Advocacy statements

Joint statement on FoRB and UPR process

  • Date / 2017
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 6: Universal Periodic Review


International Humanist and Ethical Union,
Baha’i International Community, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, European Humanist Federation, International Association for Religious Freedom, International Fellowship of Reconciliation

UN Human Rights Council, 36th Session (11 September – 29 September 2017)

General Debate on Item 6

The right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief is a foundational right. It is a right to be who you are, to be true to yourself and your conscience, to be free to have faith and think how you wish, including to change religion or to hold secular, political and philosophical convictions. It is a right that intersects with many other rights and is a prerequisite for upholding other fundamental rights and freedoms.

In his last report to the Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, pointed out that despite its importance, only 2.5% of total recommendations made during the first two cycles of the Universal Periodic Review concerned this right.[1]

Today there is urgent need to recognise and promote freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief as a human rights concern globally. The widespread pushback against human rights has deepened the global crisis of the right to freedom of religion or belief. The ability of believers and non-believers to manifest their faith or convictions faces serious threats from State and non-State actors alike.[2]

For most religion or belief groups that exist, cases of horrific persecution of them can be found somewhere in the world. Just a few examples include: Christians in Iraq, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Bahá’ís in Iran, Shias in Bahrain, Falun Gong in China, Ahmadis in Pakistan, Humanists in Saudi Arabia, and Jews in Egypt.

All human rights are essential, and we do not wish to see fewer recommendations on other rights as part of the UPR process. But we urge states to give the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief the more frequent and comprehensive attention that it deserves.


[1] A/HRC/34/50

[2] Ibid.

Suggested academic reference

'Joint statement on FoRB and UPR process', Humanists International

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