NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Protecting freedom of thought and conscience within the international community of nations

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INVITATION – 10/22 Event on Safeguarding Freedom of Religion or Belief and Cultural Rights with UN Rapporteurs Dr. Ahmed Shaheed & Karima Bennoune

INVITATION

Safeguarding the Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief and Cultural Rights at a Time of Crisis

Featuring

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

12:00 – 1:15 Eastern Time

Online via Zoom (link and password will be provided to registered attendees just prior to the event)

RSVP (include name and affiliation) to unforb@gmail.com 

Please join us for a conversation in which Dr. Ahmed Shaheed and Ms. Karima Bennoune will discuss their most recent reports to the UN General Assembly as well as several areas in which they have both engaged in their recent work as UN Special Procedures mandate holders. These include their efforts to encourage States to advance the rights to freedom of religion or belief and cultural rights in ways that are consistent with the principle of the universality of rights; their efforts to promote greater recognition of rights defenders in their respective fields; and their concern about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the essential rights they monitor. 

This event is free and open to all. Advance registration is required. For more information about the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, please visit https://www.unforb.org/

NGO Committee on FoRB’s Annual General Meeting – June 3, 2020

The NGO Committee on FoRB in New York will host its Annual General Meeting via Zoom on Wednesday, June 3, from 2:30 – 4:00 pm (EDT). The meeting will feature a panel discussion featuring USCIRF Commissioners.

USCIRF Panelists:

–       Commissioner Tony Perkins, USCIRF Chair

–       Commissioner Gayle Manchin, USCIRF Vice Chair

–       Elizabeth Cassidy, Director of Research and Policy for USCIRF

The panelists will discuss USCIRF’s recently released 2020 report with a focus on positive developments and ways in which recent progress can provide roadmaps for countries that have been designated as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs).  

The panel will begin with opening remarks from Commissioners Tony Perkins and Gayle Manchin, followed by a moderated discussion and Q+A session.

Please RSVP for the Annual General Meeting at info@unforb.org by Monday, June 1, 2020. A Zoom link will be sent out to those who have RSVP’d approximately an hour prior to the start of the event.

Recent Religious Freedom Developments in India – May 29, 2020

Topic: Recent Religious Freedom Developments in India  

Date: Friday, May 29, 2020

Time: 9:00am – 10:30am, EDT

Background: Religious minorities have long faced persecution in India. The past six months have brought several additional and unprecedented challenges for minority groups, including the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which has been widely perceived as an “anti-Muslim” law. The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to increased persecution for several minority groups across the country. In April 2020, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) included India on its list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs), indicating that religious groups face systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. This recent designation suggests the situation in India in worsening, as India has not been included on USCIRF’s CPC list since 2004.

Our expert panelists will discuss these and other recent developments and the ways in which they are affecting the current religious freedom landscape in India. The panelists’ presentations will be followed by a time of Q+A for attendees.

Panelists:

·       Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC)

·       Ajit Sahi, Advocacy Director, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC)

·       Michael Williams, President, United Christian Forum (UCF)

·       Dr. Waris Husain, Adjunct Professor, Howard University School of Law and former South Asia Policy Analyst at USCIRF  

Please RSVP to info@unforb.org by Wednesday, May 27. Please note that a Zoom invitation will be sent out to attendees who have RSVP’d approximately an hour prior to the start of the meeting.

Meeting with the United States Mission to the UN

When: Friday, 21 February 2020, 1:15-2:45

Where: Baha’i International Community’s UN Office: 866 United Nations Plaza #120, New York, NY 10017

Please join us for an informal discussion with Henrietta Levin, Advisor to the United States Mission to the UN

Henrietta will provide an overview of the religious freedom initiatives that the US Mission to the UN has been involved in over the past year, as well as new initiatives planned for 2020. She will also touch on the ways in which civil society organizations can get involved in or support these initiatives. 

Please RSVP by emailing info@unforb.org on or before February 18. 

Safeguarding the rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression in the digital age

Sponsors: The Non-Governmental Organizations Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Article 19 and APC
When: 23 October 2019, 3:00pm – 4:00pm
Where: Baha’i International Center, 866 UN Plaza, #120, New York

Overview:

Hatred and persecution of individuals and groups on the basis of their religion or belief is reportedly on the rise. According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “[h]ate is moving into the mainstream – in liberal democracies and authoritarian systems alike”, playing out in online and offline spaces. Though violence motivated by hatred on grounds of religion or belief is frequent and widespread, several recent acts of extreme violence have brought into sharp relief the imperative to take action to protect rights and address the root causes of hate.

UN human rights experts have expressed increasing concern that political leaders are spreading fear for political ends, while simultaneously failing to act against the root causes of hate. They are even enacting measures that close space for legitimate expression and dissent, including online, with disproportionate impacts on already marginalized communities.

Notwithstanding increased global attention to these issues, very few States are taking the opportunity to report to the UN on the actions they are taking to tackle hatred.i

Addressing hate online necessarily requires social media companies to abide by their responsibilities to respect rights. UN experts have been clear that private actors must root their policies in rights, adopt a radically new approach to transparency, and establish real accountability mechanisms in order to ensure that their content moderation policies do not silence marginalized groups for no legitimate reason and are responsive to the needs of victims of hate. In light of enhanced efforts by the Global Internet Forum to Counter-Terrorism to tackle “violent extremism” online, including as part of efforts to implement the Christchurch Call to Action, the need to safeguard both the rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression in the digital sphere is especially important.

Both Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Ahmed Shaheed and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression David Kaye has repeatedly expressed concern to governments about these trends, and in October 2019, they will present reports to the Third Committee of the General Assembly reiterating concerns about persistently rising religious intolerance and the impact that varying policies online content moderation are having on rights-holders on the ground. This provides a crucial opportunity for States and civil society to explore how to reinvigorate existing efforts and initiatives to confront hate and protect rights through multilateral coordination, multi-stakeholder cooperation, and national implementation of the significant body of UN guidance to States, including UN resolutions to promote freedom of religion or belief and tackle religious intolerance, online and offline. This is particularly timely in light of the UN Secretary-General’s recent launch of the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech and the upcoming meeting of the Istanbul Process, scheduled to take place in the Netherlands in November 2019.

Join the Special Rapporteurs and the co-sponsors to discuss these trends, and good practices in addressing the root causes of discrimination and violence while protecting human rights.

Speakers:

  • Ahmed Shaheed

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

  • David Kaye

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression