THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
N.Y. TIMES – IN
For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society
The direct links are to the U.N. Official Documents Section (ODS) for the report by Algeria on their recent Universal Periodic Review (A/HRC/RES/6/37); follow-up report of the Working Group for the Algeria Universal Periodic Review (A/HRC/WG.6/1/DZA/1); a report on a country visit by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Abdelfattah Amor, to Algeria in 2002 (E/CN.4/2002/66/Add.1); and a direct link to the U.S. State Department 2007 Report on International Religious Freedom in Algeria.
An Issue Statement follows on Islam and Education in
Direct Links and Excerpts begin on the third page followed by an Issue Statement
Closing the Gap - 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 consider the rule of law and 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:
Should the United Nations adopt an International Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief?
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.
Concept: Separation of Religion or
Belief and State – SOROBAS. The First Preamble to the 1948 United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads; “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. This concept
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,
Article 18: protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The terms belief and religion are to be broadly construed. Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with international characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions. The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reasons, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility by a predominant religious community. Article 18: permits restrictions to manifest a religion or belief only if such limitations are prescribed by law and necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
Dialogue & Education
Dialogue: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at an Alliance of Civilizations Madrid Forum said; “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 has 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.”
Norms and standards on human rights and freedom of religion or belief are essential as universal rules for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and resolution of conflicts. International Standards on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief is a universal platform to establish genuine, inclusive within and among nations, all religions and other beliefs.
The 1981 U.N. Declaration states; “Every child shall enjoy the right to have access to education in the matter of religion or belief in accordance with the wishes of his parents, and shall not be compelled to receive teaching on religion or belief against the wishes of his parents, the best interests of the child being the guiding principle.” With International Human Rights safeguards, early childhood education is the best time to begin to teach tolerance, understanding and respect for freedom of religion or belief.
1. Direct Link to N.Y. Times article – In Algeria a Tug of War for Young Minds
2. Direct Link U.N. Official Documents Section (ODS) for government of Algeria Universal Periodic Report (UPR):
Click Simple Search:
Select Language: Type Symbol: A/HRC/8/29: Type Date of Publication:
3. Direct Link U.N. Official Documents Section (ODS) for Algeria Working Group Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Report:
Click Simple Search:
Select Language: Type Symbol: A/HRC/WG.6/1/DZA/1: Type Date of Publication:
4. Direct Link to U.N. OHCHR website for Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Algeria country visit, September 2002:
Click: Your Human
Rights/Human Rights Issues: Click: Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or
Belief: Click: Country Visits: Click:
5. Direct Link to
Excerpts: Excerpts 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. 1 Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practices and teaching.
1. 2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice.
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.
ALGIERS – In Algeria, a Tug of War for Young Minds, by Michael Slackman, New York Times, Monday, June 23, 2008. “First, Abdel Malke Outas’s teachers taught him to write math equations in Arabic, and embrace Islam and the Arab world. Then they told him to write in Latin letters that are no longer branded unpatriotic, and open his mind to the West.”
Malek is 19, and he is confused. “When we were in middle school we studied only in Arabic,” he said. “When we went to high school, they changed the program, and a lot is in French. Sometimes, we don’t even understand what we are writing.
The confusion has bled off the pages of his math book and deep into his life. One moment, he is rapping; another, he recounts how he flirted with terrorism, agreeing two years ago to go with a recruiter to kill apostates in the name of jihad.
At a time of religious revival across the Muslim
Now the government is urgently trying to re-engineer Algerian identity, changing the curriculum to wrest momentum from the Islamists, provide its youth with more employable skills and combat the terrorism it fears schools have inadvertently encouraged. It appears to be the most ambitious attempt in the region to change a school system to make its students less vulnerable to religious extremism.
But many educators are resisting the changes, and
many disenchanted young men are dropping out of schools. It is a tense time in
There is a sense this country could still go
either way. Young people here in the capital appear extremely observant,
filling mosques for the daily prayers, insisting that they have a place to pray
in school. The strictest form of Islam, Wahabism from
And yet, the young in
“We say that
Over the years the government has pushed back, reintroducing French, removing the most zealous religious teachers and trying to revise the religious curriculum. Seven years ago, a committee appointed by the president issued a report calling for an overhaul of the school system- and it died under intense political pressure, mostly from the Islamists and conservatives, officials said.
But this year, the government is beginning to make substantive changes. The schools are moving from rote learning – which was always linked to memorizing the Koran – to critical thinking, where teachers ask students to research subject and think about concepts.
Yet the students and teachers are still unprepared, untrained and, in many cases, unreceptive. “Before teachers used to explain the lesson,” Malek said. “Now they want us to think more, to research, but it’s very difficult for us.”
ISSUE STATEMENT: This New York Times article demonstrates the courage and commitment of the Algerian National Ministry of Education to bring educational reform and curriculum for skills in critical thinking needed by Algerian youth in the twenty-first century, in the face of Islamist extremism and terrorism. On the other hand it shows the depth of cultural differences between the West and Islam, and the conundrum of cultural tension between U.N. Human Rights Council Member States in the European Union (EU) and those in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), over a draft resolution to extend the mandate on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief.
It has been forty years since the United Nations General Assembly decided in 1968 to defer work on a draft Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. It may be another forty years before they take up work again on such a human rights instrument. There are several options; to never draft a Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief, to wait to begin work on a Convention until we have a less divisive world, or to act now in the face of challenges in the twenty-first century. See History; United Nations, Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief in the attached Word Document. Current human rights indicators suggest we may be involved more in a “Clash of Civilizations” than an “Alliance of Civilizations” as the United Nations sponsored effort suggests.
This was apparent on
9. (a) To ensure that the constitution and legislative system provide adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief to all without distinction, inter alia, by the provision of effective remedies in cases where the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, or the right to practice freely one’s religion, including the right to change one’s religion or belief is violated.”
Link to U.N. Human Rights Council draft resolution (A/HRC/RES/6/37) on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief:
Sam Harris, in writing a Letter to a Christian Nations, has said: “Religion raises the stakes of human conflict much higher than tribalism, racism, or politics ever can, as it is the only form of in-group/out-group thinking that casts the differences between people in terms of eternal rewards and punishments.” Another writer has said: “the warning signs are clear: unless we establish a 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.”
In the attached Word Document, History: United Nations, Human Rights, Freedom of Religion or Belief, 1967-68, shows why after forty years, multi-cultural debates and discussion on freedom of religion or belief in the United Nations have not changed all that much.
The Algeria Universal
Periodic Review (UPR) adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council, points to
ominous signs that we have made little progress
toward the establishment of universal international human rights standards on
freedom of religion or belief, that go much beyond words and empty pledges. In
the inter-active follow-up to the Working Group report (A/HRC/8/29) in
paragraph 31, “The Holy See noted that the Special Rapporteur on freedom of
religion or belief raised concerns about the law adopted in 2006 on the
practice of religions other than Islam, which limit the practice of other
The Conclusions and
Recommendations to (A/HRC/8/29) by
In 2002 then Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Abdellfatah Amor, made an official country visit to Algeria (September 2002, E/CN.4/2002/66/Add.1.) His Conclusions and Recommendations to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, shows progress as well as a lack of forward momentum from 2003-2008 in the Algerian pledge to improve human rights standards. His Conclusions and Recommendations can be accessed by opening the direct link above.
Norms and standards on human rights and freedom of religion or belief are essential as universal rules for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and the resolution of conflicts. International Standards on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief is a universal platform for genuine, inclusive dialogue within and among nations, all religions and other beliefs.
* Preface Closing the Gap – International Standards for National and Local Applications, considers the question of a Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief followed by a Response from the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and The Tandem Project Option and Concept including a program for human rights-based Dialogue & Education.
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
WORD DOCUMENTS ATTACHED