NEW YORK, Jul 22 (IPS) – Professor Azza Karam is Secretary General of Religions for Peace UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres believes that “our solidarity based on human rights and the human dignity of all underscores the crucial role of religious leaders in our communities and beyond. ”He cited previous public health crises, including HIV / AIDS and Ebola, noting how spiritual leadership has been of a positive value advantage, attitudes and community actions The United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF) ended on July 15. Another HLPF, another set of statements, and commitments and concerns expressed by governments.
All of this is besieged by the combined pandemics of institutional and systemic failures, increasing violence, global warming that has already led to the deaths of species and humans, and of course, Covid-19 and shame. that only the rich get vaccinated.
And the results of this High Level Political Forum?
Not the dramatic changes that our planetary existence calls for. Not even the radical introspection on each of the governance and civic responsibilities witnessed by various humanitarian and human rights disasters in almost every corner of the world. In fact, the HLPF, like so many other summits and consultations between and among governments, ended with the same thing.
But who am I to challenge or hold accountable? What did I do to try to make a difference?
I ask myself this question as a human being, as a citizen, as a woman, as a person of faith, like many other things. But more importantly, as someone elected to serve the world’s largest multi-faith leadership and grassroots organization. I ask as a person who has dedicated over 30 years studying and working in and on the intersections of religion with international development, democratization, governance and human rights.
Remember when good governance and democratization were buzzwords? Remember when human rights were not just what the United States tried to claim to be essential to its foreign policy, as it aided and encouraged the same regimes and groups that generously abused them, and fought for the triumph of liberalism over communism (who wasn’t supposed to care about any of these ideals)?
Remember when NGOs sprouted on the left, right and center, ostensibly committed to achieving good governance, human rights and the realization of democracy, so that proposals to donor entities for international development and of foreign policy abound with “building” and “strengthening civil society”?
And remember the days when ‘truth and reconciliation’ was what South Africa’s bloodless transition from apartheid to democracy represented (as opposed to the painful upheavals we see in the same country and across the country? most countries in the world)?
Remember those days?
Can we claim, with a straight face – let alone with data to back it up – that we now have a world where human rights, democracy and good governance reign supreme – or even reign at all in most parts of the world?
If we can say that, the entire agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) before them, and countless treaties, conventions, agreements, resolutions, not to mention the NGOs, academic centers and disciplines, policy think tanks, evidence collectors and research reams, etc., could have been a little pointless – to say the least?
Unless, of course, we maintain that democracy and good governance were not meant to ensure a world where all forms of inequality and inequity, where war and violence, where epidemics and a pandemic were rife. ?
In the last decade in particular, we have started to hear more about the importance of religion, engagement with religious leaders and the added value of work and faith-based organizations in terms of community reach, moral status, confidence building, conflict mediation and peacemaking, social service delivery (such as health care, education, nutrition) and humanitarian assistance.
From the pandemic, we are now hearing how places of worship and large public health infrastructure are so essential to the Covid response and vaccination (or lack thereof). Multiple global, regional and national initiatives, within and around the United Nations, regional intergovernmental organizations and bodies, governments, networks, projects, academics and NGOs, are now sprouting in all corners of the world, all of them. professing to have some connection with religion or faith or interfaith.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, democracy, good governance and human rights almost became a business issue, with donors competing to fund initiatives and create theirs.
Beneficiary NGOs and projects – some of them growing in record time with the support of governments with questionable histories of democracy and respect for human rights – have clashed to seek funding from sources governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental.
Millions of dollars have been donated and spent. Duplication of effort – each claiming to be unique – has become the norm. A new global NGO elite emerged, who got used to meeting at different conferences in different locations, accumulating air miles as they traveled around the world, offering their wisdom, sharing their “lessons learned”, highlighting their respective initiatives and “approaches” as well as their ideologies.
Members of this democracy and human rights community lamented the lack of political will to recognize their unique and necessary added value, the growing normality of democratic abuses, the lack of “correct” policies leading to a reinforcing authoritarianism and conflicts, and in general passionately decrying the lack of resources to help their work.
Some of these civil society initiatives clashed fiercely, sometimes under a thin veneer of collaboration and partnership, and even actively undermined each other. Some of these actors have compiled and denounced human rights violations in regimes and countries, while themselves grappling with similar violations in their own organizations, institutions and networks.
Many demanded accountability, when they themselves were among the least responsible. Few, if any, gave of their own resources to support each other’s initiatives, even when working for the same goals, in the same communities, with the same people. It was everyone’s – usually – their own.
The need for visibility of the respective organization, network or initiative has become more important and determining than the absolute necessity of the collective struggle for democracy and human rights.
Does this sound familiar to you? It should.
Because denominational and faith-inspired actors, or religion, in various forms, are in vogue today, in the same way that democracy, good governance and human rights were in the years. 90. And what happens in the areas of religion, religious engagement, confessional activities (whatever the nomenclature), strangely resembles the above scenarios.
And the catastrophe is that it continues to happen in the midst of a global pandemic that is expected to radically transform our every thought and action.
In today’s geopolitical reality where authoritarianism and insecurity reign amid a collapsing planetary infrastructure, the human rights and good governance sector is clearly on the verge of bankruptcy. . Religions and beliefs are the sacred realms of most people in the world. None of us can afford the bankruptcy of the sacred.
If Covid does not push us to dive deep into moving beyond all the excuses that keep us from working together, regardless of the differences between and among our faiths or organizations or races or genders, to serve all, together, then we are looking straight. in the abyss of this particular hell – which we are helping to create.
© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service