Religion and International Organizations
In Ian Hurd, Ian Johnstone, and Jacob Katz Cogan (eds), The Oxford Handbook of International Organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 490-507. ISBN: 9780199672202
13 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2017
Date Written: November 2, 2016
Religion is not a general feature in the operations of international organizations (IOs). Unlike issues like trade, environmental concerns and standardization, religion does not fit the modes and practices of most international organizations, which are commonly derived from the problems and requirements of modern, secular and functionally differentiated nation states and their non-state adversaries and subsidiaries. Despite this ill fit, religion has become increasingly important to IOs over the course of the last decade: Religious NGOs, IGOs and INGOs increasingly try to influence policymaking at the UN, global financial institutions have realized the importance of sensitivity towards local value systems in order to further development efforts, and the protection of religious freedom and religiously motivated persecution has risen to the top of the agenda of international human rights organizations.
This chapter has two parts. In the first part, I give an overview of how and why religion(s) and international organizations relate and interact. I discuss the definitional ambiguity of what constitutes ‘religious’ IOs and examine some proposals to clarify the issue, before mapping some important and influential religious IOs. In the second part, I present the interrelationship of secular IOs with religion, emphasizing the influential role of the handling of religion at the different levels of the United Nations to international approaches to religion in general. I then present some other important secular IOs and their interaction with religion, before providing a brief summary of the argument and a conclusion.
Keywords: international organizations, religion
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