Values and Religion

Sarah Hugo-Hamman, Schöpfungsmythologie

A commissioned piece of Sarah Hugo-Hamman on the meaning of values, religion and sustainable development.

Climate change, increasing numbers of refugees, population growth, violent conflicts and an ever wider gulf between rich and poor – in order to tackle the enormous challenges of our age, we need a clear understanding of the issues involved. Crucially, however, we also need to promote a culture of cooperation rooted in open debate about shared values. In the interests of all stakeholders, development policy should not be subordinated to short-term calculations or the interests of particular donors or beneficiaries.

Religions can play an important role in this context. Religious values influence the way most people think and act, including in those countries with which Germany has established development cooperation partnerships. To date, however, there has been no systematic attempt to incorporate religion into development policy. There has been scant recognition of the contributions made by religious actors to development – in many cases long before any official intervention. We are generally much more aware of the way religion is abused than of its potential to promote positive values.

It is for this reason that the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) established the programme Values, Religion and Development. The programme is implemented by GIZ and aims to integrate religion more systematically into development policy. Broadly speaking, this involves acquiring greater expertise in order to deal with the subject more effectively, and recognising and harnessing the potential of religion as a way of increasing the effectiveness of German development cooperation.