The Istanbul Process and the implementation of the UN’s action plan to combat religious intolerance: Taking stock after 8 years
The main UN global policy framework for combatting religious intolerance, stigmatisation, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief is set down in Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 and its sister resolution at the General Assembly – GA resolution 66/167. Resolutions 16/18 and 66/167 were adopted by consensus in 2011, and hailed by stakeholders from all regions and faiths as an important step forwards in international efforts to confront religious intolerance.
The inclusion of an explicit plan of action to combat religious intolerance in the operative paragraphs of these resolutions (as well as in later iterations of the texts), is key to understanding their value and importance. What is more, States had the foresight to also put in place a dedicated mechanism of implementation for the action plan: the ‘Istanbul Process.’ Since the launch of the Process in Istanbul, Turkey in July 2011, there have been six expert-level meetings: in Washington (US), London (UK and Canada), Geneva (OIC), Doha (Qatar), Jeddah (OIC), and Singapore. Reports of the Jeddah and Singapore meetings can be found here and here.
Unfortunately, there has been no subsequent Istanbul Process gathering since Singapore in 2016.
Despite this, there is evidence, garnered through Istanbul Process meetings, as well as through research projects such as URG’s 2014 survey of levels of implementation around the world, that a number of countries (in the West, in the OIC, and also beyond) are reforming domestic laws and practices in line with the action plan. It also remains the case that many States maintain a strong political commitment to the Geneva and New York resolutions, recognising their symbolic and practical value.
With this in mind, on Monday 8 April 2019 the Danish Mission to the UN Office at Geneva, the EU Delegation, and the URG will organise an Istanbul Process ‘stock taking exercise,’ that would seek, inter alia, to:
- Inform States and other interested stakeholders about the background of the UN’s efforts to combat religious intolerance and promote freedom of religion or belief, about the action plan set down in resolutions 16/18 and 66/167, and about the process of implementation: the Istanbul Process.
- Consider the current status of the Istanbul Process – opportunities and challenges.
- Look back on the 6th meeting of the Process, as well as on earlier meetings, and reflect on lessons learnt.
- Consider a limited number of case studies where States have brought changes in line with the action plan.
- Provide a platform for potential future Process meeting hosts to make public commitments.
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