We asked her how religion can be an asset and partner in making more room for civil society and sustainable development.

– Many religious actors have strong advantages to take into consideration. One is that they work on a grass root level which gives them good credibility. Often they have access to places which the state or civil society does not reach because of hostilities. Another quality is their ability to create safe spaces for dialogue where they can foster exchange and build coalitions.

Nabiela Farouq points out that the work of faith based organisations and religious actors is somewhat different from civil society organizations’.

– Religion is very personal and has an identity building factor. People have a different connection to what religious authorities will tell them compared to civil society actors.

Within the work of PaRD it is important that all partners respect the universal human rights standards.

– This is the prerequisite to begin with but the key is to always be open for dialogue and exchange so that mutual partnerships can be fostered. PaRD has a great role in facilitating these processes.

Cooperation between religious actors and civil society organisations or governments is nothing new, but there is always room for improvement says Nabiela Farouq:

– As much as we all need to work on our religious literacy, there is a need for developmental literacy among religious actors like churches or mosques that are new to the frame of development cooperation. A kind of mutual knowledge-process is important.

It was in the spirit of mutual knowledge that PaRD was established in February 2016.

– We want to harness the positive impact of religion and values for sustainable development. The aim is to have networks of governmental entities, intergovernmental entities and civil society, faith based and value driven organisations as well as academia based on a partnership working on a common goal, says Nabiela Farouq.

With such a broad range of actors in the network, PaRD is able to work both with policy and the project and programming side of international development.

– The fields where PaRD sees its main strengths are knowledge sharing and learning exchange between the members and partners; networking and dialogue; capacity building; policy advice and monitoring and evaluation, says Nabiela Farouq.

PaRD concentrates its work to three workstreams connected to the goals of Agenda 2030. They are goal 3: Good health and wellbeinggoal 5: Gender equality and goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions.

World map of PaRD's work in progress

World map of PaRD’s work in progress

Every workstream has representation from both members (governmental and intergovernmental organisations) and partners (faith based and civil society organisations) within PaRD to ensure a balanced input from all parties. Their progress can be followed from PaRD’s webpage where a world map reflects the members’ and partners’ work, engagement and tools in use. The map facilitates cooperation and knowledge sharing.

The Swedish international development agency, Sida, was present at the preparatory meetings and at the launch of PaRD. They have since had to take a step back because of lack of resources.

– We would welcome them to take a more active role because we see that there is great potential where a lot of the work that we focus, like gender empowerment, is already in the focus of Sida. So there are already connecting dots. The question is how to link topics and make a new idea possible to follow up.

The Swedish Mission Council looks forward to becoming a partner of PaRD’s network and contributing with its experience of working with religion for development. This is a mission with many diverse and interesting partners which you can read more about in our anthology from 2016.