OHCHR and the “Faith for Rights” framework
“We hope the ‘Faith for Rights’ framework will also inspire interdisciplinary research on questions related to faith and rights. Deeper exploration of the ethical and spiritual foundations provided by religions and beliefs can help to debunk the myth that human rights are solely Western values. On the contrary: the human rights agenda is rooted in cultures across the world. Respect for human life, and human dignity, wellbeing and justice, are common to us all. ‘Faith’ can indeed stand up for ‘Rights’ so that both enhance each other.”
The “Faith for Rights” framework (PDF) provides space for a cross-disciplinary reflection and action on the deep, and mutually enriching, connections between religions and human rights. The objective is to foster the development of peaceful societies, which uphold human dignity and equality for all and where diversity is not just tolerated but fully respected and celebrated.
In his Video message, former High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stressed that religious leaders are potentially very important human rights actors in view of their considerable influence on the hearts and minds of millions of people. The 2012 Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, already laid out some of religious leaders’ core responsibilities against incitement to hatred. Expanding those responsibilities to the full spectrum of human rights, the faith-based and civil society actors participating at the OHCHR workshop on 28-29 March 2017 adopted the Beirut Declaration and its 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”.
The Beirut Declaration considers that all believers – whether theistic, non-theistic, atheistic or other – should join hands and hearts in articulating ways in which “Faith” can stand up for “Rights” more effectively so that both enhance each other. Individual and communal expression of religions or beliefs thrive and flourish in environments where human rights are protected. Similarly, human rights can benefit from deeply rooted ethical and spiritual foundations provided by religions or beliefs.
Rather than focusing on theological and doctrinal divides, the Beirut Declaration favours the identification of common ground among all religions and beliefs to uphold the dignity and equal worth of all human beings. It reaches out to persons in all regions of the world, with a view to enhancing cohesive, peaceful and respectful societies on the basis of a common action-oriented platform which is open to all.Download a PDF file with the Beirut Declaration in Albanian, Arabic, English, French, German, Greek, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian and Turkish.
18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”
Linked to the Beirut Declaration are 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”, with corresponding follow-up actions. These include the commitments:
- to prevent the use of the notion of “State religion” to discriminate against any individual or group;
- to revisit religious interpretations that appear to perpetuate gender inequality and harmful stereotypes or even condone gender-based violence;
- to stand up for the rights of all persons belonging to minorities;
- to publicly denounce all instances of advocacy of hatred that incites to violence, discrimination or hostility;
- to monitor interpretations, determinations or other religious views that manifestly conflict with universal human rights norms and standards;
- to refrain from oppressing critical voices and to urge States to repeal any existing anti-blasphemy or anti-apostasy laws;
- to refine the curriculums, teaching materials and textbooks; and
- to engage with children and youth who are either victims of or vulnerable to incitement to violence in the name of religion.
The #Faith4Rights toolkit (PDF), launched online in January 2020, translates the “Faith for Rights” framework into practical peer-to-peer learning and capacity-building programmes. It contains 18 learning modules, mirroring each of the commitments on “Faith for Rights”. These modules offer concrete ideas for learning exercises, for example how to share personal stories, search for additional faith quotes or provide for inspiring examples of artistic expressions. The toolkit is open for adaptation by facilitators in order to tailor the modules to the specific context of the participants. This toolkit builds on a wealth of comparable tools by several UN agencies that have been integrated into the #Faith4Rights toolkit. It also proposes several cases to debate, which enhance the skills of faith actors to manage religious diversity in real-life situations towards the aims of “Faith for Rights”.
High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet stressed that the “Faith for Rights” framework aims at transforming messages of mercy, compassion and solidarity into inter-communal and faith-based projects towards social, developmental and environmental change (see her video message to a meeting of the ACT Alliance). In a press release, the High Commissioner underlined the importance of governments, religious authorities and a wide range of civil society actors working jointly to uphold human dignity and equality for all. She also looked forward “to seeing the Faith for Rights framework translated into practical outreach tools and capacity-building programmes” (see her statement at the Global Summit on Religion, Peace and Security in April 2019).
The “Faith for Rights” framework in action
The Beirut Declaration and its 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights” have been referred to and used by many UN bodies, faith-based actors and civil society organizations. Learn more...