On 17 February 2017 the Islamic Reporting Initiative (IRI) took part in the Global Sustainability Network (GSN) meeting held in Vatican City.
The GSN is a community and platform that is passionate and committed to delivering Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals: Decent Work and Economic Growth. The goal is deconstructed into 4 themes, namely full and productive employment, respecting human rights, global resource efficiency, and sustainable economic development.
Bishop Sanchez (Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences & Social Sciences), Lord Bishop Alastair Redfern (Church of England), and philanthropist Raza Jafar emphasized the importance of collaboration, mutual trust and respect, and the need to set clearly defined goals for the implementation of the Goals.
Dedicated GSN stakeholder groups include business, community, government, media and faith. With the personal support of Pope Francis, the faith chapter is chaired by IRI Trustee Mohamed Amersi, who said in his opening remarks:
“When you look at the last 30 years, we have clearly made huge advances. In technology, in economic growth, there have been transformational changes due to the digital revolution, but the problems are great. We have greater natural disasters; violence and conflict accounts for 4% of GDP; we have social inequality at its highest; we have youth unemployment at its highest; we have women being paid 25% less than men; we have medium and real wages stagnating since the 80s… So in essence what has really happened is that our trust in business pursuant to the social contract has eroded. And here is where I would like to advocate that faith has a very important part to play. Faith has a membership of 4.5 billion people in the world, and this whole concept of inclusive growth is nothing new.
“Once you start to mobilise people, these people are able to mobilise business, they can mobilise government, they are able to influence media, and they are able to make a change.” IRI Trustee Mohamed Amersi
I had the privilege of being in Kerala in India, and we went to a small town called Pali, and this town is predominantly Christian. It is a town which was founded about 500 years ago when Vasco da Gama arrived there. And they showed me a manuscript which was more than 100 years old about how business should be done, and I will repeat what it said. It said that we should focus on the eight S-es. One is the Supreme creator, the second is the Shareholder, the third is the Served – being the customer, the fourth is the Servant – being the employee, the fifth is the Supplier, the sixth is Society, the seventh is the State – paying taxes, and the eighth is the Surroundings – the environment. So this message is an ancient message; it is a message that has been there for a long time. Unfortunately it has been forgotten, or it has been lost. And I think that given all the problems that we now have, now is the time for faith to come and revive this message in a very powerful way.
Our goal for the faith chapter is firstly how to raise awareness for this issue. Today all of us here understand what the SDGs are, we understand what goal 8 is – but if you ask the ordinary person on the street, the child in the school, do they know what they are? They don’t. So the responsibility we would like the faith chapter to assume is to help GSN to articulate a simple message that faith leaders can in any shape, in any jurisdiction, in any society, articulate to their people, to make them aware of what the SDGs are all about. Secondly, GSN should use the convening power of faith to be able to take on board certain causes – adult slavery, child slavery, modern day slavery – and see how it can mobilise its people to try and achieve the aims. And success for us is not a 100 meter sprint – it is a marathon. And whoever is patient, whoever has the endurance to go through with this, will eventually succeed. If I think that today in my mosque maybe 10 people are aware of the SDGs, a year from now I will be able to tell you that 2500 people have been made aware – that to me will be success. Because once you start to mobilise people, these people are able to mobilise business, they can mobilise government, they are able to influence media, and they are able to make a change. So this is what we would like to do.”
An important development since the previous meeting was the establishment of a GSN chapter in Pakistan. His Excellency Shaukat Aziz, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, who also took part in the meeting, shared his vision of a global inclusive economy, emphasizing that the challenges we face today are not just a problem in developing countries. He too highlighted the potential of faith as an enabler for effective implementation of the Goals.
In her opening remarks, institutional investor Nili Gilbert (USA) underscored the importance of engaging the business community in delivering on the Goals, for example by demonstrating how issues such as labour costs, fair wages, and human rights filter through to the financial bottom line. While making the business case for sustainable innovation and development, she called for a new kind of leadership which empowers people and reconnects with humanity.
For further information about the Global Sustainability Network, please visit www.gsngoal8.com.