Faith-based Organisations and Current Development Debates

17th June 2019
Author: Rachel Cooper

This report provides a brief synthesis of the role of faith-based organisations in civil society. Faith-based organisations (FBOs) became more prominent in donor agendas, international development and academic research in the 1990s. There has been an increase in the number of FBOs from the 1980s onwards in response to neo-liberal policies in many countries, which resulted in the withdrawal of the state from social service provision; the evolving role of diasporas funding service provision in their countries of origin; and also more recently in response to the rise and salience of identity politics. Limited engagement between Western donor governments and development organisations on the one hand, and FBOs on the other, in the post-war period was based on assumptions that as societies became more ‘developed’ or ‘modern’ they would become more secular. However, FBOs began to receive increasing attention from donors and development policy in the 1990s due to several developments. These developments illustrate increasing awareness that FBOs can be important agents of social change. Christian and Muslim FBOs are the most widely studied in the literature, hence this synthesis largely draws on examples from these two groups.

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Suggested Citation

Cooper, R. (2019). Faith-Based Organisations and current development debates. K4D Helpdesk Report 624. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.


17th June 2019


Continent: Global