EU FoRB Day – Un appel au renouvellement du mandat de l’envoyĂ© spĂ©cial pour la libertĂ© de religion ou de conviction en dehors de l’Union europĂ©enne

Il y a sept ans, le Conseil des affaires Ă©trangĂšres adoptait les lignes directrices de l’UE sur la libertĂ© de religion ou de conviction (FoRB). Aujourd’hui, la communautĂ© qui Ɠuvre pour la libertĂ© de religion ou de conviction cĂ©lĂšbre de maniĂšre informelle la “JournĂ©e FORB de l’UE” et la sociĂ©tĂ© civile saisit cette occasion pour demander le renouvellement du mandat de l’envoyĂ© spĂ©cial.

En avril dernier, la Commission n’avait encore pris aucune dĂ©cision sur l’avenir du mandat de l’envoyĂ© spĂ©cial, qui avait pris fin le 30 novembre 2019.

En janvier 2019, le prĂ©cĂ©dent parlement europĂ©en avait pourtant, dans une de ses derniĂšres rĂ©solutions, apporter son soutien Ă  ce renouvellement. Nonobstant la crise de la COVID-19, l’hĂ©sitation de la Commission envoie un signal aux EuropĂ©ens et Ă  la communautĂ© internationale sur sa rĂ©ticence Ă  continuer Ă  promouvoir ce droit fondamental et ce, malgrĂ© les lettres Ă©manant des dĂ©putĂ©s europĂ©ens et de la sociĂ©tĂ© civile demandant le renouvellement du mandat,

La libertĂ© de religion ou de conviction est inscrite dans l’article 9 de la Convention europĂ©enne des droits humains et dans l’article 18 de la DĂ©claration universelle des droits humains. Elle protĂšge le droit des individus Ă  pratiquer la religion ou la croyance de leur choix, ou Ă  n’en pratiquer aucune – une libertĂ© qui est menacĂ©e dans de nombreuses rĂ©gions du monde.

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EU FoRB Day – A call for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief outside of the European Union

Seven years ago, the EU Guidelines on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) were adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council. Today, the FoRB community celebrates this informally as ‘EU FoRB Day’ and civil society take this opportunity to call for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Envoy.

This past April came and went with no decision by the Commission on the future of the mandate of the Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) outside the EU, which ended on 30 November 2019.

In January 2019, one of the last resolutions by the last EU Parliament was to lend its support to the renewal. The COVID-19 crisis notwithstanding, the Commission’s hesitation despite letters by MEPs and civil society calling for the renewal of the mandate, sends a signal to Europeans and the international community about its reticence to continue to promote this fundamental right.

Freedom of religion or belief is enshrined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It protects the right of individuals to practise the religion or belief of their choice, or none at all – a freedom which is under threat in many parts of the world.

Against this backdrop, the Special Envoy role matters a great deal.

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The Special Envoy Mandate: The Litmus Test for EU Policy on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Tomorrow, the European Parliament sub-committee on human rights (DROI) will meet to discuss a draft resolution on EU Guidelines on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) and the mandate of the Special Envoy on the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU. It’s a significant milestone, representing the culmination of a year-long reflection within the European institutions on how the EU could more effectively promote and protect FoRB in its foreign policy and external action.

It’s also a document to watch: the recommendations that Parliament chooses to put forward in this resolution are likely to play a key role in shaping the future direction of EU policy on FoRB.

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Diplomacy and Determination: Five Years of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief

June 2018 marks five years since the European Union (EU) Foreign Affairs Council adopted Guidelines on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). This anniversary provides an opportune moment to reflect on how the Guidelines are being used and whether they are fulfilling their intended function.

It is encouraging that FoRB has risen so significantly on the EU’s foreign policy agenda since 2013, but there remains substantial room for improvement. In particular, to ensure better implementation of the guidelines emphasis needs to be placed on increasing EU efforts to train officials on FoRB and on monitoring violations in countries worldwide.

Diplomacy works well until it doesn’t

The EU FoRB Guidelines were the result of a complex drafting process involving broad consultation with civil society specialising in this field of human rights including CSW and negotiated compromises between EU member states. They commit the EU to mainstreaming FoRB in its external human rights policy and identify practical steps EU institutions and member states should take to prevent and address FoRB violations in a “timely, consistent and coherent manner.” The text strongly affirms that the EU is “determined” to promote FoRB as a core part of the indivisible human rights landscape and free from alignment with any particular religious or non-religious agenda.

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The European Parliament’s Watchdog on Freedom of Religion or Belief: Bark or Bite?

European Union (EU) policy on the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) has seen several positive developments over the past decade, one of the most significant being the 2013 EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of FoRB.

Achieving consensus on the guidelines was no easy task as the 28 Member States have various models of church-state relations; some even have legislation or internal challenges that constitute obstacles to FoRB and can undermine its human rights message overseas, such as blasphemy laws. However agreement on the guidelines produced a common reference point for Member States and commits the EU to using a variety of tools to protect the victims of FoRB violations worldwide.

The European Parliament (EP) Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance aims to be the watchdog that ensures their implementation.

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