EUI Working Paper on Faith-based Organisations at the UN


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The Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies of the European University Institute published the Working Paper on Faith-based Organisations at the United Nations in 2013.

This working paper examines faith-based organisations (FBOs) and their attempts to seek to influence debate and decision-making at the UN. Increasing attention on FBOs in this context has followed what is widely understood as a widespread, post-Cold War ‘religious resurgence’, which characterises a novel ‘postsecular’ international environment. One aspect of the new postsecular environment is increasing focus on global public policy at the UN, from FBOs from various religious traditions, especially Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

The paper focuses on Christian, Muslim and Jewish FBOs at the UN because: (1) it is the largest inter-governmental organisation, with 193 member states, (2) it is the most important global public policy focus, and (3) hundreds of FBOs have an institutionalised presence at the UN, via official status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Overall, the UN regularly engages with more than 3,000 non-governmental organisations afforded ‘official’ UN status. Around 10 per cent are classified as FBOs, implying that their activities and goals are significantly moulded by religious orientations and principles. This does not necessarily imply however that FBOs at the UN are ‘religiously pure’, that is, unwilling to work with non-religious entities, including both states and non-state actors. Many FBOs are willing to interact at the UN with both state and non-state entities which share their ideological although not religious proclivities. The paper conceptualises and examines two categories of FBO: ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’, in the context of three separate issue areas: women’s sexual and reproductive human rights; international development; and ‘defamation of religions.’

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