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

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. (all laughing) 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, (mumbles) 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. (clapping)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *