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Religion and the Future of Global Governance

Leaders: Jocelyne Cesari Drew Christiansen

The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the interdependence and shared vulnerability of peoples and revealed the weakness of the international system in the face of global challenges. Intergovernmental institutions from the World Health Organization to the European Union have failed to provide sustained, coordinated responses to the public health, economic, social, and other dimensions of the crisis. How to improve global governance has emerged as a critical challenge for the world community. Over the course of the 2021-2022 academic year, the program will explore the potential of faith communities to contribute to the global governance debate.

Does the world’s future lie in an intensified realpolitik, where nations scramble to secure their own interests at any cost? Or can we build a more collaborative global order in which robust transnational structures address an expanding set of global crises, including pandemics, climate change, migration, nuclear proliferation, and cyberwarfare? The world's religious traditions bring critical resources to bear on these questions.

Historically, religion has served as a transnational source of values and cohesion. As the word "religion," from the Latin religare (to bind), reminds us, religious traditions bind people together and link them back to the core values of morality and justice with wider societal and political implications. Their global horizon makes religious communities key contributors for the reimagination and pursuit of new forms of global governance in our divided, polarized world. 

Beginning with Catholicism, the program will explore the potential of faith communities to contribute to the global governance debate, moving beyond the Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) to engage other world religions including Buddhism and Hinduism. A series of events and publications will address two sets of issues: (1) theological and ethical reflection across traditions on moral responsibility and engagement at the global level; and (2) modes of action for religious groups to influence the shape of global governance. 

Over the course of the 2021-2022 academic year, a series of public webinars will engage religious leaders and scholars from particular traditions around a series of linked questions: 

  •  What moral and theological resources does your tradition bring to challenges of global governance?
  • How have the pandemic and other contemporary global crises affected views of government and governance within you community?
  • What new avenues do you see for fruitful interfaith and religious-secular engagement on global governance issues into the future? 

The proceedings of the webinar series will inform a concept paper with recommendations for future research and action to be presented at a concluding in-person event.

People meeting for a United Nations General Assembly session

Project Leaders

Jocelyne Cesari headshot

Jocelyne Cesari

Senior Fellow
Department of Government

Drew Christiansen headshot

Drew Christiansen

Senior Fellow
Walsh School of Foreign Service



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