THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
THE POPE AT THE U.N. - RELIGIOUS LEADER &
HEAD OF A UNITED
Issue: The Pope at the United Nations
For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society
Review: In U.N. Address, Pope Stresses Importance of
Defending Human Rights, by Ian Fisher and Warren Hodge, New York Times,
According to protocol for a UN visit the pope is
considered a head of state, and thus outranks the UN secretary-general. The
Holy See Permanent Observer State at the UN theoretically, may have been
eligible to respond to the address of His Holiness from the floor of the
General Assembly. The Holy See is the only UN Permanent Observer State that
identifies with a religion. While not a member of the UN Human Rights Council
in Geneva, Switzerland, the Holy See can sign and ratify human rights treaty-based covenants, conventions,
non-binding declarations and discuss resolutions as an Observer State; on
matters of morality and universal inclusiveness the pope called for on Friday.
Extracts from the Pope’s address at the UN, past statements from the Holy See and others on Human Rights begin on page three, followed by an Issue Statement with attachments.
International Standards for National and Local Applications
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 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 ought to assure nothing in a draft Convention will be construed as restricting or derogating from any right defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights, and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. One writer has said; “Religion raises the stakes of human conflict much higher than tribalism, racism, or politics ever can…it casts the differences between people in terms of eternal rewards and punishments.”
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,
Education & Dialogue
Dialogue: 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.” Solutions to conflicts over religious or philosophical ideology call for dialogue on the purpose of international law on freedom of religion or belief; and the value of these standards for regional, national and local applications.
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.
1. 3 Freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
3. 1 Discrimination between human beings on grounds of religion or belief constitutes an affront to human dignity and a disavowal of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and shall be condemned as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enunciated in detail in the International Covenants on Human Rights, and as an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations between nations.
In his speech, Benedict touched on themes important both to his three-year-old papacy and his decades of writing as a cardinal and one of the church’s leading intellectuals. At base, the pope presented the idea that there are universal values that transcend the diversity-cultural, ethical or ideological- embodied in an institution like the United Nations, founded to help prevent the ruin of another world war. Those values are at the base of human rights, he said, as they are for religion. Thus religion, he said, cannot be shut out of a body like the United Nations, which he said aims at “a social order respectful of the dignity and rights of the person.” - In U.N. Address, Pope Stresses Importance of Defending Human Rights, by Ian Fisher and Warren Hodge, New York Times, Saturday, 19 April 2008.
And in a passage that will have particular resonance for the current United Nations leadership, which is trying to establish the right of the outside world to intervene in situations where nations fail to shield their own citizens from atrocities, the pope said that “every state has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights.” If states are unable to guarantee such protection,” the pope said, “the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments. - In U.N. Address, Pope Stresses Importance of Defending Human Rights, by Ian Fisher and Warren Hodge, New York Times, Saturday, 19 April 2008.
ISSUE STATEMENT: The focus of His Holiness on human rights in his address to the United Nations General Assembly has new challenging possibilities. The unique relationship of the Pope as religious leader and head of a UN Permanent Observer State was expressed in the introduction to initial report of the Holy See after they ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/3/Add.27) 23 March 1994; “The Holy See wishes to draw the attention of the Committee on the Rights of the Child to its singular nature within the international community. As the highest organ of government of the Catholic Church, the Holy See is recognized as a sovereign subject of international law. It is nevertheless distinguished by its particular nature, which is essentially of a universal religious and moral character.”
Will the Holy See Permanent Observer Mission to the
United Nations in
The definition of moral leadership by the United Nations calls for the Holy See to acknowledge the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights gives equal protection to theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief, as stated by the United Nations Human Rights Committee General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
This has not been the position of the Holy See in the past and the question now becomes has the Pope’s address changed the Holy See paradigm putting the Human Rights Council on an equal basis with the Security Council. Forty years ago in 1968 the United Nations General Assembly deferred work on a draft Convention on Religious Intolerance due to perceived complexity and sensitivity:
The position of the Holy
See may have started to change even in advance of the Pope’s address to the
United Nations. On
You can download Real Player for free and watch the Monsignor’s live statement on the OHCHR archived Web cast: http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=070914
To get a picture of the
Holy See at the UN Human Rights Council in
The Holy See (
In the Charter-bodies
Database the best way review the governance of the Holy See and
A more recent report on
Freedom of Religion or Belief was made by
The Pope’s address on human rights to the countries of the U.N. General Assembly presents the best opportunity since 1967 to the challenge of how in open and honest dialogue to confront the lack of a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The new United Nations Human Rights Council is struggling for answers to complex questions presented by a lack of consensus on the mandates on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Freedom of Opinion and Expression. Divisive votes have been taken on these mandates (see Word Documents attached) that threaten work toward the “promotion of human rights as the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups and for increasing security,” called for by the Pope.
The Holy See as a
presented itself this week in the UN Preparatory Committee, First Substantive
Session for the Durban Review Conference. The intersection between Religion and
Race is an item to be discussed by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of
Complementary International Standards called for by the Durban Program of
Action. The Tandem Project Issue Statement Closing the Gap – Religion
or Belief and Racial Discrimination (Word Document attached)
reflects on the gap in complementary standards between the Convention on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the 1968 deferred United Nations
working group for a draft Convention on Religious Intolerance. Ambassador
Indriss Jazairy of
Would His Excellency
Monsignor Silvano M. Tomasi, the Papal Nuncio in Geneva and the Vatican
consider writing a paper for
presentation at the September Ad Hoc Committee session as a follow-up to His
Holiness Pope Benedict XVI address to the General Assembly? The
There is chasm not a gap between human rights instruments on racism
and religion or belief. This has been true since 1968 when CERD became a
Treaty-based Convention on race and religion or belief started down the path to
a non-binding Charter-based Declaration. Ambassador Idriss Jazairy gave a green
light to the Holy See when he called for written contributions
to the Ad Hoc Committee meeting in September 2008. Many UN Member States on the
Preparatory Committee called for further elaboration of “multiple” or complex
forms of discrimination, and one panel member called for further elaboration of
the root cultural cause of problems
associated with race and religious discrimination. This is a green light for
the Holy See in
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.
The Tandem Project
Executive Director: Michael M. Roan, email@example.com.
The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations