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Meeting of the International Contact Group for Freedom of Religion or Belief

International Contact Group for Freedom of Religion or Belief

A meeting of the International Contact Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief (ICG-FoRB) was convened on March 6th in Geneva on the margin of the 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Hosted by the Permanent Representation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the meeting was co-chaired by Canada and the United States.

The Contact Group occupies a unique role as an informal body, to enhance information sharing and cooperation between states committed to protecting and promoting the right to freedom of religion or belief. 

Reaffirming their commitment to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the meeting saw the participation of 16 of countries from diverse regions including, the Americas, Europe and Africa.  Recognizing the universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated nature of human rights, ICG-FoRB members explored how FoRB can provide an avenue to advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Developments in Myanmar, Pakistan, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Eritrea among other regions of the world‎ were discussed. The situation of the Baha'i in Yemen was also raised.

The group was especially thankful for the participation of Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion of Belief, Dr. Nazila Ghanea, Associate Professor of International Human Rights Law at Oxford University, and Ms. Nahla Haidar, member of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

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