Islamic Relief contributed to two influential symposiums on reducing poverty and sustainable development financing last week.

The Civil Society Policy Forum, which is run by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), was held in Washington, DC.

Using foreign lending assistance to drive down poverty

Speaking as a panellist in an event organised by the World Council of Churches, Islamic Relief USA were joined by organisations inspired by three other world religions in issuing a warning about levels of international debt and links to poverty.

The panel called for effective investment to promote sustainable development in low income countries, guaranteed social protection floors, and an approach to debt rooted in fairness and human rights.

Addressing the event, Anwar Khan, President at Islamic Relief USA, drew on Islamic and humanitarian principles, noting that shared risk – which is central to Islamic financing – would increase the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of foreign lending assistance.

Anwar emphasised that it was critical to do no harm, pointing out that: “Foreign debt is the greatest contributor to poor countries being unable to afford basic living standards, which traps the poorest in an endless cycle of poverty and suffering.”

Anwar also questioned whether IMF support holds countries to account on “requirements of basic human rights, such as banning torture and extra judicial killings, tax contribution by the elite and legal accountability to international courts.”

Islamic Relief USA was joined on the panel by ACT Alliance, General Board of Church and Society of the Methodist Church, United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Sustainable Development, and United Religions Initiative.

Growing human capital through development programming

Islamic Relief also participated in a separate session covering the role of faith in the human capital project. Drawing on our extensive experience delivering development programmes around the world, we highlighted the enormous potential for faith organisations to drive positive change.

Sharif Aly, Chief Executive Officer at Islamic Relief USA, pointed out that Islamic Relief is growing vital human capital through supporting livelihoods, education, developing local capacity and through tackling harmful practices such as gender based violence.

Sharif Aly, Chief Executive Officer at Islamic Relief USA, addressing the event.

Sharif also outlined the challenges facing Islamic Relief and other non-government organisations.

“A key challenge is the closing civil society space in many parts of the world where the politicization of aid and aid agencies is restricting humanitarian access and the ability to properly respond,” he said, explaining that this is fuelling increased de-risking and de-banking which is making it harder for organisations to deliver much-needed programmes.

“The World Bank has taken the initiative by launching work streams bring together NGOs, experts, financial institutions, regulators, and multi-laterals in finding resolutions to these challenges. We applaud that effort.”

The Civil Society Policy Forum is part of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group spring and annual meetings, enabling civil society organisations to engage in dialogue and share ideas.