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Prefatory Note: The Tandem Project has a long-standing interest in Norwegian constitutional history and a connection to the Oslo Coalition as a co-organizer of the 1998 Oslo Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief that founded the coalition. Suggestions for model Norway Forums on Academic Discourse and Places of Worship (attached) will be implemented in the United States after the November 2010 United States of America Universal Periodic Review.

 THE TANDEM PROJECT
http://www.tandemproject.com.
info@tandemproject.com

UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

Separation of Religion or Belief & State

NORWAY

Sixth Session U.N. Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (30 Nov. – 11 Dec. 2009)

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process launched by the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 to review the human rights obligations and responsibilities of all UN Member States by 2011. Click for an Introduction to the Universal Periodic Review, Process and News:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/BasicFacts.aspx

UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW

Date of consideration: Wednesday 2 December 2009 - 9.00 a.m. - 12.00 a.m.

National report 1 :

 A | C | E | F | R | S

            

 Compilation of UN information 2 :

 A | C | E | F | R | S

      

Summary of stakeholders' information 3 :

 A | C | E | FR | S

Questions submitted in advance :

 E

     Questions submitted in advance - Addendum :

 E 

Questions submitted in advance - Addendum 2 :

 E

 

  

Outcome of the review   :

 

Report of the Working group   :

 A | CE | F | R | S

Report of the Working Group - Addendum

 E

Related webcast archives :

Review:
http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=091202#am
Adoption of report:
http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=091204#amadopt
Consideration of the outcome:
http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=100317#pm

 

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

U.N. Working Group Recommendations:

http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G10/100/77/PDF/G1010077.pdf?OpenElement

Stakeholder Letters: Submitted for the Norway Universal Periodic Review.
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRNOStakeholdersInfoS6.aspx

THE TANDEM PROJECT RECOMMENDATIONS

The Tandem Project for the Norway Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief  will focus on developing Follow-up Recommendations  with Norwegian organizations (see Norway Contacts) on the following sections of the National Report and the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights  and the three generic proposals listed in The Tandem Project Follow-up (below).

Excerpt from National Report: 3.15 Freedom of thought, religion and belief. “Norway has a constitutional state church system that has been the subject of criticism as a matter of principle from several quarters, including the UN Human Rights Committee. Article 2 of the Constitution protects certain aspects of freedom of religion or belief, but does not go as far as the protection provided by international human rights principles.” “A White Paper has been discussed in Parliament, and formal proposals to amend all seven articles in the Constitution establishing the state church system has been submitted. The proposals will be voted on in the next parliamentary session.” “In connection with continuous focus on dialogue, cooperation between religious and life stance communities, the authorities and the general population, grants are provided for three councils for religion and belief: the Council of Religious and Life Stance Communities, the Islamic Council of Norway and the Christian Council of Norway.” “Religious and belief communities outside the Church of Norway have a statutory right to claim an annual financial grant from the State and municipal authorities. This grant scheme is unique internationally.” 

National Centre for Human Rights (NCHR):  5. Freedom of religion and belief, expression, association and peaceful assembly: The Government has proposed a new formulation of the Constitution § 2 articulating basic values. It mentions humanity and Christianity specifically, with no reference to other religions or beliefs. This may not be in conflict with any human rights conventions; it might however exclude groups of the population. The same problem arises in the statements of objectives in the law on both schools and kindergartens. NCHR finds the principle of inclusion to be highly relevant in this debate. NCHR recommends that Norwegian authorities reconsider whether there is a need for explicitly highlighting the Christian belief in the constitutional values and in the statement of objectives in the laws on schools and kindergartens.

EXCERPTS

The following excerpts are from  attachments to this issue; Norway – Follow-up to the Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Norway – Forum: Academic Discourse on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief

The Tandem Project seeks an exchange of information and ideas in a Forum for Academic Discourse on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief from multi-disciplinary perspectives as a Follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review (attached). The Forum is a model for asking the question how to support inclusive and genuine study and research on human rights and freedom of religion or belief, and discuss strategies and obstacles to multi-disciplinary discourse on human rights and freedom of religion or belief within disciplines

Norway – Forum: From the Very Beginning: Places of Worship; Education, Religious Beliefs & Human Rights.

The Tandem Project seeks an exchange of information and ideas on the meaning of From the Very Beginning: Education, Religious Beliefs & Human Rights in Places of Worship as a Follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief (attached). The Forum is a model to discuss the proposal, strategies and obstacles to adaptation in Norway.  

Norway – Exchange of Information Contacts

The University of Oslo is Norway’s largest and oldest institution of higher education. It was founded in 1811 when Norway was still under Danish rule. Today the University of Oslo has approximately 27,700 students and 5,900 employees. CULCOM, Cultural Complexity in the new Norway is a strategic university program, University of Oslo 2004-spring 2010. This website article is on a Master’s thesis “Cooperation rather than religious dialogue” by Kjersti Borsum, pointing out “there is a great distance between the elite participating in dialogue and the grassroots level. The Tandem Project will approach a variety of departments in the University of Oslo including CULCOM, the School of Theology, School of Law and department of Sociology for an exchange of information as a follow-up to the Norway Universal Periodic Review.

Norway – Exchange of Information Contacts

The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights was established as an independent foundation in August 2006. The Oslo Center’s work is structured around three main programs: Dialogue for Peace, Promoting Democracy and Human Rights. The Oslo Center works through contact and dialogue with policy makers, organizations and key actors in Norway and internationally. Several members of the staff of nine are former diplomats and experts from the Government of Norway.  The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights president and founder is Kjell Magne Bondevik, Prime Minister of Norway from 1997-2000 and 2001-2005. Mr. Bondevik was ordained as a priest in the Lutheran Church of Norway in 1979. He is a member of several key international associations the United Nations endorsed Alliance of Civilizations and the Club de Madrid made up of former presidents and foreign ministers from countries throughout the world. Mr. Bondevik is in a unique position having been a Norwegian Foreign Minister and an active priest in the State Church of Norway. The Tandem Project will call on the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights to exchange information on ways they intend to follow-up on the Norway Universal Periodic Review.

Consensus Reached – 2010 Mandate on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Spain, introduced the resolution on behalf of the European Union (EU). Pakistan speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic States (OIC) dropped an amendment in partial opposition. Egypt  congratulated the States parties that worked on the compromise and called for continued dialogue as the best path to follow for this “core human rights” issue. 

2010 UN Human Rights Council Resolution (A/HRC/Res/14/11)

5. Calls upon States to adopt measures and policies to promote respect for places of worship and religious sites;

(c) Attacks on religious places, sites and shrines in violation of international law, in particular human rights and humanitarian law, as they have more than material significance on the dignity and lives of members of communities holding spiritual or religious beliefs;

Norway received congratulations on the floor of the U.N. Human Rights Council for working on the compromise. Presumably this was for the language of Article 5 in consultation with the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights on their work to protect Places of Worship  as sacred sites. The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights has written a Code of Holy Sites to protect sacred spaces and locations for religious worship and aims to use the Code as a tool in preventing conflicts. The Tandem Project model Norway -Forum for Places of Worship suggests a follow-up on this project, asking the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights to consider whether sacred Places of Worship have obligations and responsibilities to support human rights and freedom of religion or belief to worship as they so please.

The question of the Norway Forum model will be to ask through discussion and dialogue whether Places of Worship in Norway have an obligation to support the government of Norway’s Universal Periodic Review to implement Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights has a U.S. Foundation and they will be asked the same question as a follow-up to the United States of America Universal Periodic Review in November 2010.

FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

The principal instruments for International Human Rights Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief is Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) and the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/9a30112c27d1167cc12563ed004d8f15?Opendocument

The 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief http://www.tandemproject.com/program/81_dec.htm.

International Human Rights Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief

The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law.

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/WhatareHumanRights.aspx

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, practice and teaching.

No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his   choice.

Freedom of 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.

The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education in conformity with their own convictions.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT

 NORWAY

US State Department 2009 International Religious Freedom Report; Norway. Full report in Norway – Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief (attachment).

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127329.htm

Links to State Department sites are welcomed. Unless a copyright is indicated, information on the State Department’s main website is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed without permission. Citation of the U.S. State Department as source of the information is appreciated.

The U.S. State Department 2009 International Religious Freedom Report  is  one of the most up-to-date sources of information on Freedom of Religion or Belief on Norway. The Tandem Project encourages the United States to use the more inclusive title, Freedom of Religion or Belief.

THE TANDEM PROJECT FOLLOW-UP

  • HISTORY: The United Nations failed to achieve consensus on a legally binding international treaty on religious intolerance, settling instead for the non-binding 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief.

http://www.tandemproject.com/program/history.htm

  • STATISTICS: The United Nations protects all theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. Statistics: builds the case for an    inclusive and genuine approach to implementing human rights and freedom of religion or belief.

http://www.tandemproject.com/program/major_religions.htm

1984:  a co-founder of The Tandem Project represented the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) in 1984 at the two week Geneva Seminar called by the UN Secretariat on how to implement the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. In 1986 The Tandem Project hosted the first International Conference on the 1981 U.N. Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

1986: Minnesota held the first International Conference on how to implement the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Thirty-five international delegates and thirty-five Minnesota delegates were invited. Minnesota organizations and individuals proposed twenty- seven Community Strategies on how to implement the 1981 U.N. Declaration under: Synopsis, Strategy, Objectives, Program Approach, Obstacles and Outcomes. These Community Strategies can be read on the following link:
 
Minnesota Community Strategieshttp://www.tandemproject.com/tolerance.pdf

2010: there are three generic proposals on Integration, Dialogue and Education that have been consolidated from the 1986 strategies on how to implement International Human Rights Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Think global act local.  

  • Develop model integrated approaches to International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief at national and local levels to test the reality of implementation as appropriate to the constitutions, legal systems and cultures of each country.
  • Use International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as appropriate to each culture and venue for inclusive and genuine dialogue on freedom of religion or belief.   
  • Apply International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief in education curricula as appropriate in all grade levels, teaching children, from the very beginning, that their own religion is one out of many and it is a personal choice for everyone to adhere to the religion or belief by which he or she feels most inspired, or to adhere to no religion or belief at all.

“Our educational systems need to provide children with a broad orientation: from the very beginning, children should be taught that their own religion is one out of many and that it is a personal choice for everyone to adhere to the religion or belief by which he or she feels most inspired, or to adhere to no religion or belief at all.” 2006- Mr. Piet de Klerk:  Ambassador-at-Large of the Netherlands on Human Rights.

Reflections

The First Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads: 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.

Surely one of the best hopes for humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.

There is an increase in dialogue today between religions and other beliefs to embrace diversity, but few persons, less than one percent of any population, ever participate. This is a challenge. The value of such dialogues is proportionate to the level of participation. For civil society increased participation would create opportunities for education on inclusive and genuine approaches to human rights and freedom of religion or belief. 

 In 1968 the United Nations deferred passage of a legally-binding convention on religious intolerance saying it was too complicated and sensitive. Instead, they adopted a non-binding declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief. While very worthwhile, the declaration does not carry the force and commitment of a legally-binding international human rights convention on freedom of religion or belief.

Religions and other beliefs historically have been used to justify wars and settle disputes. This is more dangerous today as the possible misuse of nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction increases. Governments need to revisit whether religions and other beliefs trump human rights or human rights trump religions and other beliefs or neither trumps the other; whether culture trumps the universal or universal human rights sensitively and with respect trumps culture in the face of this historical truth.

  • QUESTION: Human nature is intractable as weapons of mass destruction increase with national-ethnic-religious justification. The U.N.  Review Conference on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and studies on the use of biological and cyber weapons demonstrate this trend as a growing concern. The question is whether present International Human Rights Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief is enough or if a core human rights treaty on freedom of religion or belief, supported at a higher level, would reduce the risk of using weapons of mass destruction. Synergy meaning each is incapable of acting alone on this issue needs to be considered by the U.N. Security Council and U.N. Human Rights Council.

“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” - Robert Oppenheimer, quote from the Bhagavad Gita after exploding the first atomic bomb, Trinity 1945.

The Tandem Project is a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity, and to 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 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

Atachments: Norway - Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief; Norway - Exchange of Information Contacts; Norway - Forum - Academic Discourse on Human Rights & Freedom of Religion or Belief.