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Why work with the faiths?

“I really realised, just coming this morning, that we could be more successful, we could be more relevant to the needs and aspirations of the continent, we could have more impact in all African countries if we can work with you [the faiths] hand in hand" - UNEP Regional Representative for Africa, Mounkaila Goumandakoye, September 2012

Recent years have seen a growing awareness on the part of secular organisations of the role of faith groups in conservation. There are compelling reasons to take the role of faith groups very seriously as partners for change. Here are just a few of them:

  • The faiths are the largest organised sector of civil society worldwide.

  • In 2010 84% of the world’s 6.9 billion people describe themselves as belonging to a faith.

  • This includes, for example, 2.2 billion Christians, 1.6 billion Muslims and 1 billion Hindus as well as 0.5 billion Buddhists and 14 million Jews (figures from the 2012 Pew Forum survey).

  • The faiths own 7-8% of the habitable land surface of the planet, including 5% of commercially run forests worldwide. They are also involved in, or have influence over, around 15% of forests that are considered to be sacred.

  • They are involved in more than half of schools worldwide. In some parts of the world, this figure is much higher. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, faiths set up, run or contribute to up to 70% of all schools.

  • They are among the largest investment blocks on the global stock market.

    The faiths own 7-8% of the habitable land surface of the planet, including 5% of commercial forests
  • They produce more newspapers than the whole of the European Union.

  • Most important, they are trusted as a source (often the leading source) of wisdom, information and authority in communities in many parts of the world.

  • Faith groups are involved in their communities for the long-term. They think in terms of generations rather than in short-term projects.

  • Motivated by a sense of spiritual obligation or fulfilment, faith groups can bring about real, pragmatic changes and sustain action and projects for the long-term.

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