Religion in International Politics and Development

Religion in International Politics and Development

The World Bank and Faith Institutions

John A. Rees

This unique and fascinating book illustrates that in moving the research agenda forward – despite whatever methodological pitfalls that may await in the attempt – the dynamics of religion must now be considered to be of central and abiding importance in the study of world politics.

Chapter 6: The World Faiths Development Dialogue (1998–2005)

John A. Rees

Subjects: development studies, development studies, politics and public policy, international relations


Religion is no panacea, but aspects of it can complement as well as motivate development. It can also obstruct and undermine. The avenues by which religion influences development activities in different faiths and religions are haunting in their complexity . . . Religious people and institutions may be agents of advocacy, funding, innovation, empowerment, social movements and service delivery. Equally, religious people and institutions can incite violence, model hierarchy, oppose empowerment (women should stay at home); deflect advocacy (we care about the next life); absorb funding (build a new hall of worship); and cast aspersions on service delivery (they are trying to convert you). A further complication, the gusto of development experts who resonate with religion is enthusiastically matched by the repugnance of those who revile it. Sabina Alkire (2006, p. 502) The fourth partnership in our analysis warrants a more detailed examination, and to this extent constitutes a modest case study. It could be argued that WBG initiatives involving Fes, the WCC and Sant’Egidio were conceived as less than partnerships, holding the status of dialogue (in the case of the WCC) and forum (in the case of Fes). One could also suggest that to some extent each initiative operated within conditions not of the making of either participant. Whilst these reasons do not inhibit our insight into the obstacles faced by the WBG in engaging religious actors, a fourth initiative reflects both the aspiration of partnership and the opportunity of a new venture. The initiative involved the WBG and the World Faiths...

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