Freedom and Development? Religious Actors, Freedom of Belief and Religion, and Sustainable Development


  • About 80% of the world's population professes a religion. In many countries, religious actors play a major role in development, e.g. education and the satisfaction of basic needs. At the same time, freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) seems to be increasingly restricted and "religious" conflicts seem to be on the rise. We contribute to the international discussion how religion, and in particular FoRB, affects the Sustainable Development Goals. The project will provide policy recommendations with regard to potential religious partners in development cooperation.
    BMZ, 2020-2023

    Head

    Prof. Dr. Matthias Basedau

    Director of the GIGA Institute for African Affairs / Editor GIGA Focus Africa


    Research Questions

    Specific questions are:

    - To what extent are religious communities actors for sustainable development - and do they contribute as civil society organisations to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
    - To what extent do freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) and sustainable development strengthen each other? Is the achievement of one component a prerequisite for the achievement of the other?
    - What framework conditions need to be met with regard to FoRB in order for religious actors to engage in sustainable development? To what extent is a high level of FoRB a prerequisite for religious actors to engage in sustainable development?
    - To what extent is the participation of religious or other social groups subject to the same restrictions as the participation of civil society actors (keyword "shrinking spaces")?
    - How can religious actors contribute to achieving sustainable development? When do they hinder sustainable development?
    - How can religious actors contribute to strengthening FoRB? When do they inhibit FoRB?
    - What are the conclusions for development policy (DP) and cooperation (DC)?

    Contribution to International Research

    We contribute to the international discussion how religion, and in particular the freedom of religion or belief, affects several selected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). The project will particularly provide policy recommendations with regard to potential religious partners in development cooperation.
    The goals of the 2030 Agenda and the strengthening of freedom of religion or belief will hardly be achievable without the participation of religious communities that share the values of German development cooperation. They represent an important part of civil societies and often enjoy a high level of trust among the population. At the same time, where religion is part of the problem, it must also be part of the solution. The degree of FoRB has an impact on the work of religious communities. It is therefore necessary to examine these complex relationships in more detail and to derive corresponding recommendations for action for German governmental development cooperation.
    The main subject of the departmental research project is therefore to investigate the complex relationship between FoRB and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). It also aims at identifying religious actors and religious communities as agents of sustainable development in a number of pertinent country cases in Africa and Asia.

    Research Design and Methods

    The project addresses the above outlined question in three modules. Module 1 uses global disaggregated datasets to examine the links between FoRB and important SDGs such as health, education, democracy, peace, gender equality and climate protection. Module 2 maps religious actors in selected countries of the Global South (probably Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, India, Indonesia and Sudan). Module 3 develops compact position papers based on the findings of the other two modules and provides additional advisory services on an ongoing basis.

    Preliminary Findings

    The project started in late autumn 2020. With the exception of preliminary findings on Eritrea, no results are available yet.

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