Africa: Coronavirus, Faith Leaders and Sustainable Development

press release

"The coronavirus has turned our world upside down. Countries, societies, families and individuals are affected in so many ways. In the midst of this global crisis we believe that this is also a time for innovation, for finding new and better ways to tackle our global challenges.

"We need new pathways for a just and speedy transition to sustainable development, a form of development that doesn't damage the natural world upon which we all depend for our survival.

"Innovative faith partnerships are one key to the realization of the 2030 Agenda. By bringing faith-based actors, civil society, government agencies, United Nations bodies, academia and private sector actors to the same table we are able to put Global Goal 17 [Partnerships] into action."

So says Josephine Sundqvist, Programme Manager Specialist at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and global coordinator of the People and Planet--Faith in the 2030 Agenda digital conference.

Across the world, hundreds of millions of people are in quarantine, in lockdown or self-isolating. Many are not able to be with their families. At the same time, thousands of churches, mosques and other places of worship are closed, with religious ceremonies and prayers switching to digital platforms.

A recent global event touched on this current reality and featured discussions focused on the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and biodiversity loss, and the role of moral duty bearers such as faith leaders and indigenous groups.

Organized by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Faith for Earth Initiative, in close collaboration with the Stockholm International Water Institute and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket), the meeting brought together 200 participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, South Africa and Sweden for an all-digital conference from 16 to 18 March 2020.

The Faith for Earth Initiative is a global coalition that highlights the need for interfaith collaboration to tackle the environmental crisis.

"The coronavirus pandemic is focusing hearts and minds, says the director of Faith for Earth, Iyad Abumoghli. "Faith for Earth is mobilizing youth, the leaders of faith-based organizations, as well as scientists and theologians to work together for innovative change to speed up sustainable development."

As the world's population heads towards 10 billion, and climate change is making weather patterns more unpredictable, access to fresh water, critical for sustaining all life and for health issues, including handwashing, is becoming a key issue.

"Water and faith groups have been set up to tackle water scarcity issues. Our partnership with Faith for Earth and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency has provided an excellent platform for reflecting the spiritual value of water in larger water management systems," says Katarina Veem, Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute.

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