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On 5 and 6 July 2022 the Government will host a human rights conference to urge increased global action on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) for all.

Conference objectives

The themes of the conference are preventing FoRB violations and abuses, and protecting and promoting freedom of religion or belief.

The conference has five objectives:

  1. raise awareness of:
  • the current challenges toFoRB across the world
  • the relevance ofFoRB to other human rights
  • best practice in preventing violations and abuses and protecting and promotingFoRB
  1. use UK leadership and experience in addressing human rights issues and our convening power to improveFoRB for all
  2. galvanise partner countries and stakeholders to work more closely together to promote and protectFoRB, including by working together to address FoRB violations and abuses
  3. encourage collective action by governments, human rights experts, civil society, academia and faith and belief actors to addressFoRB challenges, exchange best practice, and build shared commitments
  4. to strengthen the voices of and build the capacity of defenders ofFoRB, including religion and belief groups, inspiring future leaders and young people, and building and reinforcing global coalitions for collective action.

UN declaration on the elimination of religious intolerance

On 25 November 1981, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 36/55, by which it proclaimed the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. The draft resolution was adopted earlier, on 9 November 1981, without a vote, having been the subject of extensive consultation with Member States. The core principles of the Declaration are set out in Article 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, practice and teaching.

And Article 2(1):

No one shall be subject to discrimination by any State, institution, group of persons, or person on the grounds of religion or belief.

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is one of the United Nations’ fundamental rights. The above principles are reflected in other UN instruments, notably Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the text of which is broadly the same as Article 1(1) of the 1981 Declaration. Additionally, under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the right to manifest it. This also requires that State Parties respect the rights of parents to ensure the education of their children in accordance with their own convictions.       

UN declarations are not international treaties; rather, they are statements of agreed standards of action and moral obligation. The website of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights provides a useful overview of international standards on freedom of religion or belief.

UK Government approach

The FCDO publishes an annual report on human rights and democracy. The most recent report was published in July 2021.

The Report says that defending freedom of religion or belief and promoting respect between different religious communities are key priorities for the Government. It points out that concerns about the denial of FoRB grew in 2020, which some religious minorities attributed to restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion of Belief is Fiona Bruce MP. The Minister for Human Rights is Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon.

Documents to download

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