Al Qassim: Inaugural Int’l Forum on Combating Religious Intolerance to be convened end of April in cooperation with UNHCR

GENEVA: The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have agreed to convene an inaugural forum on practical actions to combat religious intolerance.

The conference, to be convened in London at the end of April 2015, is intended to contribute to the practical implementation of Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions on Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief, as well as of other key human rights texts relevant to the issues of freedom of religion and belief and freedom of opinion and expression.

The forum will primarily focus on the role of governments in this regard, and will contribute to address complex issues of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, with a particular focus on issues relating to freedom of religion and belief, through exchange, shared practices and dialogue.

It is aimed at presenting a unique global dialogue opportunity to governments, national stakeholders as well as the international community in order to share practical actions to address intolerance, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief. The forum will also represent an opportunity for governments to share knowledge and experiences on legislative measures, administrative measures, and awareness-raising and education policies and programmes in their countries or regions.

While paying a particular attention to the primary role and responsibility of governments in balancing freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression and opinion, the forum will also highlight the supportive role of regional organizations and the United Nations in facilitating dialogue and enhancing the substantive and technical capability of governments to combat religious intolerance and protect and promote human rights.

“Intolerance and discrimination, especially if based on religion and belief, represent a serious threat to the peacefulness and stability of societies. The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance constitute a remarkable step forward in the fight against religious intolerance; nevertheless, we are still far from a long-lasting, sustainable solution to the issue.

It is therefore our duty to raise awareness on good practices and challenges ahead, and to enhance governments’ capacities to combat religious-based discrimination through concrete measures and agreed follow-up mechanisms. It is in this spirit that the Geneva Centre, which I proudly represent, will convene this significant forum,” stated Hanif Al Qassim, Chairman of the Geneva Centre’s Board of Management.

The forum is intended to be a ministerial level event, with invitations focused on key governments’ ministers such as those responsible for justice, human rights and related religious issues at the national level. The forum will also include academics and renowned experts in the field, as well as civil society actors and other relevant stakeholders.

The outcome of the forum will be the adoption of a declaration on practical measures, to be undertaken at both a local and regional level, in order to combat religious intolerance and discrimination based on religion and belief.