The G20 Interfaith Forum in Buenos Aires: Religious Perspectives for the 2018 Global Agenda

– I am Katherine Marshall, welcome to the Berkley Center. Berkley Center, despite the location is a part of Georgetown University, 12 years old. It reports directly to the president of the university and is a very multi-disciplinary organization. Also, welcome to the World Faiths Development Dialogue,

Which is a small NGO that is housed here, and that was born in an improbable location, which is the World Bank, and is now approaching its 20th anniversary, so we are very happy to welcome all of you here. I’m going to do a very short introduction, basically saying what this is all about.

And then, we’ll pass it to the panel who will give brief comments and then we’ll have a conversation and we’ll go on. So I’ll introduce the panel when I finish with this. Next week, there is an ambitious meeting taking place in Buenos Aires, which is the G20 Interfaith Forum.

And it’s one of many global efforts to try to bring religious voices into discussions about international policy. The basic idea is to have religious institutions, religious ideas at the table. And one of our classic comments is, if you’re not at the table, you end up on the menu.

So that the basic idea though, is to see which religious voices, which tables, and how should they be represented. So, this particular effort is focused on the G20, which started in 2008, with the initially, primarily, as an economic advisory body but has evolved and expanded over time.

One of the features of the G20 is that the tone and the agenda are set by the host country which shifts every year from one country to another. So last year, it was in Germany, and it was very much a Merkel agenda. This year, it is in Argentina,

So it’s very much an Argentine agenda, led by the Argentine government. There’s no permanent G20 secretariat. And then, next year it’s Japan. And the following year, 2020, it will be in Saudi Arabia. So one of the questions is, are the pros. What is the advantage of focusing on the G20

For the efforts that we as speaking from religious perspectives are looking at. It’s a channel for focus and influence. Another feature is that it’s quite flexible. In other words, you don’t have some of the rigidity of the United Nations systems and conventions, et cetera. The disadvantages are that it’s flexible

And also that there is an enormous competition for ideas that’s taking place, so it’s not a virgin field where you can just go and have an influence on the G20 leaders, you really need to have a strategy. So, the question, which religious voices on which agendas.

One of the efforts I’ve been part of the organizing group for the G20 this year, and for the past several years, is to have a network of networks, which is the foundation for the legitimacy of the voice of the forum. In other words, it’s not just the people there,

It’s the networks that lie behind them. Another feature, and that’s very important is strong links to the host government communities, in this case, of course, Argentina, and of course, one feature of Argentina is that the Pope is an Argentine, and therefore, there are a lot of personal relationships

And history that go into the Vatican as well as other relationships. Rabbi Skorka who knows this very well was here last week at Georgetown. He will not be at the forum, but others will. So the aim is to ensure that the recommendations that come out reflect both sound analysis

And broad consultation, in other words, it’s not just off the top of your head. Another feature is that we know very well that religious communities often disagree. The idea that there is a single religious voice is frankly a nonsense. So one of the objectives is to make sure that the religious voice presented

Includes a respect for difference of views and for dialogue, both among religious communities but also between religious and secular communities. Broadly, for the 2018, the most logical entry point has been wide concerns about social cohesion. And that includes populism and the threats of nationalism, but also extremism, obviously,

All of which are of concern to religious groups. So very briefly, this is the fifth forum. It’s a very ambitious meeting with a rich agenda. It’s all on the website now. These forums have become increasingly focused and ambitious over time. It was originally quite academic with a religious liberty focus

But it’s not much broader. Relates to the agenda set by the host country as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. And it’s gone from invisibility, nobody knew about it, to increasing visibility and the International Shinto Foundation this year has provided substantial support to increase the visibility. So this meeting is being videotaped

And the footage we hope will be useful for the forum itself. So it’s an evolving and an ambitious initiative, which you can find on the website, and I would also add that Georgetown and WFDD’s roles have grown over time. So the questions for us here, which shall be put to the panel,

Are the possible impact on leaders of well-crafted proposals and effective communication, how to build on the network of religious networks, how to link to the other engagement groups, we’ve particularly focused on what’s called the T20, which I will not ask you to guess what that means.

It is the network, the engagement group of think tanks, which is a very dynamic, but you also have the C20, B20, L20, W20, Y20 and S20, and this, now is the I20, the Interfaith. So some specific topics and themes that are emerging are the preferential option for the poor,

What does that mean, children, violence, modern slavery, and also work, education, food security and health. So that’s just a brief sort of preview of what this is all about, and now we are absolutely delighted today to have a wonderful group. Unfortunately, David Moore, the acting deputy administrator

Of USAID can’t come to Buenos Aires. My understanding is that you’ve given a priority to the United Nations General Assembly. (laughing) – He meets the needs. (all laughing) – But he has a long background, particularly in law. He was a professor at Brigham Young University Law School,

Where, by the way, I am going tomorrow morning, very early. He is now, I think, very keenly interested in these issues of what’s religion got to do with it and what do we do with that? So, I would also introduce Kirsten Evans,

Who I think you, what, are a week on the job then? Roughly, (laughing), as the head of the office in USAID that works with faith communities, so we’re delighted to welcome you here, I think for the first time, perhaps. – Thank you very much. – Here. Ambassador Cynthia Hotton is the Argentine representative

At the OAS, and I’m happy to say she will be going to Buenos Aires, as will Kirsten. So we have two people who are very much a part of the forum and finally, my colleague, John Monahan is the senior advisor to the president of Georgetown University, especially in calling the health issues.

But he covers many others, and he also has a very long and distinguished career that include public service, academia, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So we will just invite each of you to speak. You can speak from the table, or you can speak from the podium, as you wish,

With, hopefully, with the microphone. And I know you will have to leave at some point. – Right. – Early on, but we’ll just keep an eye on the time. – From the mic, I’m gonna ask Ashley, my assistant to see if we can scoot back, ’cause I apologize that we arrived late.

So I wanted to thank Katherine for hosting this event. It’s an honor to be with you here. I wish I were going to be with the group in Buenos Aires next week, but I have attended two of the interfaith forums, so I was in Istanbul and Beijing,

And very personally supportive of the work that the forum is engaged in, and the effort to bring religious voices to the G20 and to the important policy discussions that occur there. I missed last year’s because of this job, I’ll miss this year’s because of this job,

But that is not to be taken as a sign that USA is not onboard with the principles that motivate the forum. And I wanna focus my remarks today on explaining how the USA shares the principles that motivate the forum and its efforts. The Interfaith Forum recognizes the importance

Of religious freedom, of religious organizations, of religious harmony to go with priorities including economic development and we share that perspective. At USA, we believe that the purpose of foreign assistance, which is our main focus is to end the need for foreign assistance. Now, we don’t say that because we don’t want to help

Our friends, but because we believe in the inherent dignity of every human being. Where we believe that every country, or community, every individual wants to be empowered to lead its own future, and so we focus on and speak of the journey to self reliance

And believe that when a country’s willing to take the, make the hard choices, invest the efforts that it takes to progress on that journey, we should be there at its side. As part of that approach, this journey to self reliance, we focus on helping partner countries strengthen capacities and policies

That experience tells us are necessary for a country to reach self reliance, to become, to stable in the long term and ultimately to enjoy prosperity. And among the critical foundations along that journey, is freedom of religion, as this administration has emphasized and as we recognize at USAID.

We recognize that freedom of religious is key to peace and stability, it’s a cornerstone to citizen responsive governance, which is what we try to produce in our democracy work. It’s a key, not only to economic development writ large, but particularly to inclusive development and to the rule of law.

And, of course, it’s intertwined with so many other aspects of democratic societies, so many other freedoms like the freedom of association, the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly. So we see religious freedom as a key, both goal of development and cornerstone of development. And we’re painfully aware that when religious freedom

Is absent, development suffers. One very unfortunate and recent example, and it’s an extreme one, admittedly, but it’s a real one, is the situation in northern Iraq, where we saw ISIS wage genocide against Christians, Yazidis, other vulnerable populations there. And where we see that after the area has been liberated,

Formerly by ISIS, much work remains to be done, particularly with these religious and other minority communities. A significant focus for us right now has been investing in, not only infrastructure development, the sort of things you might suspect are important to allowing people to return after a genocide and the sort of destruction

That occurred in the wake of ISIS, but also, we’re looking at issues that are particular to vulnerable communities. How, what entices or what allows a vulnerable community to want to return voluntarily to an area where this sort of genocide occurred? ‘Cause it’s not just, obviously, providing water and schools and infrastructure,

There are deeper issues there, and issues, obviously, that tie into this principle of religious freedom. So again, I want to emphasize that religious freedom is a development goal, it’s also a foundation for our development work. In addition, we recognize tremendous power of religious and religious organizations

To drive development, obviously this fits very well with the goal of the Interfaith Forum to bring religious voices to the table on these global issues, including economic development. So we see firsthand, for example, the power of faith based initiatives to deflate the appeal of violent extremism.

We work with faith leaders because they tend to be pivotal leaders in their community, they can be promoters of peace, tolerance, justice, they can be, lead some of the entities that are the first to remember the poor and marginalized in communities. And even more practically speaking, we work with these entities because,

Whether it’s in our development assistance or our humanitarian assistance, we need to reach corners and communities in the world where governments cannot effectively go, or have chosen not to go. We need to be able to touch and reach people who have been left behind or forgotten,

And in many settings, that means that partnering with communities of faith is not just the best way to reach these vulnerable populations or forgotten populations, it’s the only way to do so. And faith based partners offer a particularly rich avenue for doing that because they are often uniquely trusted

By these communities, they could harness networks, really, networks of networks, right, but certainly in country, that’s the principle, right, that these religious leaders have networks on the ground that can be mobilized to assist with development efforts and to provide insights that otherwise might be missing.

So let me just give you a couple of examples where USAID has been doing this sort of work in the Central African Republic, with our Interfaith Peace Building Partnership, which is a consortium of five actors, led by Catholic Relief Services. It brings together organizations that represent Catholics, Muslims and Protestants

To help overcome sustained political instability and intermittent armed conflict. So we’re working with these entities to strengthen the capacity of global institutions, to generate secure livelihoods and to provide healing and peace education, and in many of these programs, religious leaders take a part. They are local influencers.

They provide motivation to communities to want to find lasting peaceful solutions. Another example, another group we are proud to partner with is Food for the Hungry in Ethiopia, where we, Food for the Hungry has engaged local religious leaders to help promote things like better hygiene, maternal and child health, including access

To nutritious foods, clean water, et cetera. And this work has reached about half a million people with food aid, so just another example. There are so many we could cite of the great work that faith based organizations do, and so recognizing their practical impact is so critical that their voices be included

As we think about the challenges the G20 tries to address. At AID, recognizing these benefits, we are constantly looking to expand our work with faith based organizations, as one recent example, in June we signed a memorandum of understanding with Malteser International, to coordinate country and regional activities

In the Americas, the Middle East and Africa. As many of you know, Malteser represents the Order of Malta in the United States, and is one of the largest Catholic relief organizations. In all these efforts, I wanna highlight, we seek to ensure that faith based organizations have equal opportunity to compete for USAID assistance

And contracts and so we have a regulation that makes clear that religious organizations are eligible on the same basis as any other organization to participate in USAID programs, for which they would otherwise qualify. It’s been kind of a process, generally, to get assistance or a grant, but it is key,

And this regulation ensures that it’s a matter of law, religious organizations are on the same footing in that effort, and we have those regulations, obviously, because we recognize the value of partnering with faith based community groups. Those regulations also ensure our commitment that faith based groups can play this role,

This partnering role, without surrendering their essential identities. So, it recognizes that partnering with USAID, for example, does not change hiring opportunities that a faith based, or priorities that a faith based organization might have. So, with that, just wanna conclude saying, as we look forward to the G20 Interfaith Summit next week,

We at USAID applaud these efforts, are keenly aware of what makes faith based groups such valuable partners, we’re keenly aware of the importance of religious freedom to development of the individuals and society, where we fully support the Forum’s goals of promoting religious freedom and focusing critical attention on the role

That religion and religious organizations play in development, so although I’ll be at UNGA and miss the Forum, I look forward to the lessons learned and the light that the Forum will shine on this critical link between religion and development. Thank you. – Thank you so much. Ambassador Hotton, next. – Thank you.

Well, first of all, I can say that it is a privilege to be here with you this morning. And also, because this is such a prestigious position for me, also, this is very important. And also because Argentina is going to welcome almost all of you next week, so I am very proud

To be part of this incredible country that is receiving many countries of the world to really spend time to find solutions, the best solutions that we can find in our difficult world, so only sometimes. So, well, maybe I would like to, oh. First of all, I’m sorry to correct,

But I’m not the ambassador, I am the second of that position of Argentina. Just a detail, but if I don’t correct, there’s a problem. It would be a problem. Okay, having said that, well, why I am here, because usually there are many actors that are directly involved in issues that have to be with religion, and I represent Argentina to the Organization of American States, but, well, personally I was really involved during my whole life,

In everything that has to with inter-religious dialogue, for example, Skorka, he’s a good friend, and we’ve met, we’ve done many many things together. But well, I am a diplomat, but in the moment, what I’ve seen that religious freedom was also respected in Argentina. There were little details that were not taken into account,

So I decided to participate with politics, and I became a national congresswoman, the first evangelical congresswoman in Argentina. That was really hard because it’s a Catholic country and we didn’t have evangelicals, so it was very hard in my community because usually they would say, don’t enter into politics,

And if it was a woman, worse. But, I’d also for the rest, for the media, is like what, you’re evangelical. So, and also, the problem is that I wanted to be vote in issues that had to be religion, so even if I was in politic, I wanted to do,

But in the, through the, under the umbrella of politic, but freedom. And I’m not going to tell you now the details, but it was maybe for you, interesting to know, but if you have questions I can tell you more about that, is that I presented the bill in Argentina

That was for freedom and equality in religion. And at that moment, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires was Bergoglio,, the actual pope. And you know, the idea, when we talk about religious freedom and equality, it’s not that we want to be, if there is an importance in culture

Or for a church that it’s the major church, it’s not that there is some competition. We don’t want to compete, we want the same rights, and the rights have to be equal for everybody, so it’s not a competition between different churches. It’s like we need the same umbrella to prevent us,

To kinda enjoy our freedom in religion. That include freedom of belief, conscious, and everything, you know. So the first thing I did, is I went to see him. And then we started a very good relationships, I could tell you many details, but that’s not the point of this conversation.

But the first thing I did is went to see him, and I told him, I need the support of the Catholic church, because if you don’t understand that this is for everybody, it was going to be interpreted as it is a competition, or that the new churches

Want to compete with the Catholic Church. And I don’t want that, so if you don’t understand, in fact, the meaning of this bill, I will not present it, because it’s not the evangelicals against. And so after, he said, leave me this, it was a huge bill, not just

A couple of articles, 37 articles. And after a month, he called me and he said, “I cannot disagree.” So the Catholic Church promoted with, also the Jewish, Muslims, all that, this particular bill, and well, at the last moment, because it went positively in many committees,

But at the last moment, after three years of debate, they started with the debate on abortion and gay marriage and so that made not very important to still continue in the debate of religious freedom, so that is why it stopped, but now the present government

Is promoting again, the same bill, with some alterations. So it is now under debate and in the congress. And well, now as a diplomat, I am here at the OAS, and I’ve heard about this contact group, for religious freedom and belief, and of course, I am so involved with this

That I’ve asked my government, really to be part. And in this is, yes, something that I want to tell you, is that we are thinking about an umbrella for our region, so that is why now we are thinking, the OAS, the Organization of American States, that we would need some, maybe inter-American convention

On religious freedom because as you may know, in the other regions of the world, it would be harder to think of this possibility. But America in general, and also in Latin American countries, if you think about it, there is not much conflict in religious freedom, between religions, it’s not like in Asia

Or in other regions of the world. So you think, is that so important, to have this umbrella convention or to be sure that in each country the religious freedom is respected. If you see the, sorry, we look young but we, First up, we see that the 17th annual report

Of the US Commission of International Religious Freedom, there are only two countries from Latin America that are mentioned there, it’s Cuba and Mexico. And still, it is not the countries that are most concerned. There are some, of course, Cuba, you can say, of course, before it was really hard to practice

Freely of religion, but now it’s going better, but there is still some deterioration in the conditions of religious freedom due to, there are short term detentions and some threats to churches, some expropriation, and some destruction of particular properties. But this has to do with the idea of the control of the government

To what is going on with the society. They want to moniterate or limit the church’s influence into the society. Now, in the case of Mexico, it’s not something that is in the national realm, but it’s mostly in some communities, some provinces, so we could say that the problem

That we could have in Mexico are more communal at the communal level, where, for example, the majority religion, the Catholic Church, would be, but it’s more like how they live in that community, their faith, for example, they will do a special event, activity or all that, and they would impose

To the minority religions that they have to pay or participate in special events, and if they don’t they will go and maybe burn the churches or some houses, but it’s really particular cases. It’s not something that is more promoted by the government. So these are, these two cases that are mentioned

In the annual report, but unfortunately, now there are two countries that are having huge problems with religious freedom and also that are, that the churches, or I would say the religious actors are now not respected, and these are Nicaragua and Venezuela. Such it is that US Special Ambassador

For the religious freedom, Ambassador Brownback, went for the first time to the Organization of American States, the permanent council, and it was the first time that in that organization we would talk about religious freedom. So the first time, I was so happy, personally, because, I’m going to, I’ll explain that later,

But and so, what, and he came to talk about these, of course, to talk about the possibility of all the countries to participate at the G20 and sorry, the Interfaith Forum, because you have the ministerial here the United States, in July, it was. But he mentioned that the United States

Is really concerned about what is going on in Nicaragua and in Venezuela, because first of all, the two countries, the two governments, started with the religious leaders to respect them as mediators for the dialogue, and you have mentioned that is very important. But then they realized that they wouldn’t

Directly respond to their will, but really they were representing mostly the needs of the population, so they’ve started to really impose some violence directly to those leaders or to some communities that are more important in this. So really, what we see is that in those two countries,

What is happening is that when you do not respect religious freedom, may believe that you don’t respect many others human rights. So you have so many human rights that are not as respected, one of them is religious freedom. Maybe it’s not the most seen or followed

By the countries, but still it is happening. And if we think about what the religious organizations are doing in those countries, and you know a lot what is happening there, inside the country, for family, I would talk especially in Venezuela. Inside the country, the only humanitarian help

That they would receive is through the religious communities and ONGs, because the government doesn’t know to receive any help from any country. So the only organization, the PAHO, the Pan-American Health Organization, is the only one that can introduce that dialogue, can enter into the country and help in health,

Because the crisis in health is terrible. Yesterday, we received some report at the OAS and 80% of the hospitals are not working. For example, in Argentina, we have received so many doctors from Venezuela, they leave the countries. And stayed their countries, so there are no doctors and the diseases are increasing because

They do not receive the medicine, they don’t want to open the route to receive medication or food, and so what they’ll do is organizations, these religion organization called, faith based organizations, is that they can receive. The debate is if they will do that or not,

Because they can only receive that through the government. So is the government that is also helping them to distribute, so it’s a way of reinforce the support to the government of Maduro or the regime. But still, they know that Caritas, for example, they are doing an incredible job there,

But what they said, and many of them came to Washington, D.C. telling us, we are doing the best we can, but the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is so huge that it’s not enough. Even if we were work all together, and you want to send food and medicine through us,

You won’t solve that such a humanitarian problem. And, I can tell you more details, but the last thing I would explain is that in the region, you have all the borders of Venezuela, you can imagine that in this, during these five years, they are, there are 2.6 million

Of Venezuelans in our region that had migrated and we are countries that are not prepared to receive so many migrants, and so what we have now, it’s the huge crisis in the borders of Venezuela, with Colombia, with Ecuador, with Brazil is terrible, and those, and there you have all these

Faith based communities that are helping. We receive a lot of help from the United States that cannot enter into Venezuela, but they can work in the borders, mostly with about Colombia, Vice President Pence was there. And but also, in our countries, because the migrants are going everywhere,

And for somebody in Argentina, I have calls from many pastors that are calling me, “We have so many Venezuelans in our churches.” And the churches are receiving them, helping them with houses, work, we try to find work for all these people, so there is a huge network that is working and it’s mostly

With faith based organizations that contain support it. So this is an idea of what is going on in our region, specifically in Latin American countries, and also, I think that it is important for you to know that this is the really, the first time that the Organization of American States

Is thinking about something, that it is important to think about in the human rights agenda that we have to include religious freedom, right, because it is not till now, thank you. – Let me say a couple things. First off, I’ve had the privilege, over the course of my career, both working domestically

And internationally, domestically both for reform programs, refugee resettlement programs in the United States, early childhood programs, access to affordable medical care, to be working with faith based organizations here, like the Catholic church, the evangelical community. And they’re an indispensable part of how our country responds to human needs.

And when I worked internationally at the State Department, and represented the US in a political role for the Fight AIDS, TB and malaria, working with the president’s emergency plan for AIDS relief, all those, both of those programs include faith based communities both in the support for their initiatives, as the USAID is continuing

To be a central part of that agenda, and in country, because I think the practical reality is that many parts of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, faith based communities are backed by a health delivery system, so I’m absolutely committed and think that the vision of faith communities

Is central to health and development both in the United States and abroad, it’s critical. I guess I’d say a couple things just thinking ahead for this G20. The first point is that I think, while obviously the issues of religious freedom are important. I think the faith community is at its most powerful

When it speaks in a common moral voice about who’s been excluded and expands our, what I think of as our moral perimeter, so whether it’s in your community or your nation or the world, it’s not them, it’s not competition and it’s not people who aren’t religious.

In fact, it’s all of, that’s why we share our common human dignity, which the pope talks about as well, and the great religious traditions do. And so I think that’s an opportunity for this interfaith group to be that common voice of a broad moral perimeter, and every community throughout the world.

It can be a voice for the people whose human rights are being violated, whether it’s the right to religious faith or a human right as a person of color or as a woman or as an LGBTQ person, anybody who has been excluded or marginalized in any organization.

So that’s, I think that’s just a great opportunity for an organization like that to be that common force. Two, is it seems to me that the G20, and thanks to our colleagues from Argentina, there’s a terrific opportunity. They’ve, at least in the health space, I don’t pretend to know the full breadth

Of the things that USAID ideas work. But the decision to continue the health minister’s track as part of the G20 that started last year in Berlin, the minister has laid out a very ambitious agenda including anti-microbial resistance, health system strengthening, universal health coverage, combating pandemics, it’s a huge opportunity.

If you think about faith communities are so intimately involved in health care everywhere in the world. Everyone of those issues is critical. In fact, we here at the, Katherine, not myself, but Katherine and our colleagues here at the Berkley Center work with a network of Catholic health delivery systems, I just think there’s a huge opportunity here on that track, and then looking ahead to next year, if the, I think the Argentinian presidency is clearly building on the work from Germany. Next year it’s in Japan, Japan has been a leader in universal health coverage as a global priority

And I just think this could be a terrific opportunity, I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes out on this (mumbles) in October. And then the last, sort of the third thought I had, is maybe this gets back to the inclusion idea, is the theme of this G20 is broadly,

How do we bring more people into this prosperity, how do you, so how do we figure out how to deal with, acknowledge it, and then rapidly change the world, and I think here’s a place where health is central to vote and to work. If we want to succeed in the modern economy,

We need healthy workers. That’s true in all what the president an important agenda, opioids for example here, I think this is a major issue both abroad and also to fulfill the agenda that Washington has put out, and I think also deals with attrition. I think that fits within the attrition agenda,

And fits within this broader full agenda, and again some exciting linkages, and I think we had this argument’s been well positioned. That’s clear, so those are just a few thoughts. I just think broad, moral vision is a huge opportunity for this group. Second is why the crack what we’ve got,

The experience like of the health cribe. And then, participating in this broader debates (mumbles). – So, I will try to brief also and in order to open the floor up to questions. I was asked by the center if I could make a few comments in following of Deputy Administrator Moore’s comments

About the larger, 30,000 foot vision of USAID’s space to talk more specifically about what my office does. Specifically within the agency, and what our folks or expectations are for the G20 Interfaith Summit next week, so to give you a sense of what we do,

I am in the office for the Center for the Interfaith and Opportunity Initiatives. We are an office that was founded in 2002 under the Bush administration imitative for the Executive Order for the integration of a faith based and small community initiative strategy across the federal government at large

And the work that we do. And today, we are part of an overall national strategy on religious leaders, faith based community engagement. Which is encouraging US government officials to develop and deepen their relationships with religious leaders and faith communities as they carry out, in the case of USAID, foreign policy responsibilities.

Under this administration, there’s three foreign policy objectives that are specific to engaging religious actors, and they are, as Deputy Administrator mentioned the advancing of pluralism and human rights, including the protection of religious freedom, the promotion of sustainable development, and more effective humanitarian assistance, and the prevention and resolution of violent conflict

And contributing to local and regional stability and security. And as you can see USAID is deeply involved in all three of those objectives in the engagement of religious actors. So the role of the Center for Faith and Opportunity initiatives is to provide the practical support and assistance to the administrator, USAID, to staff

And to our field missions, in our mission countries around the world in order to implement this strategy of faith based engagement. Faith based communities, as we’ve mentioned, are integral to USAID’s success in the field. Across the globe, religious leaders in faith communities make significant contributions to sustainable development

To the promotion and protection of human rights, to conflict mitigation and resolution. There’s not a field office or a bureau or a area expert at USAID that would not tell you the practical importance of working with small community initiatives and faith based organizations on the ground. Religious leaders and religious communities

In the countries where we implement our programming are often the most trusted members of those communities, and they’re able to reach populations where the United States government or large multi-lateral organizations or multinational organizations are not able to reach. Religious leaders are authorities that can localize followers using faith inspired language, where

Our values overlap and coincide. And in order to achieve development and humanitarian objectives. They can provide justification for action, for peace, for pursuit of social goods in a way that large foreign entities or international actors are not able to speak to a local community with the same closeness or trust.

They’re frequently better position to target the poorest or the most marginalized and the least accessible members of their own societies. And are better positioned to know the most effective ways to do that than we are from the outside. And as I mentioned, they’re uniquely positioned to counter extremism by offering peace,

Reconciliation, universal human rights initiatives, often times under those banners of religious affiliations that speak to the local community. The work that we do at USAID is we are in many ways dependent on the interfaith and faith based community network around the world. One half of the work in health and education in

Sub-Saharan Africa is done by various churches or faith based communities, one half, and not just what USAID is involved in, but for sub-Sahara Africa, as a whole, one half of all the educational and health initiatives in that continent are run by church based or local community based organizations.

So, our office operates on the premise that religion can increase the effectiveness and the impact of development programming, not really doing per se, but working with faith based entities, can increase the development. The effectiveness and impact of development programming. So how do we operate practically within our office?

We do that with I’d say two views. One is a view towards our partners on the ground. So our responsibility is to find ways to provide bridges for these local communities in the area, to be able to connect with USAID to understand our mission and to understand the process

By which they can become partners. As Administrator Moore mentioned, it’s a very competitive process, and a lot of these smaller organizations are from the get go intimidated by the process and are not entirely well equipped to be able to navigate and manage the complexities of competing for grants and funding

From a large international organization and so our office is to help to give them the tools and the toolkit to be able to do that more effectively from where they are. And to eliminate any barriers encountered for them. We seek to level the playing field for these communities, making partnerships with USAID

Possible for these groups, and we also have a glance toward the local community as well. We seek to convey faith based community groups to catalyze new opportunities and to be a voice for innovative partnerships, new programming designs, a wider strategic thinking and strategic vision on how to increasingly engage public private

Charitable partnerships in order to achieve shared development goals. In the words of President George W. Bush, and I quote him because he’s the founder of this initiative, the faith based initiative, Governments cannot be replaced by charities, but can issue welcome and its partners. We must head the growing consensus in America

That successful government social programs work in fruitful partnership with community serving the faith based organizations, and at USAID we take that philosophy just within the United States, but we take that into the field with us. Very quickly, I’ll mention some things that we do not do

In order to debunk common myths about faith based engagement by the United States government but since pardoned by the USAID in the international space. We do not favor one religious community of faith over any other, that’s a common myth. We promote partnership with people of all faiths,

As well as small community based organizations that are not necessarily associated with a particular religious affiliation or culture but are developed or grass roots initiatives out of particular communities. Faith based organizations who receive federal funding must be willing to serve people of all faith and any government programming services that you provide,

So we mandate that that funding be non-discriminatory in the programming that’s offered. Organizations who receive federal funds cannot discriminate against who they serve. Faith based communities do not get preferential treatment is another myth, or consideration over other organizations. I mentioned that we’re here to level the playing field.

That does not mean we’re here to tilt the playing field, right, we’re here to level the playing field. What we wanna do is give these communities the ability to compete against some of the larger, more equipped local development organizations that are out there. We are not here to give them an undue advantage

Over those organizations but to give them the tools to be able to compete in the marketplace for funding. USAID does not discriminate for or against any religious organizations in the competition for USAID grants and funding. You are neither at a benefit or at a loss because you are a faith based organization

When you come to us in the competition for funding. Or receiving funding. Another myth is that we do not fund religious promotion and activities through faith based organizations. So, USAID is very careful to respect the establishment clause in our engagement with the international community, and in fact we safeguard and administer the same

Standards of the establishment clause, that there should be no law respecting an establishment of religion or compendium free exercise of religion. That’s obviously a constitutional principal that is directed towards the governance of the United States, but we take that same principle and we apply it with an equal measure in our engagement

In the international world. That means that we do not fund explicitly religious activities that’s worship, religious instruction, proselytization, and we ask from many of our organizing partners that all government funds must be utilized for a secular purpose. Religious activities that they may offer need to be done separately in both time and location

For USAID funded services. That does not mean these organizations can’t maintain their religious identity because of course they can, but we do safeguard that any American taxpayer dollar that is going to help fund these organizations that that money arrives to programming that is not specifically religious in nature.

That is humanitarian nature or is meeting our development needs. The programs we fund cannot endorse or disapprove of any religion, they may not result in any government indoctrination of religion, they may not define recipients by reference to religion, and they may not create an excessive entitlement of religion, and again those are principles

Again of the constitutional establishment clause within the United States and we aim to apply them at as even a hand as we can in the international community. So finally our expectations for the G20 Interfaith Summit, it’s not the first time that we have participated in the Summit. And so I’ll say very simply,

I’ve three simple expectations that came to mind. First of all, the first is to come with the hope of a position of leadership. We like to demonstrate the American commitment to the ongoing American to the engagement of the interfaith community in shared pursuit of human rights and global development goals.

A posture I think as well of humility. Right, we come to learn. And these type of events create an unprecedented environment in which to cross pollinate and share ideas and understand best practices and understand in a deeper way the experience of our partners around the world.

And then finally, we come with a hope of a position of innovations, to reach the sustainable developing goals of global communities to harness creative energy, enterprise innovation, seeking new paradigms and new models through technology, business partnerships, creative program design. The goal of low assistance is to end the need for it,

And this is perhaps one of the most important charges in human history, and one that deserves the best of the world’s creativity and its innovation. So we hope this will to come with the intention to keep thinking out of the box in global development solutions worldwide. Thank you. – So thank you all.

Let’s thank all of our panel, but also all of you for your attentive commitment and really, we are in a position of humility and of enormous curiosity, and recognizing that this G20 challenge is an enormously complex one, it is approaching really the global stage, and issues affecting both

Individual countries but also the world from a moral perspective. I think John’s comment is extremely apt of the moral perimeter that I think is really what we’re trying to accomplish. And it’s a very ambitious meeting that’s happening next week, delighted to have all your perspectives on it, and look forward to continuing journey.

So thank you all so much.

#G20 #Interfaith #Forum #Buenos #Aires #Religious #Perspectives #Global #Agenda

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