People and Planet: Faith in the 2030 Agenda

Report Published: June 2020

The Earth’s clock is ticking, and alarm bells are ringing as we enter the United Nations declared ‘Decade of Action’ to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Faith-based development partners and indigenous communities are essential partners in the SDG Agenda and are, in many cases, leading the way. To reach the SDGs, there is an urgent need for an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to ensure inclusive, resilient, and innovative joint action. 

Recommendations and ways forward

•        We are all challenged to be self-reflective and question our own way of thinking. Building systematically updated knowledge and ensuring a self-reflective view around the pros and cons of engagements – this must be a constant and deeply contextualized process – no one size fits all.

•        The status quo is inflicting an enormous cost on peo­ple and planet – global as well as local partnerships are needed to achieve the SDGs. The time is now to build trust and a common standpoint is central for fruitful partnerships.

•        Inclusion of faith actors is part of a broader cultural sensitivity in all development processes and outcomes, but faith actors alone are not a ‘magic bullet’ solution.

•        Inclusive participation is an essential principle of the SDG Agenda. Further efforts are needed to ensure participation of faith and spiritual champions and communities at all levels, with an emphasis on the engagement of young people.

•  Contextual analysis with and inclusion of faith actors and indigenous peoples’ groups should be considered a general issue for all actors within environmental/ climate processes of change.

• Leverage the unique ability of religious institutions to mobilize social networks in addition to a distinct moral standing.

• Fostering, leveraging, and coordinating existing multi-faith spaces is vital to information exchange and cross-sector networking.

• Lack of financial resources for new, innovative part­nership platforms remains a major challenge.

• To enable a green transformation, one key component is to develop new, innovative partnerships between secular and faith actors in order to build common ground for collective action regarding the protection of planetary boundaries.


Faith and spirituality are foundational sources and drivers of behaviour; shaping and inspiring individual and com­munity worldviews, priorities, daily rituals, and commu­nity structures – including the relationship to and value of natural resources.

In March 2020, Sida, UNEP, SIWI, and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency convened actors from around the world in a digital, flight-free conference entitled People and Planet: Faith in the 2030 Agenda. The event sought to elevate and enrich partnerships towards achiev­ing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a focus on strengthening linkages and collaborations with faith-based and indigenous knowledge, networks, and resources. This policy brief discusses the role of faith communities in environmental action and highlights the way forward as direct results of the discussions of the themes of this important event.

This policy brief has been authored by: Elizabeth A. Yaari, Senior Programme Manager, SIWI; Kristina Johansson, Programme Officer, SIWI; Dr. Josephine Sundqvist, Programme Manager Specialist, Sida; Dr. Iyad Abu Moghli, Director, Faith for Earth Initiative, UNEP; and Bengt Littorin, Naturvårdsverket.

Learn more about the SWH cluster group on Water and Faith