We work to position the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its services to a standing of credibility, trust, and relevance in the public realm.

Mr. Jonathan Granoff (first from left), Senior Advisor and Representative to the United Nations of the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. Dr. Ganoune Diop (second from left), Director, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, Seventh-day Adventist Church. Rev. Dr. Liberato C. Bautista (third from left), Assistant General Secretary for United Nations and International Affairs, General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church. And Ms. Nika Saeedi (fourth from left), global focal point on Religion, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, and Hate Speech for UNDP. Photo credit: WCC

9th Annual Symposium at the UN Report

In 1994, the UNDP issued a report on human development in which it signaled a radical departure from the idea that people’s security should only be assessed through the territorial and national lens. Instead, human security should also include basic human needs, human dignity, and safety measures. Thus, access to food, water, healthcare, and education, are also core aspects of human security. Additionally, it introduced the idea that to be secure is to be “free from want” and “free from fear.” [1]

Today, the world is facing profound and interconnected global crises, from the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, to systemic inequalities, forced displacements, political polarization, hate speech, violent conflicts, and climate change.

New concerns are increasingly emerging regarding the interaction between global environmental change and human security. Many experts have argued that environmental scarcity can also impact violent conflict[2]. So, in what ways does securing planetary wellbeing contribute to securing human wellbeing? And what is the role of religion and faith-based organizations in promoting and preserving human security?

On January 24, 2023, more than 600 people attended the 9th annual Symposium online on the Role of Religion and Faith-based Organizations in International Affairs. Over 27 distinguished speakers from a number of faith-based organizations and UN agencies from all over the world met to discuss the topic “Securing People’s Wellbeing and Planetary Sustainability.”

H.E. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés opened the discussion by saying that “Faith is often what drives us to action, regardless of the specific doctrine." In fact, we often need a commitment higher than ourselves or our individual interest, whether it be our children and future generations, or a humanitarian sentiment. These are motivating factors that can bridge science and transformative action.

Ms. Ulrika Modéer, UN Assistant Secretary-General, and UNDP Assistant Administrator mentioned that through solidarity and a renewed social contract anchored in human rights, faith actors are necessary to rebuild equity and trust on a global scale.

Professor Azza Karam Ph.D., Secretary General of Religions for Peace, noted that faith leaders are a part of civil society and not a distinct unit outside of it. Faith actors have the responsibility to engage between faiths and to move from an ego-driven engagement to a humility-based one. “[We need to] hold religious leaders accountable to work together as equals,” she said, “this is how we obtain human security because, then, we are all holding ourselves accountable to the ultimate level of the divine.”

Professor Garry Jacobs, President of the World Academy of the Art & Science, called for collective efforts and a global campaign for human security. “We need the involvement and commitment of all organizations in all sectors of society, including the interfaith organizations in order to achieve the kind of peace, human rights, democracy, and sustainable development we need for human security.”

Ms. Sophia Farion, Senior Program Officer for Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, and Central Asia at GNWP spoke about the integral role of gender and the need to have women and their experiences represented in the context of peacebuilding and human security. Conflict disproportionately impacts women, and their experiences need to be accounted for.

Samuel Rizk, Head of Conflict Prevention, Peacebuilding, and Responsive Institutions at UNDP, emphasized the critical need to look at human security through mental health and psychosocial support. “It is no longer enough to consider food, water, shelter, [...] [as sole] contributors to human security,” he said. In fact, it is equally indispensable to figuring out how people who face human insecurity are affected mentally and psychologically, and develop adequate responses.

Dr. Jerry White, Executive Director of United Religions Initiative, questioned how faith and interfaith organizations should address the heightened state of religiously-motivated violence. He opened his presentation with a pertinent set of questions; How do we prevent and address religiously motivated violence? What would a violence-free world or victim-free world look like? Is there a treaty or a human security framework that would help us do this? Do we need an inter-religious peace treaty or some sort of global covenant of religions to join forces and enhance and augment the efforts of nations and states?

Speakers and participants highlighted concrete ideas that an interconnected, interdisciplinary, and global approach was necessary to secure human and planetary well-being equally across the globe. As Anwar Khan stated, “Our security depends on the security of others.”

Dr. Purnaka PL de Silva, Adjunct Professor at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, noted that the UN Security Council is the only organ within the UN system with the mandate and authority to take collective action to counter international security threats and maintain peace and security. The UN’s positions (or non-positions) have an enormous impact on human security as they can, and do, shape the international security environment.

Dr. Ganoune Diop represented the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and summarized all presentations reflecting on how we can build a better future based on human security. “Nearly every area of human experience is connected to the undergirding issue of human security; from threats to personal security to collective predicaments, to regional, national rifts in human solidarity, to needed global security,” he said. “Without the component of human security, life is frustrated by its essence of flourishing human potential.” Dr. Diop made a call to create a task force beyond the Symposium, to build a culture of human security and planetary sustainability, and to use collective efforts to draft a roadmap, a blueprint, on how to give a chance to human security. He mentioned that the human family needs an unprecedented mobilization for a comprehensive approach and multidimensional actions to secure human survival, comprehensive wellbeing, health, freedom, and peace.

The recording of the event provided by the World Council of Churches Team can be found on YouTube:

[1] "HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT 1994: New Dimensions of Human Security." UNDP, 1 Jan. 1994,https://hdr.undp.org/content/human-development-rep...

[2] "Toolkit and Guidance for Preventing and Managing Land and Natural Resources Conflict." United Nations, 1 Jan. 2012, https://www.un.org/en/land-natural-resources-conflict/pdfs/GN_Renew.pdf