Interfaith

An unusual meeting of bankers and believers

In Brief: 

Much of the Dialogue was devoted to an exchange of ideas. Among those points which received wide agreement were:

  • Development is a process that encompasses both the spiritual and the material aspects of life.
  • Personal change goes hand in hand with social change, and both must be viewed as central to collective progress.
  • Development must be guided by spiritual principles and values, and seek to promote quality of life and human dignity.
  • Successful development will promote family and community cohesion.
  • New measures of development, based on common criteria and shared principles, will be needed.
  • Corruption is a cancer that destroys trust and destabilizes the very foundations of society.

High-level representatives from nine major world religions meet with the president of the World Bank to discuss religion and development; a new factor in project assessment

LONDON - As the head of the world's largest economic development agency, James Wolfensohn is an extraordinarily busy man. Since becoming president of the World Bank some two and a half years ago, he has visited more than 60 countries, meeting with heads of state and government, top national banking officials and representatives from leading non-governmental organizations.

So it is in all respects exceptional that Mr. Wolfensohn spent nearly two days meeting with spiritual leaders from nine major world religions in February, exploring topics that are seemingly unrelated to international finance - such as how spiritual and material development are interrelated and how the Bank and the religions might forge a new relationship to help tackle the problems of global poverty.

"For a man like Wolfensohn, nothing is as important as his time," said Dr. Thomas Lachs, a former director of the Bank of Austria, who was at the meeting as a representative of the Reform Jewish community. "So I found it quite remarkable that he took two days for this conference, and consider it a sign of the importance he attaches to such things."

By all accounts, too, the meeting itself was quite extraordinary. Convened by Mr. Wolfensohn and the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, the event - known officially as the World Faiths and Development Dialogue - was held in London 18-19 February 1998 at the Archbishop's 800-year-old residence, Lambeth Palace. The gathering resulted in a series of ground-breaking ideas and initiatives that could significantly reshape the field of international economic development, say those who were involved.

"For the first time in contemporary economics, the role of religion in development was not just publicly acknowledged or even acclaimed, but brought into a partnership with one of the largest and, some would argue, most vociferously secular organizations in the world," said Martin Palmer, director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture (ICOREC), which played a key role in organizing the Dialogue. "The repercussions of this are that the economic world will have to take religion seriously - and vice versa." In particular, said participants, the meeting gave high-level endorsement to the idea that true development cannot take place without the proper consideration of spirituality in the lives of individuals and communities.

"What is clear is that what has come out of this meeting is that there is a unity between us. A unity of the concern for physical livelihood but also spiritual and cultural continuity"

- James Wolfensohn, President, World Bank

As Mr. Wolfensohn himself said in a closing statement: "What is clear is that what has come out of this meeting is that there is a unity between us. A unity of the concern for physical livelihood but also spiritual and cultural continuity and I think it is that which certainly I have found remarkable at this meeting. There has been a total meeting of minds in terms of this linkage."

High-Level Representation

The representatives of the world's religions themselves came from perhaps the highest level yet for such an interfaith conference. Included were leaders from the Bahá'í Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, and Taoism. Among them, they represented the religious traditions followed by an estimated 3 billion people.

On the Bank's side, Mr. Wolfensohn himself was the main representative. A former investment banker, Mr. Wolfensohn has during his tenure sought to create new directions for the Bank, which has come under criticism in recent years for, among other things, its emphasis on funding large projects that some development specialists say are disconnected from the needs of local people.

The Bank is the world's largest development funding agency. For fiscal year 1997, it loaned out US$19.1 billion to some 241 projects worldwide. An independent specialized agency of the United Nations, the Bank seeks to be the lender of last resort, providing capital to the poorest nations when no other sources exist.

Since taking office in June 1995, Mr. Wolfensohn has worked to widen the Bank's contacts with non-governmental organizations and other elements of civil society. "This has involved the Bank reaching out to various groups and dialoguing with them," said John Mitchell, a Bank official who was involved in planning the Dialogue. "This event is in some ways an explicit recognition that Mr. Wolfensohn feels religions are a major part of civil society. While the Bank has dialogued with them in piecemeal fashion, this event is also trying to systematically push the dialogue to a higher level - and to validate it."

According to Mr. Palmer and others, the impetus for this meeting grew out of a previous interfaith gathering, held in April-May 1995 at Windsor Palace. Co-sponsored by the World Wide Fund for Nature, among others, that meeting was known as the Summit on Religions and Conservation, and it sought to strengthen the then burgeoning collaboration between religions and the environmental movement by creating a new entity: the Alliance on Religions and Conservation (ARC).

A World Bank representative, Andrew Steer, participated in the Windsor meeting. As part of the follow-up process, Bank officials then began a dialogue with ARC and its members. Elements of the Lambeth agenda were set at a meeting last May in Washington at the Bank's headquarters, when a smaller group of religious leaders gathered to discuss ways the Bank could be more sensitive to local communities and alternative values.

Themes at Lambeth

The Lambeth event opened on Tuesday, 17 February, with a reception at Buckingham Palace, hosted by HRH the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who had also hosted the Windsor meeting.

The next morning at Lambeth, the official meeting, known as the World Faiths and Development Dialogue, began with a session entitled "understandings of 'development.' " During that session, the meaning of the terms "poverty," "prosperity," and "developed" were discussed, with an aim, according to the agenda, of understanding "how the gap between the present situation and the kind of societies to which we aspire" might be addressed.

The afternoon session focused on "criteria for development," in which themes relating to "participation," "sustainability," and "voice" were discussed, all in the context of how the faiths and development agencies like the Bank might cooperate to improve efforts in each area.

Among other things, it was generally agreed that development is a process that encompasses both the spiritual and the material aspects of life; that personal transformation goes hand in hand with social change and that both must be viewed as central to collective progress; and that development must be based on principles of sustainability, justice, consultation and participation.

Kiser Barnes, the lead Bahá'í representative, opened the session on "participation," offering some thoughts on the spiritual values that must undergird efforts to include the active participation of all in any development endeavor.

"Only development programs that are perceived as just and equitable can hope to engage the commitment of the people upon whom successful implementation ultimately depends," said Mr. Barnes, who holds the position of International Counsellor. "When people trust that all are protected by standards and assured of benefits, such virtues as honesty, the willingness to work and sacrifice, moderation, and a spirit of cooperation can flourish and combine to make possible the attainment of demanding collective goals."

On Thursday, 19 February, the meeting ended following a morning-long session during which the final details of an 11-point, 700-word statement on the outcome of the Dialogue were agreed upon. That statement, which was presented by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mr. Wolfensohn, made a number of significant and concrete proposals.

Most importantly perhaps, the Bank and the faiths agreed to continue to dialogue by setting up joint working groups to explore further themes of concern. Among the themes that will be considered by working groups are: community building; hunger and food security; environmental sustainability; preservation of cultural heritage (including sacred sites); violence and post-conflict reconstruction; education and social service delivery.

The final statement promised that the religious communities will be invited to "influence the thinking of the World Bank by participating in the studies and discussions embodied in the Bank's annual World Development Reports." A special effort will be made to get this input for the year 2000 report, which will focus on "understanding poverty."

"Until now, the main criterion in judging the success of development work has been economic growth," said Wendy Tyndale, a development specialist with the UK-based Christian Aid, who served as an advisor to Archbishop Carey in the planning of the Dialogue. "The criteria that the Faiths are suggesting focus more on the overall well-being of communities and people, of which a very important aspect is both spirituality and cultural identity. This came out of the meeting very strongly."

Representatives of each faith presented a paper giving their suggestions on the new criteria for development. These papers will later be published in a book. [See Perspective, page 2] Participants also committed themselves to "explore further opportunities for partnership" at the country level. Pilot projects are to be established between the Bank and the faiths, for example. Religious representatives are to be invited to speak at special staff training sessions to help Bank personnel learn more about religious beliefs and cultures.

A Comparison to Ecology

Beyond the specifics, many participants said the most significant aspect of the event was the fact of the meeting itself and its overarching idea that religion and spirituality must now be factored into even the most straightforward programs of economic development. This idea, they said, is likely to affect not just the World Bank, but also the entire international development agenda.

Dr. Lachs said he thought that the processes unleashed by the meeting could lead international development agencies like the World Bank to view the cultural and spiritual impact of development projects in much the same way that environmental considerations have come to be a factor in projects today.

"Thirty years ago, in development, nobody cared about ecology," said Dr. Lachs. "Today, the environmental impact of a project is a major issue. If we can do the same thing in the spiritual-cultural-values field, the impact on the non-economic lives of people will be tremendously important."

Wangari Mathaai of Kenya, founder of the Green Belt Movement, who was also at the Lambeth meeting, said she agrees that the meeting could signal the beginning of a major shift in the way development agencies regard religion and culture.

"In my region, the culture has been completely destroyed and is considered retrogressive and not helpful to development," said Ms. Mathaai. "It is possible to disempower people when you destroy their culture, and to make it very difficult for them to participate in development. So I am very happy to see development agencies recognize that a people without a culture is a people without direction and that the culture of a people and the things they value do matter very much."

Another emergent idea was that greater involvement of religious groups in official development efforts might become an antidote to the corruption that all too often accompanies the processes of development funding. "The moral authority of religious leaders is key in the campaign to promote good governance and transparency - which Wolfensohn passionately champions in view of the high price that corruption and waste exact on poor countries," said World Bank News, a Bank publication aimed at journalists.

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, Vice President Emeritus of the World Jewish Congress, who was present at both the Lambeth and Windsor meetings, said the interfaith nature of the meeting was especially important. And he suggested that, wherever possible, joint projects with the Bank should also be undertaken as interfaith ventures. "Projects should be managed not by one religious group but by a consortium of Faiths," said Rabbi Hertzberg.

Swami Vibudhesha Teertha, one of the principal Hindu representatives, said: "The significance of the meeting is not to be underestimated. This dialogue redefined poverty, prosperity and progress. A new atmosphere was created for new development activities which take into account the social, the environmental, and the spiritual."

World Faiths and Development Dialogue - CLOSING STATEMENT 

'Valuing Spirituality in Development' -
the Bahá'í International Community's statement to the World Faiths and Development Dialogue.


World Faiths and Development Dialogue Biographies

February 18-19, 1998
Lambeth Palace, London
(Biographies of Co-Chairs, Faith Participants and Observers, as supplied by the Lambeth Palace Press Office)

CO-CHAIRS
Archbishop of Canterbury

Dr. George Carey was enthroned as the 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury in April 1991. The Archbishop is primus inter pares among the Primates of the 70 million strong Anglican Community world-wide, and as such, is expected to maintain the unity of the Communion through bonds of affection and shared belief. He has a key role in relationships with other denominations and faiths not only within the United Kingdom, but throughout the world.

Dr Carey was ordained priest in 1963 and served parishes in London and Durham. He was a lecturer in theology in London and Nottingham and also served as the Principal of Trinity College in Bristol before becoming Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1987.

President of the World Bank Group

James D. Wolfensohn became President of the World Bank Group on June 1, 1995. He established his career as an international investment banker with parallel involvement in development issues and the global environment. As President of the World Bank he has taken the initiative in forming new strategic partnerships between the Bank and the governments it serves, the private sector, civil society, regional development banks and the United Nations. In 1996, together with the IMF, Mr. Wolfensohn initiated the multilateral debt relief proposal for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) to ease their debt burden. In order to improve the Bank's effectiveness in fighting poverty, and to meet the needs of a rapidly changing global economy, Mr. Wolfensohn has launched a major reform programme in the Bank - The Strategic Compact.

Prior to joining the Bank, Mr. Wolfensohn was President and Chief Executive Officer of James D. Wolfensohn Inc., his own investment firm set up in 1981. He was born in Australia and is a naturalised US citizen. In May 1995 he was awarded an Honorary Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution to the arts.

Bahá'ís

Kiser Barnes, representing the Bahá'í International Community. Mr Barnes, who holds the position of International Counsellor, is a member of the International Teaching Centre in Haifa, the body responsible for fostering and monitoring the propagation of the Bahá'í teachings throughout the world. He is a citizen of the United States of America and an attorney. For many years he taught the Law of Corporations and International Economic Law at universities in the Republic of Benin, Togo, and Nigeria, before relocating to Israel in l993.

Accompanying Mr. Barnes will be Lawrence Arturo, Director of the Bahá'í International Office of the Environment in New York City and Bahá'í Representative to the United Nations on environmental and development issues.

BUDDHISTS

Nambaryn Enkhbayar, Leader of the Minority in the Parliament of Mongolia, a Member of the Parliament and Chairman of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. Former Minister of Culture, he continues to work on religious and cultural issues through his involvement with UNESCO and as President of Mongolia's National Commission of Museums. He is also working closely with Indian Ambassador Sri Kushok Bakula, who, among Mongolians, is a highly respected Buddhist Lama.

Accompanied by Sulak Sivaraksa, who is a social activist and founder of small economy model developments in Thailand. He has been particularly involved in the 'Spirit in Education' movement and the 'Alternative to Consumerism' network which seeks to combat consumerist values and promote spiritually-based development. Winner of the 1995 Right Livelihood Award, he is a writer, traveller and speaker.

CHRISTIANITY - ORTHODOX

Metropolitan John of Pergamon, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Formerly Professor of Theology at Glasgow University and Kings College, London, he is a key figure in major ecumenical dialogues between the Orthodox Church and the other main Christian traditions. He is a leading theologian in the area of 'Orthodoxy and Ecology' and he has played a central role in making the Orthodox Church one of the most active religious communities involved with development and environmental issues.

Archimandrite Feofan (secular name Ivan Andreyevich Ashurkov) is the Deputy Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. He is also the rector of the Holy Trinity Church in Khoroshevo, Moscow. He graduated from the Moscow Theological Academy in 1976 and was sent to the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem. From 1984 to 1987 he was a secretary of the Russian Orthodox Church Exarchate of Central and South America. In 1989 he was appointed Exarch of the Patriarch of Moscow at the Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa and Rector of the Alexander Nevsky Church in Alexandria, Egypt where he remained until his appointment to the Moscow Patriarchate in 1993.

CHRISTIANITY - PROTESTANT

Dr. George Carey, The Archbishop of Canterbury - (see Co-Chairs)

Accompanying the Archbishop of Canterbury will be Wendy Tyndale, a development specialist with Christian Aid.

The Right Rev. Thomas Olmorijoi Laiser, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, the Arusha Diocese. Bishop Laiser was first elected Diocesan Bishop in 1986, also served as Synod President and as well as district and parish minister. He has represented the ELCT at a number of international conferences dealing with justice and development issues and is a member of the Maasai Tribe. He holds both a Bachelor of Divinity and a Master of Sacred Theology.

CHRISTIANITY - ROMAN CATHOLICS

His Eminence Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, President of The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, The Vatican. He was Secretary General of the French Episcopal Conference (1966-70), Archbishop of Marseilles (1970-84), appointed Cardinal (1970) and became International President of the Council for Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Church (1984 to present). Based at the Vatican, he oversees the international programme of the Catholic Church on issues related to justice and peace, such as ecology, development, and human rights.

Accompanied by Monsignor Diarmuid Martin, Secretary for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and by Columbian born, Father Sergio Bernal, S.J., Dean of the Faculty of Social Science at the Gregorian University, Rome.

HINDUS

Swami Vibudhesha Teertha, Head of the Sri Admar Mutt, Udipi, Karnataka, South India. He is a lifelong sannyasi, celibate monk, and one of twelve traditional acharyas, spiritual leaders, of the Madhva Sampradaya, established in the 11th century as one of the four great Vaishnava orders. So closely are they associated with the spiritual and physical well-being of India until the 1990s none of them were permitted to travel outside of India. Swami Vibudhesha is the only one so far to do so. He has within his sphere of influence hundreds of primary and secondary schools as well as whole villages and towns, and his spiritual authority is recognised throughout India.

Acharya Srivatsa Goswami, Head of the Sri Caitanya Prema Samsthana, in Vrindavan. His family of eminent scholars and spiritual leaders at Sri Radharamana Mandir, are directly descended from one of the original disciples of Sri Caitanya, the great religious reformer of the 16gh century, and have been among the leadership of the Bhakti (devotional) movement since. He is a leading figure in the Vaishnava tradition which is based around worship of Lord Krishna and, in particular, his manifestation or avatar, Krishna. He is also chief adviser to the Vrindavan Conservation Project and a trustee of Friends of Vrindavan. He is a leading figure in interfaith relations world-wide, working with groups such as the World Conference on Religion and Peace, and is a former visiting professor of Religious Studies at Harvard University.

JAINS

His Excellency Dr. L. M. Singhvi, Patron of the Institute of Jainology and a leading scholar of Jainism and of Vedic and Indic religions, and a prominent jurist, philosopher and parliamentarian. This institution has pioneered both scholarly studies and pragmatic environmental projects. Dr. Singhvi served as the Indian High Commissioner in London from 1990 to 1997 and has been keenly involved in both academic and practical programmes concerned with interfaith dialogue, the promotion of Indian and Vedic studies and with questions raised to/by religious communities about the secular status of India.

Professor Padmanabh S. Jaini, who is a trustee of the Institute of Jainology and Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of California at Berkley. He has served as a trustee of the UK-based International Sacred Literature Trust and currently is a member of its Editorial Board. Professor Jaini received his Ph.D. at the University of London and publishes in the field of Buddhist and Jaina doctrine. He participated in the 1995 Interfaith Dialogue on Jainism and Christianity held at the Vatican.

JEWS

Professor Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg (Conservative tradition), Vice President Emeritus of the World Jewish Congress. Former Professor of Humanities at Dartmouth, currently the Edgar Bronfman Professor of Humanities at New York University. He is one of the foremost scholars and writers on Judaism and he is often called upon by secular media to comment authoritatively on issues relating to Israel and Jewish values.

Professor Rabbi René Sirat (Orthodox tradition), Former Grand Rabbi of France, current Grand Rabbi of the Consistoire Central, Professor Emeritus and former Director of the Department of Near and Far Eastern Studies, University of Paris. Former President and permanent advisor to the Conference of European Rabbis. Founding President of the Hillel Academy and of the RACHI European University Institute.

Dr. Thomas Lachs (Reform tradition), former Board Member of the Bank of Austria and Head of the Foreign Affairs Department of the bank and, in this capacity, a past Alternate Governor for Austria at the International Monetary Fund. He currently serves as the Chair of the Board of the Jewish Museum of Vienna.

MUSLIMS

His Royal Highness Crown Prince El-Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan, 42nd generation direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad. In Jordan he has chaired the National Development Plan Committee and has established and directed the Islamic Scientific Academy, the Centre on Refugees, and the Centre for Educational Development. He also founded and co-chaired the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues whose final report he presented to the United Nations in 1987. Crown Prince Hassan has been active in facilitating interfaith dialogue in co-operation with the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Chambesy), the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (Vatican) and the Independent Commission of Christian Muslim Relations.

His Highness, The Aga Khan, the fourth Aga Khan since the foundation of the honorific title in 1817. The title denotes the spiritual leader or Imam of the Nizaris, the larger of the two main branches of Ismaili Shia community. The Ismailis and in particular the Aga Khan have developed a world-wide reputation for charity welfare and development work. In 1967 the current Aga Khan established the Aga Khan foundation specifically to promote such humanitarian and cultural work.

SIKHS

Sri Singh Sahib Manjit Singh, Jathedar of Anandpur, Punjab, India. President of the Sikh World Council. The Council of the Five Jathedars include the head priests of the five major centres of Sikhism and both spiritual and temporal leaders in Sikhism. The Jathedar has been instrumental in founding the Council in order to take seriously both the social and political realities of Sikhism in the Punjab and India but also the extensive Sikh diaspora around the world. He is also the moving inspiration behind the development of the Anandpur Development project - a project which is to design a sustainable, eco-friendly development in the ancient pilgrimage town of Anandpur.

Dr. Rajwant Singh, is a founding member of the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, a leading Sikh organisation in the United States. Dr. Singh is a past president of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and is a board member of the American Interfaith Network. He has been invited by President Bill Clinton to the White House for consultations as well as to represent Sikhism.

TAOISTS

Zhang Ji Yu, Vice-President, Vice Secretary General of the China Taoist Association at Bai Yun Guan, Beijing. Master Zhang is the 65th descendent of the Heavenly Master, Zhang Daoling, founder of the first Taoist school. Master Zhang is the chief editor of the periodical "China Taoism" and also is a member of the China Peoples Political Consultative Committee, the highest political advising body in China. Master Zhang has worked extensively with ARC and ICOREC on a project conserving China's Sacred Taoist Mountains.

Accompanied by Zhang Xun Mu, an academic researching Taoism at the Religious Research Center, an institute under the Religious Affairs Bureau of China. Mr. Zhang Xun Mu has worked on numerous occasions with the China Taoist Association which is the official body representing Taoism in China.

Also attending will be Tjalling Halbertsam, a Dutch national who has been working with Taoist groups in China to preserve seven major Taoist sacred mountains. He has been working with the China Taoist Association at the White Cloud Temple in Beijing on many international projects including the May '97 preliminary meetings at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY'S OFFICE

Andrew Purkis, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Secretary for Public Affairs. Dr. Purkis is the Archbishop's most senior adviser on the world outside the Church - Government and politics, royal family, industry and trade unions, and voluntary organisations. He is also the Archbishop's chief public relations strategist. His previous positions include National Director for the Council for the Protection of Rural England, and Head of Policy and subsequently Assistant Director for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. From 1974 to 1980 he served as a civil servant in Northern Ireland including a term as Private Secretary to the Permanent Under Secretary.

WORLD BANK

James D Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank Group - (see Co-Chairs).

Accompanying the President of the World Bank will be:

Ismail Serageldin, Vice-President for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development.

Andrew Rogerson, the World Bank's representative for the United Kingdom and Ireland. Most recently he was Country Director, based in Washington, for operations in Central Africa. From 1992 through 1994 he was manager of the Bank's regional office in Budapest, which focuses on welfare and financial sector reforms in Central Europe. In earlier assignments for the World Bank, he led project teams on the Maghreb, on India and Africa, and lived for three years in Burkina Faso. He holds degrees in economics from Cambridge University and the London School of Economics.

OTHER INVITEES:

Dr. Wangari Maathai - Well-known environmentalist and womens' rights activist, Maathai is the founder and moving spirit behind Kenya's Green Belt Movement, a highly successful grassroots environmental movement. She is Kenya's first female Ph.D. and Nairobi University's first woman professor.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, is a Hindu activist well known for her views on international development. She is Director of the Institute of Science, Technology and Ecology in Delhi.


World Faiths and Development Dialogue

February 18-19, 1998
Lambeth Palace, London

Closing Statement

Issued by Dr. George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Mr. James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, on behalf of the assembled representatives of the nine major world religions that gathered for the World Faiths and Development Dialogue 

  1. This has been a precious opportunity for frank and intensive dialogue between religious leaders and development experts drawn from nine of the world's religious faiths, and leading staff of the World Bank. We are profoundly grateful to all the participants. What has drawn us together is a deep moral concern for the future of human well-being and dignity. We cannot accept the suffering of so many millions of people around the world.
  2. We are strengthened in our conviction that the definition and practice of desirable development must have regard to spiritual, ethical, environmental, cultural and social considerations, if it is to be sustainable and contribute to the well-being of all, especially the poorest and weakest members of society.
  3. All participants in the Dialogue agreed that "well-being" must imply the elimination of the suffering caused by absolute material poverty whilst also recognising the importance of spiritual and cultural life. Our understanding of poverty and development has been widened and enriched by the exchange between the World Bank experts and the different faiths with their diverse interpretations of what it means to lead a fully human life.
  4. We believe that this dialogue has contributed to a deepening of the religious communities' understanding of how much benefit there is in being part of a discussion with such a wide circle of people working on development issues, and in particular having the opportunity to hear from people engaged from different perspectives, both religious and secular. It can only be in such a context of listening and speaking that real changes can be forthcoming. The challenge to all of us is how to pool our talents to overcome poverty as it has become defined for us through our discussions. We are particularly keen to start some more small scale and practical activities, which could act as models for future development.
  5. We have achieved an important consensus on the need for the World Bank and major religious communities to continue and develop this dialogue, to deepen our relationship with one another and to look forward to possible new ways of working together in the future at many different levels.

    Outcome

  6. For example, the religious communities will be invited to influence the thinking of the World Bank by participating in the studies and discussions embodied in the Bank's annual World Development Reports. This will be particularly appropriate and timely in relation to the year 2000 Report on Understanding Poverty.
  7. We shall establish joint working groups to explore together themes of concern such as: community building; hunger and food security; environmental sustainability; preservation of cultural heritage (including sacred sites); violence and post-conflict reconstruction; education and social service delivery, and we shall look at areas of joint research to further the analytical dialogue initiated by our discussion on criteria.
  8. The Bank desires to improve its staff's understanding of the main beliefs and contributions of the different religions of the countries in which they are working and will invite the participation of representatives from the world's faiths in Bank staff training programmes. Similarly, the religious communities wish to deepen their understanding of international development issues and the Bank will seek to help in this regard.
  9. The religious communities already contribute substantially to the design and implementation of several development programmes, significantly improving their effectiveness. We hope they will feel encouraged to explore further opportunities for partnership in this field, both bilaterally and on a multifaith basis. We encourage the stimulation of pilot projects to develop good practice at the initiative of the countries themselves and with the collaboration of the religious communities and with the full backing of the Bank.
  10. A light and flexible steering group will monitor and facilitate progress in these areas as well as preparing the future development of this work. They will oversee the publication of papers relating to this Dialogue.
  11. We invite religious faith communities, international agencies and governments throughout the world to support and participate in this continuing drive for better understanding between development agencies and world faiths in defining and delivering development programmes. We believe this will help improve the long-term well-being of all the world's people and safeguard the spiritual, moral, environmental and cultural resources on which they depend.
Share