The International Humanist and Ethical Union’s (IHEU) Head of Delegation to the UN Human Rights Council, Elizabeth O’Casey, has been elected as a Vice-Chair to the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Geneva.
During a Committee meeting at the March Session of the UN Human Rights Council, the NGO Committee elected a new board, on which the IHEU now has a place. Diane Ala’I, the Bahá’í International Community’s Representative to the UN, was elected as the Committee’s new Chair, and its new secretary is Ralston Deffenbaugh, Assistant General Secretary for International Affairs and Human Rights at the Lutheran World Federation.
Elizabeth O’Casey said of her new appointment, “I am delighted to be given the opportunity to contribute to the Committee’s activities, and to further the IHEU’s collaborative work with a broad range of NGOs concerned with freedom of religion or belief at the UN. I’m excited to help push forward the Committee’s agenda and to promote the importance of the human right to freedom of thought globally.
“It’s important that those concerned with freedom of thought seek to work with people of all beliefs, and promote the human rights of all, regardless of belief. I hope our new board position, and general will to strengthen the committee, will enable us to provide a platform of NGOs to focus on the human rights issues within a universal and inclusive framework.”
The Committee aims to promote the fundamental freedom of religion or belief by supporting and coordinating NGO activities to help uphold UN standards. In particular, the committee seeks to follow and support the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (currently, Professor Heiner Bielefeldt). The Committee also shares information and organises events at the UN Human Rights Council sessions that highlight and discuss human rights issues surrounding freedom of thought.
The NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Geneva acts as a sub-committee of the CoNGO (Conference of NGOs in Special Consultative Status at the UN) Special Committee on Human Rights. The IHEU is a member of CoNGO.