United Nations and Faith-based Organizations – A Partnership for Humanity!

By Dr. Samir Abu Rumman

Despite the differences between secular United Nations agencies and some religious institutions in values related to education, gender and other issues, there remain numerous fertile areas and hopes for achieving partnership and strength for the benefit of both parties and for broader humanity. This is what I observed and will write about in these lines after participating a few days ago in two important meetings on the humanitarian response to the refugee crisis and the role of faith-based organizations in climate and children with two international organizations in New York, namely UNHCR and UNICEF, on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly meetings. Representatives from religious and humanitarian organizations, such as Islamic Relief, and the United Mission for Relief and Development (UMR) and others from various religions gathered.

These meetings, along with the initiatives, correspondences, projects, and partnerships that preceded them, reflected a positive outlook from these agencies towards the significant role of religious organizations in providing humanitarian aid and development in crisis-affected areas, reaching local communities, and providing care and psycho-social support to beneficiaries. This relationship has culminated in some partnerships and projects that have been associated with Islamic finance and compliance with Islamic law, as I have written about before, involving organizations such as the UNHCR and the Zakat Fund, among others. 

Some of these agencies actively encourage religious organizations to promote understanding among different faiths to create a more stable and peaceful environment, especially for marginalized and vulnerable groups like women and children. This security extends to broader concepts such as climate, as outlined in UNICEF’s strategy and presented by Gautam Narasimhan in one of the meetings.

Perhaps one of the most practical questions posed by Mohammed Abu Asaker of UNHCR, when he asked the present faith-based organizations from various regions in the United States and diverse faiths was, “What do you want from the UNHCR?” Some answers included influencing international decisions and policies in line with their religions, while others were related to facilitating the work of these organizations.

In my opinion, Abu Asaker’s question is directed towards international organizations who should collectively conduct a larger scientific survey that includes a broader sample of religious and charitable organization leaders. This would surely contribute to developing relationships between these organizations, dispelling doubts about or among them, and reducing behind-the-scenes discussions about one another.

While United Nations agencies are currently engaging in partnerships with various stakeholders, including the private sector, governments, and nonprofit organizations, their partnerships with faith-based organizations retain their uniqueness in overcoming certain disagreements and emphasizing the importance of mutual cooperation in addressing issues related to refugees, displaced persons, children, education, poverty alleviation, and preserving lives in a world where humanitarian crises and climate disasters continue. There can be no substitute for hope and the clinging to the straw of partnership and cooperation even among those with different agendas and mandates but with common humanitarian ideals.

Original article published in Arabic here with the first English translation published on Generation1.ca: https://alanba.com.kw/1201677/

Samir Abu-Rumman, PhD, is a visiting research scholar at Princeton University, USA, with extensive years of experience in research, education, and development in different countries. He is the supervisor of “World of Opinions” in Kuwait, Jordan, and the U.S., has led and supervised different regional and global research projects for organizations such as the World Values Survey and Arab Barometer for Princeton University. He was also one of the keynote panelists at Generation1.ca’s upcoming Virtual Insights Career Fair and Case Competition.

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