subsidized by the international faith community. Providing food and shelter is not enough; building the capacity to develop potential in those that they serve is essential, so that leadership soon springs from the population served. The following qualities are recognized by agencies as qualities evidenced by religious NGOs:

  • Long-term sustainable presence: Religious institutions are generally very sustainable. They build and are a crucial repository of long-term social ties.
  • Motivated voluntary service: Religious have a high level of commitment. They motivate action through emphasis on compassion and service; unity and interconnectedness; justice and reconciliation. They see volunteering as part of their calling.

Encouragement of civil society advocacy: FBOs and RLs have extensive networks of congregations, affiliates, organizations, and individuals. These horizontally and vertically organized networks often constitute remarkable channels of communication as well as human and financial resources. These large national constituencies offer the potential to work powerfully in advocacy and reconciliation.

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