Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) – Written evidence (ZAF0040)

 

About CAFOD

 

  1. CAFOD is the official aid agency for the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Guided by the values of compassion, solidarity and hope, CAFOD is rooted in the Catholic community. With the help of volunteers, CAFOD puts faith into action to help our sisters and brothers living in extreme poverty to reach their full potential, regardless of religion or culture.

 

Executive Summary

 

  1. The majority of people in Africa would see themselves as religious or belonging to a religious group and religion is integrated into everyday life for most people.[1] Religious organisations provide a significant amount of humanitarian relief, education and health services, development programmes and other social interventions in society, so religious leaders and religious groups are looked on to provide for people’s needs, particularly in times of crisis. In fact, surveys indicate that Africans are more likely to contact religious leaders over any other group including traditional leaders, MPs, local government councillors or other public officials (Afrobarometer 2020)

 

  1. In this context, the Catholic Church in Sub-Saharan Africa has often positively influenced the way humanitarian or development programmes are done, the way that communities are treating people, particularly vulnerable people, and has supported community cohesion and peaceful co-existence. It has been done through the church leadership (priests and bishops), through religious orders and through local congregations.

 

  1. We outline four areas where the Church is making a significant contribution in Sub-Saharan Africa and offer detailed examples to illustrate what this looks like on the ground. These areas are:

a)    Effective local humanitarian response such as in tackling Ebola in West Africa and DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), reaching conflict zones in South Sudan and responding to COVID-19 in Zimbabwe and Mozambique

b)    Changing behaviours and social norms to protect the most vulnerable, such as promoting land rights for women in Zambia, tackling stigma due to HIV in Ethiopia and promoting safe burial in DRC

c)     Peacebuilding, mediation and rebuilding societies, such as brokering peace between different ethnic groups in Ethiopia and supporting the reintegration of formerly abducted persons in northern Uganda

d)    Strengthening democracy and governance, such as election monitoring and international advocacy in DRC, and budget transparency in Zambia. 

 

  1. This positive impact has been possible through the distinctive characteristics and ways of working of the Church, which are evident in the examples provided:

a)    A permanent presence at the grassroots which provides a reference point for communities, enables an immediate response, and brings a deep understanding of community norms and priorities.

b)    Respected impartial leadership and trusted relationships at all levels, with a clearly understood vocation to serve all people. This has enabled the Church to mediate, broker dialogue and bring peace to protracted conflicts.

c)     The ability to engage with people’s faith and values, to bring about change in norms and behaviours.

 

Implications for the UK government

  1. The reach and role of the Church in development and humanitarian response makes it a key actor for the UK government’s engagement in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

  1. However, the UK government and wider international community has not always recognised or facilitated the role of the Church in an effective way in humanitarian and development responses. This has sometimes been due to constraints with how funding streams work, burdensome administrative and technical requirements, a lack of experience by government officials at local level, or a reliance on official structures through UN and other international structures.

 

  1. When the Church has been brought on board, it has sometimes been too late for an effective response, or has been in a way that seeks to instrumentalise the Church, seeing it as a development or humanitarian partner to implement programmes that have already been designed, as opposed to an equal partner that can help to design and implement effective programmes based on its rootedness, trust and access to local communities and national bodies.

 

  1. Five actions that can be taken to deepen the partnership between the UK Government and the Church in Africa are:

 

  1. A comprehensive approach across Whitehall to engage with faith actors. There is a need for a more comprehensive UK approach to understanding and supporting the role of faith and faith actors in sub-Saharan Africa. While staff training on ‘faith literacy’ and annual consultations by British embassies with faith leaders are important, this is not enough. There needs to be further research into how faith actors operate that is different to other development actors, as well as into what has worked and what hasn’t worked in previous partnerships. Within this, there needs to be the willingness to change the ways of working across DFID, the FCO and other arms of government.

 

  1. Engagement with faith groups and local communities from the start and throughout any intervention. Interventions that are decided at donor or country capital level and then rolled out for implementation with local groups simply seen as “delivery partners” have often stalled early on, as the Ebola response in West Africa and DRC showed. Governments need to engage local faith and community groups, who are rooted in the local context and are trusted leaders, in the design and implementation of any intervention. They need to seek advice from faith leaders about how different actors are perceived and about the cultural, social and religious beliefs and behaviours that could support or hinder any intervention. Governments also need to make more use of the volunteer base of adherents at community level.

 

  1. Long-term flexible funding for local NGOs and faith-based groups. The shift of DFID and other donors in recent years towards large commercial contracts with for-profit contract managers, who then sub-grant to INGOs and local NGOs, has not been conducive to effective partnership or risk sharing with local NGOs and faith groups. The UK Government needs to develop more effective long-term partnerships and funding arrangements with local actors, including faith-based groups, building on the learning from previous successful, but discontinued DFID funded programmes like DEPP (Disaster and Emergencies Preparedness Programme) and BRACED (Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters.

 

  1. Support for religious leaders in peacebuilding. The UK government needs to engage with the Church and other faith bodies in promoting peace and reconciliation. This can be through supporting training of religious leaders, through amplifying their voices as they call for peace and through ensuring that they are included in all dialogues that the government is involved in at country level. It will also involve financial support to local peace-building efforts, especially where conflict has led to significant loss of livelihoods, of land and resources and where communities will need to see practical signs of progress to buy into reconciliation processes.

 

  1. More flexible UN coordination and operations. The UK Government should leverage its influence with UN agencies to promote a more consistent and effective approach to engaging FBOs at country-level in inter-agency coordination and development and humanitarian programme development and implementation.

Humanitarian first responders

 

  1. Church agencies are well placed to be first responders in times of crises: their presence in the communities allows them to reach people immediately within the first 24 hours, drawing on local resources and volunteer capacity.

 

  1. Indeed, the Church's global Caritas network is the world’s second largest humanitarian provider, enabling a coordinated technical and financial response.

 

  1. The Catholic church response is recognised for serving all people, regardless of religious beliefs and affiliation and of strengthening local organisations. Sometimes, the church organisations are the only responders operating in areas, such as in the case of South Sudan below.

 

  1. As well as being first on the scene, being embedded and trusted in the local community allows faith actors the scope to modify behavioural practices in the community which may have been compounding some crises: this can be through encouraging people to wash hands and disseminating information on hygiene through local radio stations and community outreach workers, such as in the Covid-19 response, changing burial practices as was the case for Ebola in West Africa and DRC. 

 

  1. It is also present in places where the state is absent and can be the only group reaching the most vulnerable and isolated populations, such as in parts of South Sudan.

 

  1. However, during the recent Ebola crisis in DRC (2018-present), funding and decision-making on the response centred on UN and host government leadership and scaling up the medical response, without adequate attention to community engagement or the potential role of faith groups. The WHO and Government deployed staff to the affected areas who did not speak local languages or understand local traditions. Alongside the conflict between government and local armed groups, this contributed to a backlash against the response and misinformation about the virus. As a consequence, lives were lost – both of health workers and local people who did not receive the right information from sources that they trusted.

 

  1. DFID played an important role in mobilising funding and international attention to the Ebola crisis response; with the majority of DFID funds going through UN agencies like the WHO and UNICEF, as well as the Red Cross.[2]

 

  1. However, DFID’s focus on channelling its funds through the UN meant that its funding did not reach local faith-based organisations in a timely, responsive or flexible fashion. Under the country-level UN and government response coordination structure, UNICEF’s led on community engagement, but their modalities for partnership and funding did not permit much leeway or amendments to programming for those local actors who did not benefit from strategic partnerships with the agency (including important local faith-based NGOs)

 

  1. As we look towards a coordinated Covid-19 response and recovery, learning from these lessons from Ebola needs to be put in place from the start. Any comprehensive response will need to support health services run by the Church and Church-linked institutions, particularly in areas where government and UN agencies struggle to reach. The international community will need to work with faith actors from the start to engage with the population and influence social norms and behaviour. Finally, any COVID-19 response challenges donors to reassess their approach to funding and partnership with local organisations and to find ways to prioritise locally-led humanitarian action, especially as governments have restricted movement within and across borders.

 

DRC – Responding to the Ebola crisis

 

  1. DRC has recently brought its 10th and most serious outbreak of Ebola under control, the second worst in the history of the disease. One factor that frustrated the response was the considerable popular resistance to vaccinations. Communities tended to view the Ebola response with suspicion, with rumours that the vaccine was the cause of Ebola rather than the cure and with the belief that those involved were doing it for their own benefit.

 

  1. These rumours and suspicion of the Ebola response were reinforced by deficiencies in the approach of the response teams towards the affected communities, such as ignorance of local languages and culture – including being seen to try and impose burial practices that were against local customs.

 

  1. Only after the UN, government and other international actors struggled to engage the population effectively, did they call on the Church and other faith groups to help and was progress made.

 

  1. The Church’s role was particularly important in overcoming resistance to vaccination. Bishops and other clerics took a public lead in being both vaccinated, as well as in dispelling false rumours which claimed that the vaccine was the cause of Ebola rather than a means of treating it.  The Catholic Bishop of Beni-Butembo, the Anglican Bishop of Beni and the President of the ECC (The Church of Christ in Congo) in Butembo were vaccinated in public, alongside 74 other religious leaders, to show that rumours against the vaccine were false and to give an example to the local population. The vaccination rate increased dramatically after this.

 

  1. Being anchored in the community, religious denominations are trusted more than any other institution in DRC (over 90 per cent of the population belong to faith groups, and more than 60 per cent of health services come from faith-based providers).  This deeply embedded trust, also allows faith actors the scope to modify religious and behavioural practices in the community: this can be through encouraging people to wash hands, disseminating information on hygiene, changing ways in which communion is received (e.g. no longer directly in the mouth), and establishing chlorinated water points at places of worship: “The involvement of faith groups in the response to the threat of Ebola remains among the best weapons for convincing the people to adopt good practices and attitudes to put an end to this deadly outbreak,” (Rev Willy Ngumbi Ngengele, Catholic Bishop of Goma).

 

  1. Churches and other religious buildings also often act as accommodation and distribution centres for displaced people and church health workers have been able to go to the most remote communities to help provide community hygiene facilities such as hand-washing kits.

 

COVID-19 response across different African countries

 

  1. Although the global response to COVID-19 is in its early stages, it has often been the Church groups across Africa who have been at the forefront of the response.

 

  1. Catholic Bishops Conferences in many African countries run a significant percentage of the health services, sometimes being the only health centres in poorer and more remote regions. The Bishops conferences have been coordinating their health centres to have a coherent response to Covid-19, including being able to treat people once the number of cases increase.

 

  1. Caritas Agencies in Zambia and Zimbabwe are distributing health messages to local communities in their local languages, through existing food relief programmes and health and community outreach workers. This has also been accompanied by the same messages via local radio stations, which is the way that the majority of people in rural Africa receive their information. The focus has been on translating and contextualising WHO (World Health Organisation) messages around hygiene and social distancing.

 

  1. In cases like this, and learning from Ebola, the messenger is important. Because the Church is trusted due to its ongoing presence, its health, education and agricultural work, and its mission to serve all people without discrimination, these messages are listened to by the local populations.

 

  1. Caritas Mozambique has been at the forefront of distributing hygiene kits to remote areas, where it is essential to stop the coronavirus spreading as the health facilities will simply not be able to cope.

 

Support to Returning IDPs in South Sudan

 

  1. The Society of Daughters of Mary Immaculate (DMI) have been working in Gogrial State since 2012 in peacebuilding programmes, education and women’s empowerment through savings and lending groups, leadership and public speaking.  

 

  1. Due to a long-standing conflict between the Apuk and Ajugo communities over borders and access to grazing land and water for animals, up to 13,000 people have been displaced, mainly women and children. Land has been destroyed or left fallow and many IDPs have been dependent on emergency food aid to survive.

 

  1. Despite ongoing insecurity, in 2017 these IDPs started to return. The peacebuilding efforts of the DMI Sisters, and their ongoing presence and accompaniment has enabled these IDPs to feel secure enough to return and to see a future back home. Due to their long-standing presence and the trust they have from both sides of warring parties, the DMI Sisters have been able to continue to work closely with the communities, often being the only organisation working in particular areas within the state.

 

  1. The humanitarian focus, partly funded by DFID, is around lifesaving food assistance as people return to their abandoned lands, provided in a way that contributes to community resilience and a move away from dependency on food aid.

 

  1. The women who have been part of DMI women’s groups have also become peace-activists within their own communities, to bring peaceful resolution to conflicts and to prevent further displacement.  One such women is Makada Zackeria Bangazi. She regularly engages with and mobilises the people of her village on peace and reconciliation, and guides people to use peaceful approaches when resolving issues, such as talking as a means of solving grievances.

 

Changing social norms towards inclusion of vulnerable groups

 

  1. The Ebola case study from DRC shows how it was only after engaging with the Church and other faith actors, that the local community started being vaccinated in large numbers, as well as changing their burial practices as a way to prevent the spread of Ebola. Early indications from Covid-19 responses show that the Church in many parts of Africa is also playing this key role as a trusted actor in helping people to understand why they need to change their behaviour and what needs to be done.

 

  1. This not only happens in an emergency response situation, but the Church has often positively influenced the way development is done or the way that communities are treating people, particularly vulnerable people.

 

  1. This has been possible through the Church’s trusted relationships with communities, presence at the grassroots, respected leadership and ability to engage with people’s faith and values. This has sometimes been done as part of a wider ecumenical or interfaith initiative. 

 

  1. In Zambia, Caritas was able to work with local village chiefs to ensure that women had the right to own land and were not discriminated against. In Ethiopia, The Catholic Church was part of an interfaith initiative to tackle stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDs, led by the religious leaders’ example of accepting them and providing pastoral support.

 

  1. Governments and international organisations are often not best-placed to engage with people’s deeply help cultural and religious beliefs. They may not be trusted or may even be seen as part of the problem.

 

  1. It is often only the religious leaders, due to their standing in society and their long-term and permanent presence and rootedness in communities, who can reach the rural populations and influence their norms and behaviours.

 

  1. For any culturally relevant long-term development intervention, the UK government needs to seek ways of understanding and engaging with these local faith actors, often through supporting their national or sub-national bodies who have a coordinating role in country.

 

Ethiopia- Stigma reduction initiative for people with HIV and AIDs

 

  1. In Ethiopia over 95% of the country’s population is religious and when HIV/AIDs initially came to the fore, it was regarded by many people, including religious leaders, as a curse or a punishment for sin. This resulted in much stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDs, with those suffering from HIV/AIDs and their families ostracised, forced to leave communities, denied treatment and other support.

 

  1. At the same time, with such a religious population, faith leaders had the potential to exercise an enormous degree of influence over local people’s attitudes and were the main source of pastoral support to sufferers. They were able to show their religious congregations the best way to respond in love and compassion through their own example.

 

  1. With such diverse religious identities in Ethiopia, it an interfaith approach was needed in order to overcome discrimination and to see everyone as equal and everyone deserving the same care. EIFDAA (Ethiopian interfaith forum for Development, Dialogue and Action) used its connection to various faith groups on the ground to collect over 100 stories of faith leaders who had positive relationships with HIV/Aid sufferers.

 

  1. The stories demonstrated that all faith groups had similar teaching on the need for pastoral support for victims. The stories, arranged into a book, provide a source of inspiration for local faith leaders to take seriously their pastoral supporting role and contribute to destigmatising the condition in their community. 

 

  1. One story speaks of the work of Bishop Lisanechristos, the then General Secretary of the Addis Ababa Catholic Archdiocese. For over twenty years he has visited HIV patients, providing education and support to patients in communicating with their families and ensuring they continue treatment. Speaking of Fr Lisanechristos’ work, the chairman of the Ethiopian National Association of HIV Carers, Mr Zeme said: ‘Lisanechristos comes to our weekly support group on time and sits among us like a friend. He did this when people were afraid and used their shirt sleeves when shaking their hand with us. When other elders were afraid to stand by people living with HIV, he responded without fear. Though I am a follower of the Orthodox faith, he is able to give me spiritual guidance while fully respecting my faith... he has enabled me to endure any challenge, including HIV/AIDs’.

 

Supporting Women’s Land Ownership in Zambia

 

  1. Traditionally, customary laws in Zambia’s tribal areas have denied land ownership to certain groups of people including women, people with disabilities and people living with HIV / AIDS. Women are the largest group who are discriminated against, and the traditional approach has been for women to have access to her husband’s land or, if she is a widow, to her parents’ land, but not to own land herself. 

 

  1. Caritas Solwezi have been working for many years with the chiefs and communities in the rural areas in the North Western Province in issues such as decentralisation, literacy and election monitoring.

 

  1. With threats of displacement by mining companies, they started to work with the chiefs and their advisers to document land ownership so that people could claim compensation if displacement did happen. They found that certain groups were excluded from the land allocation previously done by the chief.

 

  1. They raised the issue of exclusion with the local chiefs, who recognised that it was important to address it and were willing to look at their traditional practices from a new perspective: “The chiefs were open to dialogue on this issue and keen to work with Caritas because they see Caritas as a faith-based organisation, whose main objective is the option for the poor, and who are a neutral actor without a political agenda. Caritas has gained credibility due to various interventions and are trusted to do what they say. They are also present in many tribal areas where the government has little presence.” (John Kalusa, Caritas Solwezi)

 

  1. Caritas worked with the chiefs to form village land committees with mixed representation, to undertake a census and to rewrite village guidelines to include the previously excluded groups, and to give certificates of land ownership to women, people living with disabilities and other represented.

 

Mediation, conflict resolution and rebuilding societies

 

  1. The Church, through its leaders and development organisations, can help convene neutral spaces for dialogue in situations where there is lack of trust, social conflict or lack of social cohesion.

 

  1. Church leaders are seen as being trusted due to their impartial approach, with an agenda that seeks the common good as opposed to their own benefit. Their presence in communities shows an understanding of the local context and they are trusted by local populations to be serving the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.

 

  1. This has led to community reconciliation and reintegration, often when different community members have been on opposing sides of a conflict or where local communities have been in conflict with each other, such as such as with local communities in the Oromo region of Ethiopia or with reintegration of formerly abducted persons in Gulu, northern Uganda. At national level, Church leaders are often brokering peace between warring factions, such as in South Sudan, or chairing peace and reconciliation commissions.

 

  1. For any long-term response, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected states, the UK government needs to engage with the Church and other faith bodies in promoting peace and reconciliation. This can be through supporting training of religious leaders, through amplifying their voices as they call for peace and through ensuring that they are included in all dialogues that the government is involved in at country level.

 

  1. It will also involve financial support to local peace-building efforts, especially where conflict has led to significant loss of livelihoods, of land and resources and where communities will need to see practical signs of progress to buy into reconciliation processes.

 

Uganda – reintegration of formerly abducted persons

 

  1. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) began operating in northern Uganda in the late 1980s and over a period of twenty years has terrorised the population, including abducting young boys and girls to be fighters. It is estimated that over 66,000 people were abducted, including 30,000 child soldiers. The LRA soldiers would often terrorise villages where people were abducted from, which resulted in mass displacement of population, who lived in camps for years.

 

  1. Most internally displaced people (IDPs) were attended in churches, church schools and church-run camps, so the Catholic Church was well-known and was perceived as politically impartial and on the side of the people and trusted more than other organisations.

 

  1. From 2002, due to increased activity by the Ugandan government, formerly abducted people started coming out of the bush, escaping the LRA or being released directly by them. Many people who had been abducted as children came back as adults.

 

  1. The closest parish to where many combatants were coming out of the bush was Pajule Parish, 106km east of Gulu. Despite the ongoing instability and insecurity, the Church’s Caritas Gulu organisation set up a rehabilitation centre there, as they could treat the formerly abducted people better and more quickly, and where they could work with people before they returned to their communities.

 

  1. Caritas spent a lot of time tracing families and focusing on acceptance and reintegration. They provided communities with seeds and tools so that the whole community would benefit from accepting people back: “The Caritas staff became like counsellors. Slowly the former soldiers disclosed codenames and information about their stories, they were treated for medical conditions and given counselling. Caritas staff then helped to trace their families. They kept visiting the families to help prepare them and remove the blame from being ex-soldiers. They also prepared the neighbouring families, who may have suffered.” (Paul Rubankagene, Caritas Gulu)

 

  1. There were many cases where reintegration efforts were successful, in particular with men, who could return to their communities and continue to farm and live with their families.

 

  1. However, women faced significant additional challenges due to the stigma of having been raped and returning from the bush with children. In a culture where land is passed through the male children, there was also a reluctance to accept women back who had male children and who would therefore need land when they boys grew up to be men. This rejection meant that many women who had been abducted as young girls, abused and who came out of the bush traumatised and with children, needed to go and start a new life in the towns away from people they knew.

 

  1. Caritas helped many of these women with education and retraining, as well as support with basic needs. They continue to work with communities towards the long-term aims of reintegration.

 

Community reconciliation in Ethiopia

 

  1. In the Ethiopian Oromo region three ethnic communities have been in constant competition for water, livestock, pasture resulting in a generational conflict with loss of life and livelihood.

 

  1. The Catholic Church has been present in the region for decades in livelihoods work and as a result of the trust that had grown with the communities it could set up a Community-based Conflict Transformation and Peace Building programme.

 

  1. Initially as part of the programme, the Church was able to organise a trip whereby an elder from each community met with each other in a neutral place They used the meeting to discuss and reflect on ways to overcome the violence. The discussions were brokered by the Church, who brought examples of success stories of other communities in the region to draw upon and offered logistical support towards the establishment of peace committees and early conflict warning systems.

 

  1. The peace building project has since expanded to three districts in the region (18 villages) and provides a means to constructive discuss ways to end what has been constant intergenerational conflict.

 

  1. The result has been for cattle to freely roam with the removal of fences, and no loss of life since 2015.

 

Elections / democratic accountability

 

  1.                                                        Due to its reach and trusted role, the church has played a significant role in many countries in strengthening governance. On one level this has been through promoting electoral participation and in encouraging peaceful, free and fair elections, such as in DRC. It has often mobilised thousands of citizens to act as electoral observers and have played an oversight role in terms of judging election results.

 

  1.                                                        It has also involved the church being a strong unified voice in speaking out against authoritarian regimes and dictatorial behaviour, and mobilising people as citizens who hold the government to account for their actions and to seek greater transparency and participation.

 

  1.                                                        This has included budget accountability in Zambia, to ensure money is spent on essential health and education services.

 

  1.                                                        Effective and transparent governance as well as free and fair elections will be central to the Covid-19 recovery in Africa. This will involve deepening support for civil society groups supporting governance issues, such as electoral observation and voter education, budget accountability and transparency, and also diplomatic efforts and support to those who are fighting for greater civil society space and civil and political freedoms. 

 

DRC - speaking out and supporting free and fair elections

 

  1. Although a peace agreement ended the war in 2003, which had claimed 6 million lives, conflict persists in some parts of the country, with subsequent elections marked by violence and questionable credibility of the results.

 

  1. The Church has a presence in all of the country’s 26 provinces, through provision of essential services to the population such as schools and health centres and the Church is one of the few institutions that commands wide respect across a big and divided country. The Church has therefore used its regional and international structures to strengthen democratic accountability and to advocate for free and fair elections.

 

  1. The DRC suffered serious unrest when President Kabila’s constitutionally mandated two-term limit expired in December 2016 and the government announced that elections scheduled for the same year would be delayed. Multiple demonstrations took place throughout the country demanding that the constitution was respected and that elections would be held.

 

  1. The Church challenged the delay in announcing the election through high level political engagement. It used the Bishops Conference of Southern Africa (IMBISA) to organise a series of meetings with SADC ambassadors in Kinshasa, to influence SADC to change their stance of unquestioning support of President Kabila.  The Church also launched a petition campaign to collect at least one million signatures to demand that the elections happen and the Catholic Bishops Conference of Congo (CENCO) launched an awareness raising campaign asking for free and fair elections in accordance with the Constitution. This campaign was in both rural and urban areas, including places where the State is almost totally absent.

 

  1. At the same time, the Catholic Church was instrumental in gathering together all parties for talks in the mediation process that led to the inclusive political agreement, the St. Sylvestre Agreement. Signed on New Year’s Eve 2016, the agreement committed to holding presidential, legislative and provincial elections by the end of 2017, to form a government of national unity, and that President Kabila would not run in the elections.

 

  1. The Agreement, however, was not respected, leading to mass peaceful demonstrations called for by the Catholic Church in several towns and cities across the country. During a number of demonstrations, security forces responded by firing teargas and live ammunition to disperse crowds. At least 15 people were killed, including a 24-year-old woman studying to be a nun, and scores of other protestors were injured or arrested, including many Catholic priests.

 

  1. In February 2018, Pope Francis called for an end to the violent repression of demonstrations calling for elections in DRC during his regular general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Rome. ‘I, therefore, renew my appeal that everyone makes all efforts to avoid any form of violence. From its side, the Church wants nothing other than to contribute to peace and the common good of society.

 

  1. After ongoing pressure from the international community, including a visit by an ecumenical delegation to the UK government in September 2018, the electoral calendar was hastily published with the election date pushed to December 2018 and the government rushed to pass a new electoral law introducing the use of electronic voting machines. The introduction of electronic voting, however, was contested by electoral experts, civil society and opposition parties, as voters were not trained to use them, and the risk of fraud was high.  

 

  1. Responding to these concerns, and to support transparency and credibility in the 2018 elections, CENCO put in place a Parallel Voter Tabulation (PVT) process using their network of national, regional and international observers. The Church deployed over 40,000 observers across the country in pairs per polling station to collect and monitor the results in real time. This was possible because of the Church structures’ rootedness in communities and as CENCO was trusted by the citizens as being impartial observers on the ground.

 

  1. The coverage gave the Catholic church quicker and more accurate results than the government run electoral body (CENI). It took the unprecedented step of making a public announcement before the official government announcement that showed the ruling party’s candidate in third place, which made it impossible for the results to be manipulated to make him win. 

 

Zambia - budget monitoring

 

  1. Zambia’s has a dynamic political history, yet the Church has developed a longstanding reputation and respect amongst the Zambian population as remaining a constant nonpartisan force throughout; prioritising the needs of the population and social justice before all else. This role as trusted mediator has allowed the church to take on a valued role in promoting accountability and citizen engagement in governance.

 

  1. In particular, the Catholic Bishops Conference initiated the formation of the Christian Churches Monitoring Group in 2011, with help from DFID funding. The group monitors local and national elections to ensure a fair process and ensure that citizens can properly engage with issues that affect them. Their monitoring covers campaign activity, political rhetoric and promises made, ensuring that the police and the media are politically neutral.

 

  1. The group’s activities have also expanded to more generally monitoring the national budget, where there are concerns over corruption and a lack of pay for schools and or funding of medicines in hospitals because government money is channelled to debt repayments. Through monitoring these activities and keeping a check on the electoral process, the Church ensures that there is a constant conversation orientated towards good governance.

 

  1. Speaking of the activities of the church, Secretary General of the Zambian Bishops’ conference Fr Cleophas Lungu noted that: “We engage with people at parish level so that they can ‘breathe out’” and speak openly about the issues they face. They see this as a process of healing. The next elections are September 2021, so these next two years will be a process of listening to people at local level and of bringing those issues to national level, but also of helping to heal the divisions that have been caused recently due to increased identity politics”.

 

Key recommendations:

 

  1. The following actions can be taken to deepen the partnership between the UK Government and the Church in Africa:

 

  1. A comprehensive approach across Whitehall to engage with faith actors. There is a need for a more comprehensive UK approach to understanding and supporting the role of faith and faith actors in sub-Saharan Africa. While staff training on ‘faith literacy’ and annual consultations by British embassies with faith leaders are important, this is not enough. There needs to be further research into how faith actors operate that is different to other development actors, as well as into what has worked and what hasn’t worked in previous partnerships. Within this, there needs to be the willingness to change the ways of working across DFID, the FCO and other arms of government.

 

  1. Engagement with faith groups and local communities from the start and throughout any intervention. Interventions that are decided at donor or country capital level and then rolled out for implementation with local groups simply seen as “delivery partners” have often stalled early on, as the Ebola response in West Africa and DRC showed. Governments need to engage local faith and community groups, who are rooted in the local context and are trusted leaders, in the design and implementation of any intervention. They need to seek advice from faith leaders about how different actors are perceived and about the cultural, social and religious beliefs and behaviours that could support or hinder any intervention. Governments also need to make more use of the volunteer army of religious adherents at community level.

 

  1. Long-term flexible funding for local NGOs and faith-based groups. The shift of DFID and other donors in recent years towards large commercial contracts with for-profit contract managers, who then sub-grant to INGOs and local NGOs, has not been conducive to effective partnership or risk sharing with local NGOs and faith groups. The UK Government needs to develop more effective long-term partnerships and funding arrangements with local actors, including faith-based groups, building on the learning from previous successful, but discontinued DFID funded programmes like DEPP (Disaster and Emergencies Preparedness Programme) and BRACED (Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters).[3]

 

  1. Support for religious leaders in peacebuilding. The UK government needs to engage with the Church and other faith bodies in promoting peace and reconciliation. This can be through supporting training of religious leaders, through amplifying their voices as they call for peace and through ensuring that they are included in all dialogues that the government is involved in at country level. It will also involve financial support to local peace-building efforts, especially where conflict has led to significant loss of livelihoods, of land and resources and where communities will need to see practical signs of progress to buy into reconciliation processes.

 

  1. More flexible UN coordination and operations. The UK Government should leverage its influence with UN agencies to promote a more consistent and effective approach to engaging FBOs at country-level in inter-agency coordination and development and humanitarian programme development and implementation.

 

Graham Gordon, Head of Public Policy

 

Received 20 April 2020

 

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[1]              http://www.globalreligiousfutures.org/regions/sub-saharan-africa

[2]              https://devtracker.dfid.gov.uk/projects/GB-GOV-1-300832/transactions

[3] Disaster and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP): https://reliefweb.int/report/world/disasters-and-emergencies-preparedness-programme-depp-learning-report-2016 Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED): http://www.braced.org/