17 November 2016, New York – Introduction statement on behalf of the European Union at the 71st United Nations General Assembly Third Committee on Draft resolution L.36 on Freedom of Religion or Belief
Thank you Mr. President.
I have the honour to introduce, on behalf of the European Union and co-sponsors, the draft resolution L.36, entitled “Freedom of religion or belief”.
So far a total of 75 States have co-sponsored this draft resolution and we encourage all States to do so.
Defending freedom of religion or belief as a universal human right and countering intolerance and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief are essential priorities of the European Union’s human rights policy. The promotion of religious tolerance, respect for diversity and mutual understanding are of utmost importance in the creation of an environment conducive to the full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief by all. The EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief send a clear signal on the importance given to this human right everywhere, and for everyone. The resolution we are introducing today is in line with this long standing commitment.
From the very outset, this resolution has been a follow-up action to the UN Declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief. We believe that further intensified efforts are needed and urge all States to step up their efforts, including by implementing universal periodic review recommendations related to freedom of religion or belief.
Resolution L.36 stresses the importance of the promotion and protection of the freedom of religion or belief in response to the rise of religious extremism in various parts of the world. The continuing overall rise in instances of discrimination, intolerance and violence, including acts of extreme violence, continues to be a threat to many religious communities.
Furthermore, resolution L.36 reaffirms the importance of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief: not only in the international human rights system, but notably in the life of every individual. It stresses that the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief applies equally to all persons, and it strongly condemns all forms of intolerance, discrimination and violence based on religion or belief. Moreover, this resolution draws attention to the human rights of persons belonging to religious minorities and religious communities, particularly their right to exercise their religion or belief freely.
L.36 stresses that the freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief also includes the right not to believe and to change one’s religion or belief. It also stresses the importance of freedom of opinion and expression.
Our resolution also expresses support to the vital contribution of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief who in his most recent interim report focuses on the broad range of violations of freedom of religion or belief, their root causes and variables.
The European Union believes that the adoption of this resolution by consensus will send a strong collective message to the world on the importance of protecting these rights. We are engaging with all delegations in a constructive spirit with confidence that the resolution will – as in previous years – be adopted by consensus.
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