To mark Human Rights Day, the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief has published a Commentary on the current state of Freedom of Religion or Belief.
This Commentary is unique. It is the first resource to be compiled collectively by the APPG’s 25 expert Stakeholder human rights and faith-based organisations who work on the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) globally. Specifically timed to provide 27 up-to-date country profiles prior to the annual preparation of the FCO Human Rights and Democracy Report 2018, this Commentary includes 21 FCO ‘Human Rights Priority Countries’.
The Commentary provides a pithy analysis of the state of FoRB in the past year. It is designed to support a better understanding of, and in turn, better responses to, the tensions and drivers of conflict or violence in the countries in question. It is for use by all those working in the FCO and more widely in the field of human rights, including the right to FoRB.
The scale and intensity of violations worldwide has meant that FoRB has emerged as a critical issue of our time. Countries including the UK, USA, Canada, Germany and Denmark have begun to prioritise this in their work. The EU has created a new post to cover FoRB in addition to the Special Rapporteur at the UN.
The UK shares obligations with the global community to defend FoRB and other linked freedoms, which are recognised by the UK as contributing to strengthening the rules-based international order. Lord Ahmad, the FCO Minister of State for the UN and Commonwealth and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on FoRB stated In a speech in January 2018:
“The connection between religious tolerance and stable societies is another reason why we think promoting freedom of religion or belief is so important. There is clear evidence to suggest that tolerant and inclusive societies are better equipped to resist extremism. And most importantly, by ensuring that everyone can contribute, it makes society as a whole better.”
The APPG’s Commentary is a key step in raising awareness about violations of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Article enshrines the right to FoRB.
As well as the information contained here, the APPG has emphasised that it is vital that FCO Country Desk Officers and embassy staff receive the training and resource necessary to monitor, interpret and respond to FoRB violations in the country where they work. Ensuring that all FCO and DFID staff working in countries with high FoRB violations receive training would enable country strategies to address FoRB violations to be developed and pursued. The APPG hopes that on this 70th anniversary of the UDHR, these steps will now be taken.
Interview with Baroness Berridge on Radio 4 Sunday Programme 16 December 2018