Background

Plan International’s vision is a world in which all children, regardless of religious, political, or cultural beliefs and affiliations, realise their full potential in societies that respect people’s rights and dignity. Plan International is guided by the international human rights framework, and therefore respects and works to protect all peoples civil, political and cultural rights regarding religious and political belief and expression. Plan International is a secular, non party-political organisation and has no religious or political affiliations. In its Code of Conduct all employees of Plan International are required to ‘Respect the rights of all people without discrimination’, and ‘Ensure that my behaviour does not jeopardise PII political and religious neutrality’ (PII, 2018).

However, all development assistance brings with it a set of beliefs and values and that development, by its very nature, involves changing values and behaviour. Development is a political process and necessarily requires interactions and engagement with political parties and faith based organisations. In many contexts, religion and faith are interwoven in all aspects of people’s daily lives and integral to the development process.

Managing a balance between working with faith based or partisan political entities engaged in development activities, and maintaining a non-discriminatory approach with no religious or political affiliations is therefore a central issue for development organisations today.

Purpose

To articulate Plan International Australia’s position on supporting or engaging in evangelism and/or religious activities and/or partisan politics within PIA’s development work and organisational operations, and provide guidance to staff and partners on these issues.

This policy meets DFAT’s principle of fair distribution, which ‘seeks to ensure that development activities aim to improve the well-being of those in need without favouritism or discrimination by race, religion, culture or political persuasion’. (DFAT, 2016)

This policy promotes and meets DFAT’s policy requirement that ‘development assistance must be provided on a non-discriminatory basis. The acceptance of specific religious or political beliefs or membership in a particular religious or political group must not be a condition for receiving assistance or participating in development programs on an equal basis.’ (DFAT, 2018)

Scope

Evangelism is defined here as the practice of attempting to convert people to another religion or faith. This policy utilises the DFAT definition of religious activities as ‘supporting or promoting a particular religion, including activities undertaken with the intention of converting individuals or groups from one faith and/or denomination to another’. (DFAT, 2018) Proselytism activities are defined by DFAT as ‘supporting or promoting a particular religious adherence’. (DFAT, 2016)

This policy utilises the DFAT definition of partisan political activities as ‘supporting a political party,candidate or organisation affiliated to a political party’. (DFAT, 2016)

This Policy is relevant to all organisational functions of Plan International Australia including programming, advocacy and fundraising activities, and the establishment of partnerships with other organisations/entities. This is a Plan International Australia policy aligned to Plan International policy.

Policy statement/s

Plan International Australia is a secular, non party-political organisation and has no religious or political affiliations. Plan International Australia takes a rights-based approach to development and
is not confined by ideological or religious boundaries.

Plan International Australia does not use any funds to support projects/programs:

  • designed to promote particular religious beliefs;
  • require beneficiaries to follow a particular set of beliefs in order to be involved in the project;
  • and where the beneficiary is a religious institution as distinct from a local community.

Plan International Australia does not use funds to support projects/programs that engage in party political activities or support particular party political individuals or groups.

Plan International Australia works without prejudice or discrimination and can sometimes have partnerships with faith-based organizations, governments and groups engaged in advocacy in order
to effectively promote the rights of children. These partnerships will be limited to entities that share Plan International Australia’s commitments to human rights in particular children’s rights and understanding of sustainable development. Plan International Australia’s engagement with faith based or partisan political entities will be limited to activities aimed at achieving lasting change for children and will not involve any element of evangelism or partisan politics.

Roles and responsibilities

All PIA staff and management are responsible for the application of this policy.

All Plan staff are required to comply with the Plan Code of Conduct to ‘Respect the rights of all people without discrimination’, and ‘Ensure that my behaviour does not jeopardise PII political and religious neutrality’ (PII, 2018).

Plan International Australia’s policy of non-engagement in evangelist, religious and/or party political activities is made known to the partner organisations at the time of establishing the partnership. Plan partner, including Plan International Country Office management procedures and monitoring ensure that no resources (funding, training, personnel) are used for these purposes.

Plan International Australia undertakes due diligence of all new partners, as outlined in the PIA Manual of Procedures and according to Plan International procedures.

Related legislation & Plan policy

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2016 Overseas Aid Gift Deduction Scheme: Guidelines.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2018, Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) Manual.

Plan International, 2018 Code of Conduct.