COP17 Inter-Faith Activities

About the publication

  • Published: 2012
  • Series: --
  • Type: NGO reviews
  • Carried out by: Aziwe Ncumisa Magida, Jengagida Consulting
  • Commissioned by: Norwegian Church Aid
  • Country: South Africa
  • Theme: Climate and environment
  • Pages: --
  • Serial number: --
  • ISBN: --
  • ISSN: --
  • Organization: Norwegian Church Aid
  • Local partner: Africa Faith Communities Environmental Institute (SAFCE), South African Council of Churches (SACC), SACC Youth Forum, Diakonia Council of Churches, Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC), Economic Justice Network (EJN)
NB! The publication is ONLY available online and can not be ordered on paper.

The inter-faith activities through the ‘We Have Faith – Act Now for Climate Justice’ campaign were a result of several meetings between stakeholders from EJN, SAFCEI, IPACC, NCA discussing and planning activities for the COP 17 to be held in 2011 in Durban. In December 2010, representatives from the stakeholders came together and a decision was made to approach Diakonia Council of Churches (DC of C) to host the Secretariat for the inter-faith activities before and during COP 17. The objectives of the inter-faith campaign as articulated during the evaluation were defined as the following:
• Strengthen the inter-religious network through mobilising among different organisations around climate change.
• Influence the UNFCCC processes through ensuring that the negotiations have a moral basis.
• Raise awareness and provide education for local people on climate change.
• COP 17 to be influenced by the faith communities because the UNFCCC process in the past has been too secular; needs a moral dimension.
• COP 17 to bring synergy between climate change and economic justice.
• Offer time of reflection for faith leaders around COP17 and influence the proceedings through devotions and prayers.
• Faith networks in Africa to engage and build their capacity on environmental issues and work on a particular campaign.

Purpose/ Objective:
The objectives of the evaluation are as follows:

1. Assess the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of service of the following elements of the ‘We Have Faith’ Campaign:
• The functioning of the Faith Secretariat, including the governing structure.
• The planned activities leading up to COP 17.
• The planned activities during COP 17.

2. Draw key achievements, weaknesses and lessons of the campaign.
3. Draw recommendations.
4. Planning and way forward. 

The following methods were used in the evaluation:

- A participatory approach to the planning and design Process, including meetings with the Local Coordinating Committee and Local Steering Committee in Durban and a two day workshop with the National Steering Committee and the Local Steering Committee.
- Desktop Study of all relevant material was studied in preparation for this evaluation. These include the minutes of the National, Local and Coordinating Committee, concept paper, reports and conference declarations.
- Data Gathering: A combination of interviews, meetings, focus groups and a workshop were held with the relevant committees and staff. The interviews and focus group sessions were aimed at seeking more qualitative and strategic information on various aspects of the campaign.
- Analysis and Reporting: After collating the findings and analysing the data, a draft report was submitted for circulation to all the participants. The participant’s feedback has been incorporated and the necessary amendments have been made. This final report has been developed in response to the feedback received.

Key Findings:
- The structure of the campaign enabled diverse groups of and organizations to work together in an inclusive and open manner and despite challenges, it managed to deliver most of the planned activities. However, the structure was not well defined, included many stakeholders and therefore made decision making processes challenging and lines of accountability unclear.

- The secretariat hosted by Diakonia Council of Churches succeeded in securing accommodation for 250 delegates from across Africa and the world. Its strengths included its coordinator and motivated interns, weaknesses included limited experience among the interns, not creating a separate bank account for the project, and that original bookings were made by NCA rather than people who knew the local context.

- The South African (Durban), regional (Lusaka) and continental (Nairobi) faith leaders conferences were considered hugely successful. The Nairobi conference included 130 faith leaders from more than 35 countries and 9 different faiths.

- The inter-faith rally in Durban resulted in overwhelming media attention in the run-up, during and after the rally. The strategy to use Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to host the rally contributed significantly to the campaign generating the media attention that it received. Other strengths included the ability to get the diverse faith-based organisations to sign and agree on a single petition and participate in the rally, The participation of the youth, the 200 000 signatures, the response of UNFCCC-secretary general Christina Figueres, and International Affairs Minister and COP17 president Nkoana-Mashabane explicitly mentioning the campaign, the rally and the petition in her opening statement at COP17. Weakness included low turnout of people (10 percent of expected). Contributing factors to this money not available on time, resulting in busses not being available on time for the mobilising group to confirm for their different communities, other faith groups felt that the image on the poster of Bishop Tutu was not representative of all the faiths. Compounding this there were also political forces at play mobilizing people in the different communities not to attend the inter-faith rally because of the recent statements made by Bishop Tutu, having the rally on a Sunday meant that some people opted to rather attend their Sunday service, and there were a number of other events taking place on the same day.

- At the prayer service liturgical planning and care in balancing participation by representatives from the various faith communities was well executed and a key achievement was that it connected people as different faiths participated. However, the turnout was lower than expected. Contributing factors included the choice of venue and competing events.

- There was a good participation and representation of the faith sector in the Global Day of Action.

- The Diakonia Centre served as hub both in the planning and during COP17. There were about two to four events on a daily basis from 28 November until the 8 December and with a daily devotion session at 08h00 in the morning and a feedback session at the end of each day at 18h30.  In total there were 95 side events held over 4 venues in 14 days. The side events included a series of independent faith perspectives on faith communities and climate change including Muslim, Jewish, Baha’i, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist.

- The flexibility of the campaigning and advocacy strategy enabled new thinking and creativity throughout the campaign. The drafting of the petition was a joint process where the different faith groups gave their input and the key success was the ability to get the diverse faith-based organisations to sign and agree on a single petition. The use of the petition was a significant success of the campaign as it was a good tool for face-to-face engagement on COP 17. A key characteristic that made this campaign a truly African experience was that most of the signed petitions were from face-to-face interaction collected in Mali, Angola, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa to name just a few countries.

- There was effective communication of the campaign’s message on climate justice for people on all levels to be able to understand, public opinion was built that supported the campaign’s messages through mainstream media reaching the public and faith communities via radio, television and newspapers (120 newspaper articles written on the faith campaign: over 100 internet articles, over 30 radio spots and eight television interviews ranging from one minute to 9 minutes exposure). This was a result of the choice of using media specialists who were immediately able to raise the profile of the faith campaign. There were 150 journalists accredited to the inter-faith rally.

- Youth played a strong mobilising role through raising awareness about climate change and building knowledge of how to live in a sustainable way. Social media was used to reach the youth encouraging them to sign the petition and start living in a sustainable way. Various other inter faith youth groups also played a significant role, and youth were volunteers for the rally as well as assisting with the overseas visitors.

- 160 youth from across Africa travelled from Nairobi to Durban organising concerts, meeting politicians, gathering petitions in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa. It generated headline news in national media in all the countries it passed. There were also other caravan initiatives using the ‘We Have Faith’ slogan from Mozambique and Zimbabwe and there was also a bicycle caravan from Mesina to Durban. However, there were also some shortcomings in fully integrating the youth into the ‘We Have Faith’ campaign in South Africa as SACC youth joined the campaign at a late stage.

Conclusion from the evaluation report: “On reflection, a lot has been achieved through this campaign. The vision of the campaign grew with the campaign’s development and the faith communities that participated managed to get through a very complex process. There is acknowledgement that people had to think big and as a result the vision was a substantial one with significant results. The commitment to the campaign and vision was evident through the participation in meetings. The Local Coordinating Committee met nineteen times, while the Local Steering Committee met monthly to generate ideas and plan for implementation.  On the whole, all events (rally, prayer service, the march and conferences) were accomplished with good spirit and unity. The campaign revived the partnerships within the faith communities and awoke the quest for different religions to work together. The campaign succeeded in making the voice of the faith communities heard concerning the moral, ethical and spiritual aspects of climate change. In summary the interreligious alliance worked well and successfully established its presence at COP17” (p 17).

Key achievements: according to evaluation, included: 1) There is Better Understanding of Climate Issues, 2) Moral Dimension to the Negotiations and Political Impact, 3) This was an African Campaign, 4) Higher levels of Inter-Faith Tolerance Achieved, 5) Good Media Coverage, 6) Participation of the Youth, 6) Diakonia  Centre as a Faith Hub, 7) At the ICC site of Negotiations, 8) Having a powerful visionary in leadership, and 10) Campaign managed to raise the required funding.

Recommendations and lessons learnt:

1. Define structure for improved communication and decision making.

2. Develop clear objective and outcomes.
3. Differentiation of tasks and allocation of appropriate human resources.

4. Recruitment of skilled personnel.

5. Host organization should set up separate bank account for this kind of project.

6. Ensure multi-faith representation and diversity - clear checks and mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure diversity and to measure the level of inclusion.

7. Early planning and implementation - there is repeated articulation that things should have been started earlier and in cases where planning did start in good time implementation needed to begin earlier

8. Develop guidelines on mobilising for a campaign of this nature – there is a need to define strategies and guidelines for mobilising multi/inter-faith campaigns of this nature. 

9. Need to have people who will follow negotiations.

10.  Communication strategy and taking campaign to the people, including translation of documents such as the conference declarations is important as a mobilising and awareness raising tool that will speak to people in their own languages.

11. Systematically focus on the participation of youth and women
12. More focused side events at the faith hub.

13. Have ongoing prayers and devotion during negotiations.
Comments from Norwegian Church Aid:
NCA shares most of the conclusions and recommendations from this evaluation. While a very successful campaign, it was also an opportunity for us and partners to learn important lessons about campaigning and advocacy. It has therefore served as a very efficient capacity building strategy.

The evaluation also had two specific observations about NCA which are important:

“The role played by NCA, the key donor, which went beyond a funding role to be a significant part of the campaign. Even with NCA’s involvement at implementation stage through their participation on the National Steering Committee, the process remained an African one driving an African agenda” (p 6).

“The fundraising which was led by NCA was one of the key successes of this campaign. Twelve funders came on board and pledged significantly to the success of the campaign.”  (p 18)


Published 05.12.2013
Last updated 16.02.2015