Episcopalians take part in UN forum on eliminating poverty worldwide

By Egan Millard
Posted Jul 25, 2019

[Episcopal News Service] Leaders from The Episcopal Church participated over the past several weeks in a United Nations forum on eradicating global poverty. During that time, they represented the church, shared updates on the work that church-affiliated groups are doing and learned about progress that has been made so far.

The U.N. High-Level Political Forum, or HLPF, on the Sustainable Development Goals is a yearly meeting to review progress toward achieving the 2030 Agenda, a document outlining the U.N.’s plan to eliminate poverty by 2030. That plan is broken down into 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, which focus on solving specific issues that contribute to poverty, like insufficient education, climate change, gender inequality and unhealthy living conditions. During the HLPF, which took place at U.N. headquarters in New York July 9-18, various entities from inside and outside the U.N. gathered to evaluate the status of those goals.

The Episcopal Church has been building up a presence at these forums for years, having endorsed the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs when the U.N. adopted them in 2015.

“The Episcopal Church has been aiming to eradicate poverty long before the U.N. was even created,” said Lynnaia Main, The Episcopal Church’s representative to the U.N., who attended the forum. “After all, in Matthew 25, Jesus called on his disciples to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. So there is a natural alignment between what Jesus calls us to do as Christians and what the countries of the world are trying to do in calling for an end to poverty, via the lens of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

The SDGs line up well with the work that various Episcopal entities have been doing for years, Main said. Episcopal Relief & Development in particular has been working to relieve suffering and foster sustainable development through programs around the world that target hunger, disease, inequality, economic disadvantage and environmental destruction. Episcopal Relief & Development is using the SDGs (which emphasize the importance of collecting data and measuring outcomes) to evaluate its relief efforts, and the organization’s program knowledge manager Chou Nuon was one of the Episcopal delegates at the HLPF.

Other delegates included Jamie Coats, executive director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, who was there in support of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. OPHI, which is headed by Anglican priest and economist Sabina Alkire, has developed a new way of measuring poverty called the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index. While poverty has traditionally been determined by income alone, this analytical tool incorporates other weighted factors like education and health and living standards, producing a more accurate result for an individual’s status. This has given the U.N. – and the entities that work within and around it – the ability to more specifically track progress toward the SDGs.

The Rev. Nigel Massey, chair of the Diocese of New York’s Global Mission Commission and rector of the French Church du Saint-Esprit in Manhattan, attended the forum to learn more about the U.N.’s definitions of sustainable development. The Global Mission Commission helps parishes in the diocese engage with communities in developing countries by providing grant funding, as well as training and assistance with mission trips. As with Episcopal Relief & Development, the Global Mission Commission uses the SDGs to evaluate its own mission work.

Episcopalians also hosted side events during the forum, including “Education to End Inequality and Promote Peace,” which The Episcopal Church co-hosted with several other NGOs at its headquarters in Manhattan.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.