Geneva seminar (February 2018)

On 16 February 2018, the UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development, Musawah and OHCHR organized a seminar on “Religion & Rights: Strengthening Common Ground”. The seminar introduced international initiatives that promote a rights-based understanding of religion to build common ground between faith and rights. It also explored ways to enhance collaboration and more effective engagement with the international system to promote human rights for all. Furthermore, it highlighted good practices and possible approaches towards reform of discriminatory laws and practices in the name of religion to strengthen government compliance with international commitments and treaty obligations.


Session 1: Perspectives and Challenges (moderated by Christine Loew, UN Women Liaison Office, Geneva)

  • Bridging Rights and Faith for the SDGs: Dr Azza Karam, Coordinator, UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion and Development
  • Reconciling Religion and Rights to Promote Compliance with Treaty Obligations: Ibrahim Salama, Chief, Human Rights Treaties Branch, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Civil Society Interventions to Reconcile Religion and Rights: Musawah Ways of Working:
    Zainah Anwar, Executive Director, Musawah 

Session 2: Initiatives by intergovernmental platforms (moderated by Ambassador Hans Brattskar, Norway)

  • “Faith for Rights”: Michael Wiener, Rule of Law and Democracy Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that could Lead to Atrocity Crimes: Simona Cruciani, Office of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide
  • Reconciling Religion and Rights through the CEDAW Process: Nahla Haidar, member of the
    UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Session 3: Civil Society Initiatives (moderated by Ani Zonneveld, Muslims for Progressive Values)

  • Countering Misuse of Religion, Culture, and Tradition to Undermine the Universality of Human Rights: Isabel Marler, Communications Coordinator, Challenging Religious Fundamentalisms, AWID
  • Engaging the UN System to Reconcile Religion and Rights: Bani Dugal, Faith and Feminism Working Group at the United Nations
  • Faith-based engagement: Building partnerships with governmental, intergovernmental, and civil society sectors: Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, General Secretary, ACTAlliance
  • Forging an Overlapping Consensus between Muslim Legal Tradition and International Human Rights: Dr Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Legal Anthropologist and Musawah Board Member

Session 4: Government Initiatives (moderated by Ambassador Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin, Denmark)

  • Strengthening human rights compliance within the UN system through a feminist foreign policy: Ambassador Dr Joachim Bergström, Swedish Representative to the OIC
  • Implementing the Rabat Plan of Action and Beirut Declaration: Dr Faouzi Skali, Advisor, High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HACA), Morocco
  • The ‘added value’ of religion: Possibilities and pitfalls in government cooperation with religious actors: Dr Marie Juul Petersen, Senior Researcher, Danish Institute for Human Rights