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Vatican hosts interfaith conference on sustainable development, Brian Grim participates

12 Mar, 2019

Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, was invited to the Vatican to contribute to the first international conference on religions and the sustainable development goals.

Pope Francis said Friday that global development goals need to be supported by ethical objectives stemming from personal conversion and recognition of one’s failures.

“The economic and political objectives must be supported by ethical objectives, which presuppose a change of attitude, the Bible would say a change of heart,” the pope said March 8 at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

“Already St. John Paul II spoke about the need to ‘encourage and sustain an ecological conversion,’” he said, referencing a 2001 catechesis of one of his predecessors. “Religions have a key role to play here.”

The pope addressed Vatican officials, religious representatives, and members of international organizations participating in a March 7-9 conference on “Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Listening to the cry of the earth and the poor.”

International Conference on Religions and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The international community is currently working towards the first four-yearly review of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015 by 193 States at the United Nations. Recent reports from international organizations raise a serious alarm of concern regarding the present course of implementation of the SDGs.

For example, according to the latest FAO Report on the State of food security and nutrition in the world, the number of undernourished people in the world (SDG 2) is on the rise, while the recent IPCC Report on global warming of l .5°C warns that humanity has less than a decade to win the fight against climate change (SDG 13). Hence, there is an urgent need to reflect on how the human family can intensify joint efforts to help Nations to implement the SDGs. This requires the participation of all, religions included (more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group). Moreover, the 17 SDGs are not competing goals but rather intertwined. How to promote such interconnections is a subject where faith communities can provide unique contribution, particularly considering their holistic approach to human development.

The Holy See is willing to contribute, with the involvement of experts of major religions and international institutions, to the review of the first overall assessment of the implementation of the Agenda 2030. For this purpose, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, together with the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, convened an International Conference on ” Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, at the New Synod Hall, Vatican City, from the March 7 – 9, 2019.

The Conference was a dialogue about assessing the actual implementation of the SDGs by Nations ( see ). The interlocutors of this dialogue are experts from both international institutions and religions. It will also aim at sharing, in the light of faith, a deeper understanding of the SDGs (judge). Finally, the conference will discuss the specific and unique contributions that religions can make to promote and to implement the SDGs (act).

The Five Ps

A framing that reveals the interconnections among all 17 distinct goals and the 169 associated targets, is the one known as the five “Ps”: People. Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership. This framing served as the structure of the Conference’s programme.

After a general overview, the first session covered People and Planet, the second Prosperity and Peace, whereas the third will reflect on Partnership. Each session contained several presentations on development topics (15 minutes) , followed by a response from a religious perspective (15 minutes). In the opening session and in the one on Partnership, more time was  allocated to hear religious voices. On the last day, best practices on the link between SDGs and religions were introduced. The final session presented a synthesis expressed in the form of a Call from Participants to their own communities and institutions to contribute on the implementation of the SDGs.