NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief

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

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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

FoRB Committee Annual General Meeting

Sponsor: The Non-Governmental Organizations Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief
When: 30 May 2019, 1:15pm – 2:45pm
Where: Baha’i International Center, 866 UN Plaza, #120, New York, NY.
 

Overview: Our meeting will begin with a presentation from two UN diplomats from the Permanent Missions of Egypt and Poland who facilitated the recent negotiations to create an “International Day on Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief” (set to be adopted on 22 May). They will share information about the resolution and this newly established day.  

Empowering women through the advancement of the freedom of religion or belief

Sponsor: The Non-Governmental Organizations Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief
When: 14 March 2019, 1:15pm – 2:45pm
Where: Baha’i International Center, 866 UN Plaza, #120

Overview: On the occasion of the 63rd Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the NGO Committee on FoRB is bringing together three experts to discuss the ways in which the freedom of religion or belief empowers women. Women disproportionately suffer the effects of religious persecution. One of the most strategic methods of empowering women in many places in the world is to ensure the freedom of religion or belief. This event brings together several key leaders to discuss a variety of ways in which ensuring the freedom of religion or belief is critical to empowering women.

Speakers:

  • Anurima Bhargava
    Commissioner, United States Commission on International Religious
  • Freedom (USCIRF) Katayoun Kishi, Ph.D.
    Research Associate, Pew Research Center, Religion & Public Life Division
  • Helene Fisher
    Global Gender Persecution Specialist, Open Doors International

International religious freedom: A new era for advocacy in response to a new age of challenges and threats

Sponsors: The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and the Non-Governmental Organizations Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief
When: 1 March 2019, 11:00am – 12:30pm
Where: UN Headquarters, ECOSOC Chamber

Overview: This past year marked 70 years since the international community formally recognized the right to freedom of religion or belief for all with the adoption of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Yet the threats to religious freedom remain severe, as there have been in the past few years widespread and severe violations of religious freedom, including genocide against religious minorities. At this critical moment, several of the highest-ranking leaders on international religious freedom come together for the first time at the United Nations to analyze global assaults on religious freedom and strategize responses. This historic event promises to build on the momentum of the first annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, hosted by the US government in July 2018, that brought together leaders from over eighty countries and presaged a new era for the right to freedom of religion or belief.

Objectives: The goals of the event are: 1) to promote a better understanding within the United Nations of the current state of international religious freedom, with a focus on some of the most pressing issues, such as restrictions on religious freedom under the guise of counterterrorism, blasphemy, apostasy and anti-conversion laws, and repression by non-state actors; 2) to raise awareness of efforts underway to increase religious freedom globally; and 3) to provide both governmental and non-governmental representatives with an opportunity to discuss plans for collaboration and best practices.

Confirmed Speakers:

  • H.E. Sam Brownback
    US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom
  • Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama
    Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria
  • Dr. Hajnalka Juhasz
    Ministerial Commissioner and Member of the National Assembly of Hungary
  • H.E. Bernardito Auza (moderator)
    Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations