Part 5 Cross-Cutting Issues, 5.4 Defenders of Freedom of Religion or Belief and Non-Governmental Organizations
Heiner Bielefeldt, Nazila Ghanea, Michael Wiener
- Religion — Freedom of association — Freedom of expression — Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion — Human rights remedies — NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) — UN General Assembly
Freedom of religion or belief has long depended on advocates and human rights defenders to ensure its normative development and its protection. Human rights defenders serve as an essential counterpart to States in advancing freedom of religion or belief by operating within charities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), faith-based organizations, interfaith organizations, or community associations. Though the 1981 Declaration and the 1998 Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms are silent on their contributions, their role has been welcomed by numerous freedom of religion or belief mechanisms and mandate-holders. Yet, their contributions are hampered by reprisals against human rights defenders and intimidation against mandate-holders, in sharp contrast with the Standard Terms of Reference for Fact-Finding Missions. Ombudspersons, faith-based organizations, INGOs, and NGOs have an important role to play regarding freedom of religion or belief and need to ensure non-discrimination in their activities.