Scandinavian ministerial meeting on religion, climate and aid

This past week, Scandinavian Ministers for Development Aid met to share their views on the relevance of religion in international development cooperation and to listen to the experiences of faith-based civil society organisations. A concrete idea to link the climate issue with religion and religious actors was launched.

SMC Faith in Development coordinates the Swedish network Knowledge Forum for Religion and Development, which also has its counterparts in Norway and Denmark. The goal of the networks’ work is to make international efforts more effective and sustainable through a better understanding of the role of religion in development.

-We believe that greater religious literacy is needed among both politicians and us in civil society. Therefore, it was good that we could meet at ministerial level to learn from the different countries’ way of working,” says Petter Jakobsson, who is SMC’s representative in the Knowledge Forum,which also includes PMU,ACT Church of Sweden, Islamic Relief and Diakonia.

Unexpected inputs and sustainable results

Act Church of Sweden and PMU talked about good results from their cooperation with religious actors. For example, they dealt with how religiously motivated arguments helped to combat genital mutilation in Kenya. Others highlighted the stability that comes from involving churches and other communities in order for disaster relief to lead to sustainable development and peace (so-called triple-nexus issues).

The climate and the pandemic are common challenges that were highlighted in the meeting and that require more than technical solutions. The Swedish Minister for Development Aid said that we need a ‘spiritual recovery’.

– Religious actors can also contribute to the climate transition through a holistic approach to creation and the sustainable human. The fact that a large majority of the world’s population also identifies as religious enables broad mobilization among the grassroots in civil society, said Charlotta Norrby, Secretary General of SMC, during the meeting.

Proposals for cooperation for the UN conference

She encouraged more joint initiatives and therefore proposed that the Nordic Foreign Ministries and civil society organisations jointly highlight the opportunities that come from linking the environment, climate and religious literacy at next year’s UN conference on environment and climate, Stockholm+50. The proposal was received with interest and SMC will continue to work on the idea.