On January 10-11, 2011, 25 leaders from religious organizations, faith-inspired development institutions, academic institutions, and international development agencies met in Dhaka, Bangladesh to discuss the current activities and potential contributions of faith-inspired organizations in addressing South and Central Asia’s development challenges. The meeting was the sixth in a series of regional explorations by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD), with support from the Henry R. Luce Foundation, exploring the work, roles, and policy issues associated with faith-inspired development actors.
The two days of consultation reaffirmed the hypothesis that the intersection of faith and development is highly complex, reflecting the particularly decentralized web of actors, variety of faith traditions, and differing types of organizations. There is a significant base of scholarly knowledge, notably for South Asia, on religion and society, but policymakers and practitioners lack a comprehensive understanding of the development work that faith-linked actors undertake. Meaningful “mapping” of this work does not exist, and, more importantly, there are no commonly agreed upon definitions to help to identify or assess faith roles. Treating the South and Central Asian regions together was challenging because the two are very different, but the exercise identified significant links and common threads. The meeting highlighted an extraordinary potential for these institutions, individually and collectively, to bring about positive change. Many obstacles, sensitivities, and challenges, however, also were identified. The emerging issues highlighted by this report often echoed the key issues and agendas that the development community has identified, but the “faith lens” suggests some significant differences in approach and priorities.