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PURPOSE AND OVERVIEW STATEMENT

The FoRB Roundtable Brussels-EU is an informal group of individuals from civil society who gather regularly to discuss FoRB issues on a non-attribution basis. It is simply a safe space where participants gather, speak freely in sharing ideas and information, and propose joint advocacy actions to address specific FoRB issues and problems globally. Participants are free to propose initiatives regarding the protection and promotion of freedom of religion, conscience, and belief in Europe and around the world, and other participants have then the possibility to join these initiatives and self-select into coalitions of the willing on such initiatives.

 The Roundtable gathers intergovernmental, international and non-governmental organisations.  Civil society organisations working on freedom of religion or belief and other human rights issues, interfaith and interreligious dialogue bodies, and religious or belief communities are also encouraged to participate in the Roundtable.

The FoRB Roundtable Brussels-EU is part of a network of other Roundtables that are being established around the world – all of them independent from each other but coordinating as needed on different issues. This initial IRF Roundtable was established in the Washington D.C. Participants are primarily non-government organisations though government representatives are invited to participate.

The goal of the Roundtable is to reverse the rising tide of restrictions on the free and full exercise of the universal human right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) that has been spreading across the world.

​Reports from the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Freedom of Religion and Religious Tolerance, the European Union Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU, the UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB and various national positions (such as the UK Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief) have all pointed to serious freedom of religion or belief problems in Europe and around the world.

In this direction, the purpose of the Roundtable is to advance FoRB for all by:

1. Engaging with European Union as well as national governments to make FoRB both a national and foreign policy and security priority so:

  • FoRB is fully integrated into national and foreign policy and security objectives, including democracy promotion,

  • Public diplomacy, counterterrorism, and multilateral strategies.

  • E.U and national foreign policy tools are used to advance freedom of religion or belief around the world in line with relevant international and regional standards (such as the European Convention on Human Rights) and political commitments 

  • The political institutions necessary to advance freedom of religion or belief for all are continually supported, facilitated, and protected at home and abroad.

  • Global levels of religious intolerance, discrimination, persecution, terrorism, and instability are significantly reduced.

 

2. Engaging civil society actors, religious and belief communities, academic institutions, other governments that protect and promote freedom of religion or belief, and multilateral, intergovernmental institutions to coordinate joint advocacy efforts.

3. Engaging in meaningful dialogues with governments that restrict freedom of religion or belief, so as to:

  • Diplomatically but persistently push factual reports that document violations of their own constitutions and/or international commitments.

  • Frame the issues in their best interests, and increase mutual understanding and respect among and between religious or belief communities.

  • Agree on a process to resolve differences related to particular situations in their countries.

  • Create a mechanism for improvement of policies and practices, and for verification.

 

While participants of the FoRB Roundtable Brussels-EU continue to engage the E.U. structures and national European governments to do more to advance FoRB for all, and work with it when and where it can help, they do not rely exclusively on it to achieve the goal. Rather, participants also reach out directly to other governments outside Europe. The meaningful dialogues they have opened with ambassadors, embassies, and delegations are designed to grow into results driven collaborations. Indeed, they are manifestations of “bottom-up” civil society engaging the “top-down” of authoritarian governments, something participants want to model in the context of multiple bilateral relations.