Rethinking Diakonia and
Transforming Our World
Dr Arnhild Leer-Helgesen is associate professor in the Department of Global Development and
Planning, University of Agder (Norway). This article is based on the author’s trial lecture for the
degree of PhD held at VID Specialized University in Stavanger on 2 March 2017.
This article analyzes how ecumenical diakonia contributes to a critical view of the power
dimension of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the same time, it presents both
the opportunities and the challenges the SDGs provide in rethinking diakonia and diaconal
praxis. The commitment of the global community to the SDGs signiﬁes a new context for
diaconal praxis at local and international levels. In this article, power relations and the priority
of the marginalized are presented as key concerns for rethinking diakonia in the current
context. A model for diaconal reﬂection, based on perspectives from development studies and
theology, is suggested as a tool for an interdisciplinary rethinking of diakonia aiming at
renewed praxis in the context of the SDGs.
Ecumenical diakonia, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), rethinking diakonia,
power, diaconal praxis, transformation
Agenda 2030, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is the current global
commitment of United Nations (UN) member countries to work toward wellbeing and
equality for all. These goals are also a priority for the ecumenical movement, as the
Ecumenical Strategic Forum on Diakonia and Sustainable Development in October
This article analyzes how the SDGs challenge and provide opportunities
World Council of Churches, “Responding to the World’s Challenges: Forum Shapes Strategy on Diakonia,”
WCC website, 4 October 2017, https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/responding-to-the-
(2018) World Council of Churches. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.