To strengthen international efforts to ensure freedom of religion or belief, the UK government hosted an International Ministerial Conference in central London on 5 and 6 July.
Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is one of the UK’s long-standing human rights priorities. The UK government remains deeply concerned about the severity and scale of violations and abuses of FoRB in many parts of the world. Persecuting people, or discriminating against them, because of their religion or belief is often closely linked to other foreign and development policy challenges.
To strengthen international efforts to ensure freedom of religion or belief the UK government hosted an International Ministerial Conference in central London on 5 and 6 July. As announced in November 2021, it brought together international governments, parliamentarians, faith and belief representatives and civil society. It urged increased global action on freedom of religion or belief for all, under the themes of:
- preventing violations and abuses
- protecting and promoting freedom of religion or belief
It was the first in-person International Ministerial Conference on this issue since 2019. The event built on the previous Ministerial-level conferences held by the United States in 2018 and 2019, and in virtual format by Poland in 2020.
In 2021 during the UK’s Presidency of the G7 the UK secured inclusion of FoRB concerns in a G7 communique for the first time.
This 2022 conference was another important step forward in ensuring that everyone is able to enjoy the right of freedom of religion or belief. As well as discussing challenges, the conference aimed to:
- identify what is working in different countries
- explore where and how we can apply new lessons and approaches
- inspire the next generation to champion and defend freedom of religion or belief across the world
International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance
The conference also brought together members of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA). The UK Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Fiona Bruce MP is chairing the IRFBA during 2022.
The Alliance brings together like-minded countries to agree co-ordinated actions to promote FoRB and protect people worldwide who are persecuted or discriminated against on account of their religion or belief. Members commit to advance Article 18 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, which states that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.
Founded in 2020, the Alliance has grown from 27 to 36 member countries.
Whilst you could only attend the ministerial conference if you were invited, a series of civil society events enabled more people to get involved in discussions about freedom of religion or belief.
The conference fringe events were coordinated by the UK Freedom of Religion or Belief Forum. This group of over 70 civil society groups, faith or belief organisations and human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is committed to advance the common cause of freedom of religion or belief worldwide.
The UK Freedom of Religion or Belief Forum website provides further information on the Fringe.