Three quarters of the world’s population lives in countries with severe restrictions on the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) – in fact, it’s one of the most widely-violated human rights in the world.

This blog is all about FoRB; how to better understand the different aspects of this often-overlooked right, the situation in countries where this and other rights are violated – and the perpetrators and victims at the centre of it all.

Expert analysis by members of CSW’s advocacy team, who work in over 20 countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, will put a spotlight on FoRB issues in the news and CSW’s research.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, including the right to change religion or belief and to manifest this in worship. It protects those of all faiths and beliefs and is vital for the proper functioning of a democratic society.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the UDHR on 10 December 1948. Article 18, along with the rest of the UDHR, and in combination with the United Nations Charter, provides the foundation for all international law and best practice associated with FoRB. 

Article 18 of the UDHR was further defined and given treaty status with the adoption of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by the UN General Assembly which together with the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) make up the International Bill of Rights. 

Almost every country in the world has promised to protect, respect and fulfil the right to FoRB by virtue of joining the UN with the UDHR as the “common standard” – or, additionally, by virtue of treaties they have willingly signed up to.

However, the reality on the ground suggests otherwise.

CSW challenges world leaders, through our advocacy, to uphold their obligations. Since all rights are considered indivisible and mutually reinforcing, the denial of FoRB weakens the entire system.

Sometimes this blog will focus on the wider context necessary to understand a particular case; at other times, on the individual story that illuminates the issues at hand.

It’s FoRB – in full.