Governance and Faith

January 12, 2009

“Governance” is a term used in many ways; it refers to the nature and operation of political systems, to their legitimacy and effectiveness, and to the application of human rights. In some settings it amounts virtually to a code term for corruption. These different and complex topics are not primarily the domain of faith leaders and communities but, at societal and more local levels, often engage them. The Berkley Center is engaged in a continuing program to explore how faith communities, leaders, and institutions can and do address these issues from the perspective of international development.

Corruption is aptly described as a cancer. This suggests, first, that it grows and has corrosive effects, and second, that it takes many different forms, some fairly benign and others mortal. Corruption has emerged as a central issue for international development efforts, because it erodes the effectiveness of development programs and because it undermines support for public efforts to advance human development on many fronts. Ethical issues are woven through the corruption challenge, and many present knotty challenges of theology, philosophy, and practice. Faith leaders and institutions have a deep interest in the topic, from the profoundly ethical through practical dilemmas including how people on the ground contend with situations where corrupt practices (paying bribes for example) is the norm.

A first Berkley Center effort focuses on the ongoing work to fight corruption and ways in which faith communities might play more active and effective roles in the large and complex civil society integrity alliances that are taking shape. A meeting at the Berkley Center on October 14, 2004 explored the topic. Katherine Marshall chaired a workshop at the Athens International Anti-Corruption Conference on October 30-November 2, 2008 which explored avenues for raising interest and enhancing action of faith communities on corruption issues. A report on faith and governance reviews ongoing work and issues and proposes ten areas where future action to enhance faith engagement in fighting corruption.

In this work the Berkley Center has close links with several partners including Transparency International, the International Anti-Corruption Conference, the World Bank, IDEA (International Development Ethics Association), Global Ethics, and the University of Cambodia. Berkley Center work on faith, governance, and anti-corruption is an ongoing effort, with the expectation of continuing consultations on understandings of the issues, a mapping survey of what is being done, where, and with what effect, assessment of experience, and dialogue on thorny issues. This work will be reflected in periodic updates on the website.

For information please contact Katherine Marshall, km398@georgetown.edu.

back to top