Religion is a major cultural, social, political, and economic factor in many official development assistance (ODA) recipient countries.Understanding religious dynamics and the role of faith communities and actors is crucial for sustainable development. While faith communities have endured and thrived the world over, a wave of modernist, secular social change has dominated development practice and discourse from the second half of the 20th century onwards. It had been previously anticipated by a number of scholars, development practitioners and others that religion would become outdated and eventually obsolete. However, faith communities, actors and assets continue to occupy a critical space. Accordingly, development discourse and practice today acknowledges the significant role that religion plays in this area. Greater portions of development aid are now channelled via faith-based initiatives/organisations, and religion is increasingly recognised as a resource for –rather than as an obstacle to–development. Many faith actors have also been involved in shaping development policy as well as committing to the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), codified by the UN.

This policy paper is based upon findings from a research project funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) titled ‘Keeping Faith in 2030: Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals’.

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