THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
RELATED INTOLERANCE & FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
Issue: Relating Freedom of Religion or Belief to Racism, Racial Discrimination and Xenophobia
For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society
Review: This is a review of the report by the UN Special
Rapporteur, Mr. Doudou Diene, on Contemporary Forms of
Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (A/HRC/7/19),
The extracts for this review are on these aspects followed by an Issue Statement. Open this link to read the entire Special Rapporteur report (A/HRC/7/19).
Extracts from Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance: Follow-up To and Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action, are in bold beginning on the second page followed by an Issue Statement
Objective: Build understanding and support for Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights –Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Encourage the United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media and Civil Society to use these international human rights standards as essential for long-term solutions to conflicts based on religion or belief.
Challenge: In 1968 the United Nations deferred work on an International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance, because of its apparent complexity and sensitivity. In the twenty-first century, a dramatic increase of intolerance and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief is motivating a worldwide search to find solutions to these problems. This is a challenge calling for enhanced dialogue by States and others; including consideration of an International Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief for protection of and accountability by all religions or beliefs. The tensions in today’s world inspire a question such as:
Response: Is it the appropriate moment to
reinitiate the drafting of a legally binding international convention on
freedom of religion or belief? Law making of this nature requires a minimum
consensus and an environment that appeals to reason rather than emotions. At
the same time we are on a learning curve as the various dimensions of the
Declaration are being explored. Many academics have produced voluminous books
on these questions but more ground has to be prepared before setting up of a UN
working group on drafting a convention. In my opinion, we should not try to
rush the elaboration of a Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
especially not in times of high tensions and unpreparedness. - UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
Option: After forty years this may be the time, however complex and sensitive, for the United Nations Human Rights Council to appoint an Open-ended Working Group to draft a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The mandate for an Open-ended Working Group would have to be written in a way to assure nothing in a draft Convention would be construed as restricting or derogating from any right defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights, and 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief
Concept: Separation of Religion or
Belief and State – SOROBAS. The starting point for this concept is the First
Preamble to the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights
of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and
peace in the world. It suggests
States recalling their history, culture and constitution adopt fair and equal
human rights protection for all religions or beliefs as described in General
Comment 22 on Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
UN Human Rights Committee,
Urgent: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at a UN backed Alliance of Civilizations Forum in January 2008 addressed the importance of dialogue; “Never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue, among individuals, among communities, among cultures, among and between nations.” A writer in another setting said, “The warning signs are clear: unless we establish genuine dialogue within and among all kinds of belief, ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism, the conflicts of the future will probably be even more deadly.” Dialogue on culture and ideology should include perspectives on the long term value of international human rights law.
Extracts: Extracts are presented under the Eight Articles of the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Examples of extracts are presented prior to an Issue Statement for each Review.
4. 1 All States shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life.
4. 2 All States shall make all efforts to enact or rescind legislation where necessary to prohibit any such discrimination, and to take all appropriate measures to combat intolerance on the grounds of religion or other beliefs in this matter.
7. 1 The rights and freedoms set forth in the present Declaration shall be accorded in national legislation in such a manner that everyone shall be able to avail himself of such rights and freedoms in practice.
B. Incitement to racial, ethnic or religious hatred
53. The main challenge is now to define the threshold for legitimately restricting freedom of expression in order to protect the victims. In the recommendations contained in the joint report of the Special Rapporteur and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, which concerned incitement to racial and religious hatred and the promotion of tolerance, the experts invited the Human Rights Committee “to consider the possibility of adopting complementary standards on the interrelations between freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination, in particular by drafting a general comment on Article 20” of the Covenant. To this end, the Special Rapporteur is considering the organization, in cooperation with other mandate-holders, of an international seminar – for lawyers, the media, politicians, representatives of civil society and the United Nations mechanisms concerned – in order to propose principles and ways and means of strengthening the complementarity of freedom of expression, freedom of religion and belief, and the discouragement of racial, ethnic or religious hatred.
C. Religious Intolerance
56. The Special Rapporteur would first like to emphasize the growing trend of defamation of religions arising from the following factors: the conflation of race, culture and religion; the growing use of religion for political ends; and the intellectual and ideological questioning of religion. At the ideological level, the Manichean concept of a clash of civilizations and religions is gaining ground in the thinking and discourse of the political, intellectual and media elites. The concept of a clash of civilizations, and above all a clash of religions – which provides fertile soil for the defamation of religions – is the new front of the cold war theorists. With its pervasiveness and insidious be far-reaching influence, this new ideology is not only shaping the world view of a growing number of influential politicians and media chiefs, but is also becoming a new paradigm for intellectuals and academics. Its ideological effectiveness is based on the intellectual use of the defense of national identity and security, and on the fight against terrorism, reduced to its purely religious dimension. Using the simplistic, Manichean cold-war approach to deal with these issues serves to legitimize two main objectives: (a) the promotion of a purely materialist form of liberalism, marked by hostility towards, and questioning of, religion and spirituality, which are caricatured as running counter to progress and liberty, and (b) a selective, hierarchical, ideological interpretation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is against this background that we encounter a number of serious manifestations of the resurgence of racism and xenophobia: the electoral success of racist and xenophobic platforms and their infiltration into democratic institutions; the rise of racist violence; the growing expression of racism on the part of elites; the recycling by intellectuals and the media of concepts on which historical prejudices are based; the ethnicity-based approach to immigration, and the treatment of immigration on the basis of security aspects alone, and not respect for human rights.
IV. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
74. The Human Rights Council is invited to draw attention of member States to the serious nature of the defamation of religion, anti-semitism, Christianophobia and, more particularly, Islamophobia, and to promote the fight against these phenomena by strengthening interreligious and intercultural dialogue concerning the common ethics of all religions, the critical introspection required of all religions on the historical and theological sources of defamation they are subjected to, and mutual understanding and joint action to meet the fundamental challenges of democracy, development, peace and the promotion of human rights.
75. The Council is invited to encourage member States to wage a systematic campaign against incitement to racial and religious hatred by maintaining a careful balance between the defense of secularism and respect for freedom of religion and by acknowledging and respecting the complementarity of all the freedoms embodied in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
ISSUE STATEMENT: The UN Special Rapporteur report has promising aspects calling for an international seminar on the complexity and complementary aspects of racial and religious discrimination. However, there are aspects of his report that are disappointing:
Post-Durban Planning Process: Ad Hoc Elaboration of Complementary
third aspect of the Conclusions and Recommendations in his report will be
The general debate on item 9, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and the two reports on the post-Durban plan of action can be heard on the UN Human Rights Council live web cast on Tuesday afternoon, 25 March. Resolutions on freedom of opinion and expression; and racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance will be discussed and available at the end of week which is the seventh session.
Reply: The Tandem Project Country & Community Database collects information worldwide on United Nations Human Rights Bodies. The information is used for UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR); UN Treaty-based Reports; UN Special Procedures, Special Rapporteur Reports. Click on the link below to open the Database. Read the Instructions & Table of Contents: scroll to an Article of your choice and click to reply.
The Tandem Project: a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in 1986 to build understanding and respect for diversity of religion or belief, and prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference materials and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
The Tandem Project
initiative was launched in 1986 as the result of a co-founder representing the
World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) at a 1984 United
Nations Geneva Seminar, Encouragement of
Understanding, Tolerance and Respect in Matters
Relating to Freedom of Religion or Belief, called by the UN
Secretariat on ways to implement the 1981 UN Declaration. In 1986, The Tandem
Project organized the first NGO International Conference on the 1981 UN
Declaration. Michael M. Roan, firstname.lastname@example.org.
RELATED INTOLERANCE & FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
RACE & RELIGION OR BELIEF
FREEDOM OF OPINION & EXPRESSION - FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations