SDGS Summit 2023 inspires faith, hope and transformative action

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Photo: Members of the Trilateral Partnership, organizers, and speakers.

Arigatou International, with partners, convened again at the Baha’i International Community (BIC) in New York City this past September. The high-level event, held in conjunction with the annual United Nations General Assembly, focused on the vital role religious organizations and their leaders play in not only forwarding an agenda of hope but in helping to drive transformative action to accelerate progress toward the 2030 agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Arigatou International was honored to be one of the organizers along with the Trilateral Partnership and regional faith-based networks for the SDGs from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean, in cooperation with ACT Alliance, the Baha’i International Community (BIC), the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD), Religions for Peace and World Vision International.

The Trilateral Partnership of Regional Faith-Based Networks for the SDGs recognizes the profound impact of inter-religious cooperation and joined forces to engage with the SDG Summit 2023 and the ongoing review of the 2030 Agenda. Our collective mission is to inspire faith and hope, promote moral and spiritual imperatives, and advocate at the highest level for transformative action.

We commend stakeholders’ significant progress to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We stand with the global community in our commitment to deliver essential services, uphold human rights and dignity, and serve the diverse needs of communities representing various religions, faiths, and beliefs.

Despite the complex challenges governments, duty-bearers, and civil society face in achieving the SDGs, we are alarmed that, eight years after adopting the 2030 Agenda, the world remains at risk of failing to meet these targets. Low-income countries (LICs) are especially burdened with eradicating extreme poverty and hunger (SDGs 1 and 2).

The Sustainable Development Report 2023, released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), warns of a widening gap in SDG outcomes between low-income countries (LICs) and high-income countries (HICs) by 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic, the relentless impact of climate change, and a growing number of protracted and forgotten crises further threaten development gains.

In the face of these challenges, we emphasize the need to foster faith and hope, embrace moral and spiritual imperatives, and pursue the SDGs with unwavering purpose and resilience. Recognizing the power of interreligious cooperation, the Trilateral Partnership of Regional Faith-Based Networks for the SDGs, spanning Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean, serves as a catalyst for faith-based engagement with the 2030 Agenda.

Faith communities and faith-based organizations (FBOs) are deeply rooted in local communities, with a unique reach to people living in poverty, information deficiency, and vulnerability to disasters and climate change. FBOs support such people through their development, humanitarian activities, community leadership, and spiritual support.

Call to Action 

In this context, the Trilateral Partnership, representing a broad South-South constituency of FBOs, religious leaders, and faith communities in diverse contexts, provides a vital faith-based perspective to the global pursuit of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda, particularly for the most vulnerable communities.

We call upon all governments, duty-bearers, and stakeholders to: 

1. Uphold the Leave No One Behind (LNOB) principle in the complex path towards achieving the SDGs. We call on governments to ensure equitable development, especially for marginalized populations in vulnerable contexts, including those affected by conflict, disasters, and climate change, as well as women, youth, and children of faith communities. 

2. We call on all stakeholders to create spaces for collaboration between secular and faith-based actors and for faith actors to collaborate with each other, developing multi-religious narratives and engagements for advancing the SDGs. It is essential to establish spaces of trust where all relevant development actors, both secular and faith-based, can collaborate, exchange insights and share information.

3. The 2023 Financing for Sustainable Development Report reveals that the demand for SDG financing is increasing, yet development financing is not keeping pace. We call on 

governments, donors, and multilateral organizations to address structural issues affecting the implementation of the SDGs, particularly the alignment of financing and technology transfer policies with economic, environmental, and social priorities. 

4. We call on all stakeholders to uphold the Whole-of-Society Approach and strengthen synergies between the 2030 Agenda and global frameworks such as the Paris Climate Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and Istanbul Principles on Development Effectiveness. 

5. We express our interest in bringing faith engagement towards the Summit of the Future, which holds the potential to breathe new life into the multilateral system and deliver on the promises of the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 2030 Agenda.

6. We call for more equitable and mutually empowering relationships between developed and developing countries. This is a prerequisite for effective multilateral policy-making processes, especially in climate financing, trade, and taxation.

Our Commitments to the SDGs

a. SDG 1 No Poverty: Targeted measures to eradicate poverty in all forms, emphasizing grassroots participation and ownership and taking full advantage of the mobilizing capacity, reach, and moral authority of faith actors within local communities. Specific measures also must address the rising number of children in poverty, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize the role of social and behavioral change in helping children and young people escape poverty and realize their full potential. 

b. SDG 2 Zero Hunger: Achieving the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food is expedited by supporting local agricultural practices, including indigenous knowledge systems, especially by women smallholder producers and family farmers, aided by appropriate technology that addresses the impacts of climate change and ecological harmony.

c. SDG 5 Gender Equality: Acknowledging that faith actors are pivotal in shaping and advancing values and norms, we commit to driving transformational and sustained progress toward gender equality and empowerment. We pledge to develop an approach for faith engagement on gender equality across diverse contexts, facilitating knowledge exchange, capacity building, and advocacy among faith actors and stakeholders. 

d. SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities: We target actions to bridge the digital divide, rectify poor social protection policies, and address unequal economic opportunities. These disparities, exacerbated in the Global South by the COVID-19 pandemic, require collective efforts to ensure inclusion, especially for women, youth, children, indigenous populations, migrants, refugees, and people with disabilities.

e. SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities: We support the multi-religious, multi-sectorial, and intergenerational Manresa 2022 Pact to create resilient, sustainable, safe, and inclusive cities. We aim to alleviate the effects of the social and environmental crises, especially on vulnerable populations. This involves reflecting on our consumption choices and taking action to combat pollution and address climate change. We are committed to advocating for these principles and working toward inclusive, sustainable cities for all. 

f. SDG 13 Climate Action: We commit to collaborating with governments and other stakeholders to combat climate change and its impacts urgently. This includes advocating for a Loss and Damage Fund, adequately funded based on the polluter-pays principle. It must comprehensively address non-economic losses and damages. We will continue to leverage religions’ commitment, influence, and moral authority to protect rainforests and reverse ecosystem degradation. 

g. SDG 16 Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions: Recognizing the spiritual wisdom and cultural resources of faith actors, we advocate for their integration into government efforts to build more just, equal, and peaceful societies. Our focus is on making public institutions accountable to people living in poverty. Simultaneously, we emphasize that the promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is a key contributor to achieving an inclusive and cohesive society that aligns with the Global Development Agenda. 
h. SDG 17 Partnership for the Goals: We pledge to enhance the impact of multi-stakeholder and multi-religious cooperation and partnerships in implementing the SDGs. This entails creating joint initiatives, knowledge sharing, and resource mobilization opportunities to foster a more effective and collaborative approach to achieving the SDGs

In conclusion, we commit to harnessing our collective resources for a more inclusive and cohesive society where faith and religion remain forces for good. We will collaborate with global faith and interfaith networks and organizations to address global inequities and work toward locally driven and decolonized development approaches. Through our work with local communities, we will continue to drive action alongside local actors, children, youth, and women, strengthening platforms to showcase the power of faith and hope in achieving sustainable and transformative development.

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