Date of Meeting: 19 June 2018

Meeting Organizer: Joint Learning Initiative

ISJC Staff Present: Dr Laurelle Smith

Reporter: Dr Laurelle Smith

Which SDG does this topic cover? All 17

Type of meeting: Webinar

Brief summary of presentation of information made

Keeping Faith in 2030 – Religion and the SDGs

Dr Emma Tomlin, Professor of Religion and Public Life at the University of Leeds

Dr Jorg Haustein, Senior Lecturer in Religions in Africa at SOAS

The SDGs were a result of a lot of discussion and consultation. The MDGs were perceived as a top down approach but the SDGs are universal. No one is left behind; it is an inclusive approach to development.

This study explores the role faith actors have had in the SDG process to date. Workshops have been held in different locations with the aim of understanding the role of religion in the SDGs. Faith actors are now at the table and taking part much more than they were 15 years ago.

A series of workshops are planned. So far two have been held in Birmingham and New Delhi and one is coming up in Ethiopia.


The main questions asked were

  1. Were faith actors involved in the consultation to set the goals? If so, which faith actors and what has their contribution been?
  2. To what extent and in what ways are you now beginning to interpret and implement the SDGs in your work?
  3. If the SDGs have not significantly changed what you do, then what is their value for your work and for meeting development targets that will reduce inequality?
  4. Are there any SDGs that pose a challenge for some faith actors or where religion might get in the way? How can these be dealt with?


  1. How have faith actors been involved in consultations?
  • FBOs involved in SDG process were those already at the table at the UN. Those who are already at the table are not enough. There has not been enough effort made to involve others.
  • Faith actors weren’t central to the commitments
  • Majority of faith groups involved were Christian
  • Faith actors want to be involved as civil society actors
  • None felt there was a place to bring anything religious
  • No national/regional involvement of FBOs in India
  • No religious interest in SDGs, but access /equal treatment as development partners
  • Less faith, more constituencies, especially in India
  • Faith identity is as much a social identity as a religious identity


Quotes from workshops participants

  • “Within the NGOs, how visible were the faith groups, I’m asking myself. I honestly couldn’t say that they were visible, that’s not to say that they weren’t there but I have a clearer sense of the faith community as it were from a couple of side events, which I addressed around that time.”
  • “When faith groups are treated as a separate group of stakeholders their input can become siloed and the consultations, the capacity building, the knowledge management and the policy advocacy takes place separately”


  1. Implementation /interpretation of SDGs
  • Engagement of religion in development is a long question. SDG engagement is just another arm of it.
  • Many felt SDGs weren’t a policy framework but an advocacy framework - The SDGs didn’t change what people were doing but helped with advocacy
  • Work was mostly guided by organisational goals and constituents
  • Articulation of existing work within SDG framework
  • Little engagement with targets/measurement
  • Clear preference for some SDGs over others
    • Birmingham – most imp = 1, 5, 16; least imp = 7, 9, 14
    • India – most imp = 1, 4, 6, 16; least imp = 7, 9, 14


  1. What is the value of SDGs to your work if it doesn’t change how you plan or implement?  
  • Expectation of new funding streams – use SDG language
  • Participation in development discourses – can help religious actors break out of the FBO niche and be seen as developmental actors
  • Helps hold the states to account
  • Generating (disaggregated) data about inequality
  • Civil society building tool (articulation of common values)


  1. What development goals did you see as challenging for faith actors?
  • Birmingham – 5, 8, 17
  • India – 5, 16
  • In India there was a push back to the question, they didn’t see a primal problem with the goals but did see cultural problems rather than religious problems
  • Faith actors not keen to be seen for their theological difference but their developmental potential


Concluding and preliminary observations

  • Conversation on SDG and religions highly context dependent
  • Faith actors are a much broader constituency than international FBOs
  • Faith actors may not be interested in being bought in as religious voice or quota
  • Instrumentalisation of faith actors for SDGs leads to shallow understanding of sector and will not work
  • Conflicts between SDGs and religions might not be best addressed via doctrine, but engaging faith actors as translators


Sustainable Development Goals and The Salvation Army – Major (Dr) Elizabeth Garland

The Salvation Army has decided to align measurement of The Salvation Army’s work with the SDGs.

The SDGs cover a lot more areas than the MDGs so needed a lot of work. First, looked at all goals, indicators and targets categorised into themes using an already existing framework – Wellbeing and Health, formation and education, livelihood, protection and safety. This helped see which goals were the most relevant to the organisation. 

One issue is that the indicators are secular in nature – are there indicators that are important to The Salvation Army that are missing. Not all SDGs were applicable to The Salvation Army, e.g. SDG 9.

Currently exploring indicators from partner organisations (such as SPHERE and IATI) to ensure that everything is consistent.

The SDGs (goals and indicators) are already part of the internal Salvation Army project system however the indicators/best practice guidelines will be added when they are completed so they can be used as a resource.

Currently reviewing all the indicators and making sure they are included in project log frames, creating documents which will assist with gathering information and provide guidelines for those in the field, making sure indicators are being used to track and measure progress, reporting back to donors and leadership regarding SDGs.  Working out how to measure the work is a big ongoing task.

Points to think about…

  • Should faith be seen as a separate or distinct part of the discussion?
  • Having a faith perspective means you have take a different approach to the SDGs


What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

Major (Dr) Elizabeth Garland's words above explain how The Salvation Army is integrating its own measurement systems with the SDGs.


Web links and books for more information

Book - Negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals. Felix Dodds, Ambassador David Donoghue and Jimena LeviaRosech, 2017. London and New York: Routledge.

Tags: SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG14: Life Below Water, SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, SDG3: Good Health and Well-Being, SDG6: Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG7: Affordable and Clean Energy, SDG12: Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG15: Life on Land, United Nations, SDG10: Reduced Inequalities, SDG1: No Poverty, SDG4: Quality Education, SDG5: Gender Equality, SDG9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, SDG13: Climate Action, SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals, SDG2: Zero Hunger