#HRC35 2017 UN Joint Statement on Freedom of Religion

March 2017

Agenda Item: 3

Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Organisation: Jubilee Campaign

Speaker: Sini Maria Heikkilä

Thank you Mr President.

Jubilee Campaign together with Christian Solidarity Worldwide thanks the Special Rapporteur Shaheed for his extensive report adding to the excellent body of work produced by this mandate over the past 30 years.

In his report, the Special Rapporteur highlights the underrepresentation of freedom of religion or belief during the UPR process, which echoes the findings of the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues in 2014. Thus, we urge all UN member states to ensure that strong recommendations on freedom of religion or belief are raised as part of the third UPR cycle.

The global FoRB situation is grim. The latest information from the Pew Research Center stated in 2014, that 74% of the world’s population lived in countries with either high or very high restrictions on religious freedom. That means that over 5.1 billion people in this world are not able to fully enjoy this right. Yet, there are still many misconceptions about FoRB which are highlighted in the Special Rapporteur’s report. In order to increase FoRB literacy, we urge the Human Rights Council to hold a one-off high-level panel discussion on freedom of religion or belief to share good practices on its implementation and to learn about the intersectionality of this right with other rights such as freedom of expression. We would be particularly interested in hearing the Special Rapporteur’s views on how to increase FoRB literacy within the UN system – and how NGOs can support this.

Dr Shaheed also highlights the role of civil society in bolstering respect for FoRB. In this context, we would like to draw attention to NGO access to the UN and urge UN member states to ensure that voices from human rights NGOs, including FoRB organisations, are heard at UN platforms such as this Council. We are particularly concerned about the recent decision by the UN NGO Committee in New York to reject Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s ECOSOC consultative status application after deferring it since 2009.

Finally, we would highlight the importance of increasing implementation of the Resolution 16/18 and we urge the HRC to open up the reporting process on the implementation of this groundbreaking resolution to civil society & national human rights institutions as well. Their inputs would contribute to a more robust and in depth analysis of the implementation of this historical resolution.

Thank you Mr President.