G20 Interfaith Forum: The 2018 G20 Interfaith Forum took place 26-28 September 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Meetings were held in the Auditorio Manuel Belgrano in the historic Palacio San Martín of Argentina’s Cancillería, the Ministry of Foreign and Religious Affairs, and in the nearby Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel and Convention Center. This was the fifth annual event in a series of G20 Interfaith Forums held in relation to the meetings of the international “Group of Twenty” (G20) Economic Summit. This year’s Forum was held in anticipation of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, 30 November-1 December.
The G20 Interfaith Forum was pleased this year to partner with meetings of the Argentinian project Ética y Economía, an ongoing dialogue on religiously–and ethically–informed dimensions of the economy, development, and society.
Previous Interfaith Forums have been held in Gold Coast, Australia (2014); Istanbul, Turkey (2015); Beijing, China (2016); and Potsdam, Germany (2016).
Rationale. Practical and ethical insights of global religious communities make substantial if often unrecognized contributions to priority global agendas. The annual G20 Interfaith Forum aims to build a network of networks of faith and interfaith leaders from around the world, together with non-governmental organizations and other policy leaders. Through three days of discussion and dialogue, the culmination of extensive prior consultations, participants highlight the roles that religious communities can play in promoting the goals of successive G20 Economic Summits. The Forums draw on the expertise of a range of opinion leaders, including political leaders, academics, lawyers, and civil society leaders.
Our comment: Notice the “prior consultations.” This would be the behind the scenes work with the various entities involved.
Objective. The Forum helps to identify and showcase the policy and societal contributions of faith traditions and philosophies on leading global issues. It creates opportunities for communication and relationship building, and raises the profile of participating communities, groups, and organizations. The aim is to develop recommendations on priority issues that draw on interfaith insight and experience. Particular attention is paid to ways that religious communities can contribute to the host country’s priorities. Thus, the agenda of the 2018 Forum reflected topics that the Argentine government had identified for this year’s G20 Summit and broader objectives of the continuing G20 Summit process. The long-term objective is to enhance the capacity of different groups to work together to strengthen human development, understood in the broadest sense. Dialogue and networking facilitated by the Forum aim to raise the level and effectiveness of religious input on major global policy issues with recommendations and action geared to the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a key outcome.
Forum Title and Theme
The overarching theme for the 2018 G20 Interfaith Forum was “Building Consensus for Fair and Sustainable Development: Religious Contributions for a Dignified Future.” Over three days, presentations, panel discussions, and working group sessions aimed to build networks and develop concrete policy recommendations on the following sub-themes:
• Inequality, Religion, and the Future of Work
o Accommodating Religion in the Workplace and Schools of the Future
o Changing Women’s Roles to Reflect Equal Rights and Opportunities: Religious Debates and Action
o Religious Perspectives on Innovation, Labor, and Education
• Religion, Environmental Change, and a Sustainable Food Future
o Religious Contributions in Movements to Protect the Environment
o Religion and the Fight against Hunger
o Religious Action Regarding Extractive Industries
• Urgent Priorities for Social Cohesion
o Refugees, and Migration: Religious Insights and Action
o Religious Perspectives and Action Regarding Violent Extremism, Conflict Resolution, and Peacebuilding
o The Role of Freedom of Religion or Belief: Practical Dimension
• Religion, Good Governance and Sustainable Development
o Sustainable Finance and Financial Inclusion
o Debates and Action on Economic Policies including Financial Inclusion (Infrastructure)
o Priorities for Equal Opportunities and Respect for Human Rights
o Structural Inequalities and Development
The G20 Interfaith Forum Structure
The program in Buenos Aires ran from Wednesday 26 – Friday 28 September 2018 with more than 200 participants and attendees. The program consisted of presentations and panels drawing on leading expertise and global diversity. Simultaneous translation of all sessions was provided in English and Spanish.
Ties to the overall G20 process are informal but the Argentinian G20 organizers displayed strong interest in the work emanating from the G20 Interfaith Forum initiatives, recognizing their potential to make a strong and independent, internationally-based contribution to the overall G20 process.
As in past years, several regional pre-meetings fed recommendations into the Forum and on to G20 leaders. Focused working groups are developing concrete policy recommendations around various G20 themes.
Forum organizers hope to work closely and synergistically with other developing programs and engagement groups in the G20 process.
The G20 Interfaith Forum in Buenos Aires emphasized linkages between Argentinian priorities and other urgent global issues including highlighting Latin American and emerging country perspectives on the various subthemes.
Perspectives of indigenous peoples were reflected. Argentina is not currently facing a major refugee issue; however migration challenges are pertinent and religious voices are an important contributor. Similarly, issues regarding sustainable food supplies are tightly linked to broader environmental issues and creating opportunities for dignified labor holds the key to solving many of the problems of youth unemployment and radicalization. The Forum explored perspectives on human development deriving from religious sources: how can these dimensions be integrated synergistically with broader strategies for facilitating achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Participants: Participants from a wide range of religious, national, academic, and policy backgrounds came together to raise the level of discourse on the relevant issues and to develop practical recommendations. Working groups were commissioned to cultivate continuing reflection on specific topics where religious voices are particularly well-positioned to make recommendations and to encourage implementation. The aim was to explore ways that religious communities can assume responsibility and contribute distinctive ideas and solutions that can interact with and reinforce the efforts of public and civil society institutions.
• A Common Word Among the Youth (ACWAY), United Kingdom
• African Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ACLARS)
• Alianza de Iglesias Presbiterianas y Reformadas de América Latina (AIPRAL)
• Amity Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, New Delhi, India
• Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University
• Brunel Law and Religion Research Group, United Kingdom
• CARITAS – Secretariado para América Latina y el Caribe de la Pastoral Social (SELACC)
• Center for Reflection and Social Action (CREAS) / ACT Alianza, Argentina
• Centre for Interfaith & Cultural Dialogue, Griffith University, Australia
• Center for Research and Training in Interfaith Relations, Morocco
• Center on Religion, Law and Economy in the Mediterranean Area, Insubria University, Como, Italy
• Centro de Diálogo Intercultural Alba, Argentina
• Christian Aid
• Comisión de Pastoral Social Conferencia Episcopal, Argentina
• Comisión Nacional Justicia y Paz, Argentina
• Conferencia Episcopal Latinoamericana (CELAM – DEJUSOL)
• Consejo Argentino para la Libertad Religiosa (CALIR), Argentina
• Consorcio Latinoamericano de Libertad Religiosa
• Department of Law and Religion, Complutense University, Spain
• Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), GmbH, Germany
• Ética y Economía
• Institute for Policy, Advocacy, and Governance, Bangladesh
• Instituto Argentino Jacques Maritain
• Instituto para el Diálogo Interreligioso, Argentina
• International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS), Brigham Young University, United States
• International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ICLARS), Milan, Italy
• International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD)
• International Religious Liberty Association
• International Shinto Foundation
• Islamic Relief USA
• KAICIID Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue
• Ma’din Academy, India
• Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle, Germany
• NALSAR (National Academy of Legal Studies and Research) University of Law, Hyderabad, India
• Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights
• Oxford Society of Law and Religion, United Kingdom
• Peres Academic Center Law School, Rehovot, Israel\
• Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Desarollo (PNUD), Argentina
• Programa Internacional sobre Democracia, Sociedad y Nuevas Economías de la Universidad de Buenos Aires (PIDESONE), Argentina
• Project Ploughshares, Canada
• Purdue University Fort Wayne, United States
• Regents College, Oxford University, United Kingdom
• Religions for Peace
• Ridd Institute for Religion and Global Policy, University of Winnipeg, Canada
• Royal Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation—Section on Law and Religion and Canon Law, Spain
• Sant’Edigio Community, Italy
• United Religions Initiative
• World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC)
• World Faiths Development Dialogue
• World Jewish Congress
Excerpt from page on participants.
Ganoune Diop – United States G20 Interfaith Forum Organizing Committee; General Secretary, International Religious Liberty Association Dr. Ganoune Diop is Director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. Before his election in July 2015, he served as the church’s liaison to the United Nations, and as its representative within the international community of civic and political leaders. Dr. Diop has a Masters in Exégèses and Theology from Collonges, France, a Master’s degree in Philology from the University of Paris, and a PhD in Old Testament Studies from Andrews University. He is currently a PhD candidate in New Testament Studies. Recently, he was honored with a Doctorate Honoris Causa for his contributions to developing a global culture of human rights and respect for human dignity. Dr. Diop is an ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister, and has served as a local church pastor. His other positions include conference departmental director, and professor of Biblical Languages, Exegesis, and Theology at Saleve Adventist University in France, and later at Southern Adventist University and Oakwood University in the United States. Before joining the General Conference PARL department in 2011 as an associate director, Dr. Diop was Director of the five Global Mission Study Centers of Adventist Mission. He is a concert flute soloist.
Our Comment: Attending the forum was the General Secretary of the Religious Liberty Association, Ganoune Diop, the Director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Diop is a prominent player as he is on the organizing committee.
“The wide diversity of belief in the Protestant churches is regarded by many as decisive proof that no effort to secure a forced uniformity can ever be made. But there has been for years, in churches of the Protestant faith, a strong and growing sentiment in favor of a union based upon common points of doctrine. To secure such a union, the discussion of subjects upon which all were not agreed—however important they might be from a Bible standpoint—must necessarily be waived.” The Great Controversy, page 444.