Religious official, Ghulam Jelani, in front of bookshelf. Balkh province, Afghanistan

Evaluating successful measures

Nothing is more persuasive and credible than good practice, and we have an ethical obligation to ensure our actions match our words. Religious organisations (ROs) involved in development cooperation often carry out useful work before any intervention by official development agencies and NGOs. They are active in an extremely wide range of areas, focusing primarily on the fields of education, peace and security, health, the environment and emergency aid. The work of ROs is characterised by long-term cooperation with local people and by the establishment of lasting relationships based on trust through local partner communities. In authoritarian states, ROs are usually the only effective manifestations of civil society.

Successful cooperation presupposes commitment, sensitivity, openness and respect – values that are typically espoused by religious communities. However, religion can sometimes have a negative impact on development rather than a positive one. It is often misused as a means of legitimising domination and exploitation. For this reason, we need to be clear whether, under what circumstances and for what reasons religions either contribute to or hamper development.

In highlighting examples of successful partnerships between development cooperation agencies and religious organisations, we can strengthen the role of cooperative approaches based on shared values while increasing our knowledge of different religions and learning how to deal more professionally with religious actors and issues.