A new report, The Muslim Humanitarian Sector: A Review for Policy Makers and NGO Practitioners, seeks to better understand the barriers to and opportunities for greater cooperation with the Muslim aid and development sector.
Researchers from the British Council and Georgia State University, working under the auspices of the EU Commission's Bridging Transatlantic Voices Initiative, convey insight gained on the history and fugure of engagement between Muslim groups and their counterparts in the mainstream international aid and development sector.
According to the report, a global concensus has emerged that faith-based organizations are in a special position to address "shared global challenges rooted in problems of political conflict, violence, and extremism." Coupled with this are long-standing gaps in communication, knowledge, and practice "between conventional actors and their lesser-known counterparts in Muslim majority contexts" that reduce the capacity for the "effective implementation of policy strategies addressing the nexus of aid, development, and security in the greater MENA region." The current conditions in the region, including political conflict, humanitarian need, and aid flows make this an even more pressing issue.
The current reality is that religious humanitarian aid groups are often suspected of using aid as a vehicle for proselytization. At the same time, Government engagement in this sector is viewed as efforts towards "instrumentalization and political appropriation." This mutual distrust is compounded by fears of both imperialism and religious extremism, the report explains, leading to "lost opportunities of better serving beneficiaries through greater coordination, research, and resource mobilisation.
The report examines these dynamics and concludes with a series of recommendations.