09 June 2010

What is the Role of Faith in Development?

The events of the past 2-3 years should have re-focused the development community's attention on ethics, faith and morality. The Global Financial Crisis has made a few of us turn our attention again to the values underlying the global economic system. Climate change has highlighted the purpose of consumption int he rich countries, and has forced us to consider tradeoffs between our consumption opportunities and those of future generations.

In this spirit, the Re-imagining Development Initiative held a roundtable last week with 6 leaders of international faith based organisations based in the UK . It was a fascinating meeting. Three things emerged during the course of the afternoon:

1. these faith based organisations clearly felt that trust in outsiders is vital if outsiders are going to have any traction, and that being identified as "faith based" is very helpful in establishing such trust quickly--even across faiths.

2. the organisations are actively questioning the very nature of progress. For example, CAFOD, Tearfund and Theos are involved in a project considering Human Flourishing in development which will be launched in the Autumn. Here is one background paper from Bath University on this issue.

3. they feel they have a lot to contribute to the current debate about the effectiveness of aid. Through their strong local connections and trust dividends they think they can contribute a lot to assessing impact--both in terms of defining impact from the recipient perspective and in terms of getting feedback on what is and is not working.

The ideas from this roundtable will be more fully reported back to this group and will influence the Reimagining Development Report due out later in the year.

Also later in the year is the Development Studies Association Annual Conference (November 5, in Church House, Westminster, London). The theme is Values, Ethics and Morality. There are already some terrific sessions lined up, including:

* Morality of the Media
* Implications of Religious Beliefs for Development Thinking, Policy and Practice
* Behaviours of Emerging and Non-Traditional Donors
* The Politics of Happiness
* Multinationals and Equitable Sustainable Development

For more information contact the Executive Director, Frances Hill, at admin@devstud.org.uk

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