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Call for inputs: Promotion of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief at the national and local level – GA report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

Issued by

Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief


02 June 2023

Purpose: To inform the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief’s thematic report to be delivered to the 78th session of the UN General Assembly.

Since the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Bill of Rights, the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief has been further developed in hard law and jurisprudence at various levels. It has also been clarified and applied through soft law and international human rights mechanisms. This has contributed to a deepened understanding of the right, its contents and contours, and the obligations imposed on States.

The 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief in turn led to the establishment of the present Special Procedures mandate in 1986, with the mandate practice captured in a public Digest which is available to all.

The last report of the mandate sought to provide a bird's eye view of the landscape of freedom of religion or belief. However effective mechanisms and actors may be at the international level, their role in preventing freedom of religion or belief violations in the first place, or rapidly addressing them, is limited due to their remoteness. They are not the institutions or mechanisms that are the most accessible or familiar to claimants on the ground. The primary responsibility of ensuring respect and enjoyment of human rights falls on local and national actors. International human rights remedies and mechanisms play a supporting role in supervising the effectiveness of those obligations and responsibilities.

It is with this in mind that the next thematic report will explore the challenges and best practices which arise in relation to freedom of religion or belief from a grassroots perspective. This will complement the previous report and highlight key actors that play significant roles in securing freedom of religion or belief.

When challenges arise in relation to freedom of religion or belief at the local level, who are the local, federal/state or national governmental authorities, or civil society organisations that we turn to have the matter addressed? Conversely, who are the relevant authorities and civil society organisations that are active in preventing such issues from arising? Who are the actors that play a positive role in creating an environment in which freedom of religion or belief can be enjoyed?
Domestic actors are uniquely positioned to effectively address challenges and contribute towards the realization of the state’s international obligations with respect to freedom of religion or belief.

The State’s international obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill this right implies a vast array of local actors: they are the first ‘port of call’ for individuals or groups seeking to exercise the right or redress for violations thereof. The state actors at these levels share in delivering on the relevant human rights obligations. The non-state actors also play significant roles and have responsibilities with respect to human rights.


The report will focus on the particular challenges and threats, as well as opportunities and identifiable best practices, in the advancement and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief which arise at the domestic level (local, and federal/state where appropriate). The mandate is interested in receiving information concerning experiences of and with domestic authorities including, but not limited to:

  1. Functionaries of authorities at federal and/or regional levels,
  2. Municipal government and other authorities,
  3. Ministries - including Internal Affairs, Internal Security, Religious Affairs, Family Affairs and others as appropriate,
  4. Parliamentarians, as well as members of regional and municipal legislatures,
  5. National Human Rights Institutions, Ombudspersons, and other domestic human rights organisms and mechanisms,
  6. Court authorities including at the local, municipal and regional level as applicable,
  7. Law enforcement and prison authorities,
  8. Health and Education authorities,
  9. Media (including social media),
  10. Businesses, including those responsible for the provision of essential services,
  11. Civil society organizations especially those invested in upholding freedom of religion or belief and promoting understanding between different religion or belief communities and minorities.
Key questions and types of input sought

The Special Rapporteur invites all interested parties (civil society organisations including religious or belief minorities and communities, businesses, National Human Rights Institutions, States, UN agencies and international organisations) to provide input for this report in response to the overarching issues identified below, by 2 June 2023.

  1. How different constitutional arrangements impact the enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief, such as in relation to:
  1. The ways in which different relationships between state and religion manifest distinct challenges and opportunities at the local level.
  2. The particular challenges and opportunities arising in the context of federal states.
  3. How State models for ensuring tolerance such as interfaith mediation and conflict prevention, management and resolution can positively or negatively affect freedom of religion or belief.
  4. The role of National Human Rights Institutions, and related entities, in advancing and protection freedom of religion or belief.
  5. Other issues considered pertinent.

2. How the administration of the status of religion or belief communities is manifested at local level, such as in relation to:

  1. Recognition and the accordance of status (registration) to religion or belief communities, including indigenous peoples: the interlocutors involved at domestic level and their respect for freedom of religion or belief.
  2. In this connection, the interlocutors involved in registration of religion or belief communities, often pertinent in relation to banking, taxation, property, charitable and humanitarian work, labour rights including recruitment, rest days, etc.
  3. Other issues considered pertinent.

3. The role of domestic law enforcement and justice authorities in relation to freedom of religion or belief, such as in relation to:

  1. National security, and the need to respect freedom of religion or belief while countering violent extremism or terrorism.
  2. Other issues considered pertinent.

4. The role of domestic authorities responsible for economic and social policies which relate to the enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief, such as in relation to:

  1. The role of municipalities, including (but not limited to) in relation to places of worship, property, land and territory.
  2. Education and more broadly the right to freedom of religion or belief of children and young people.
  3. Access to justice for individuals or groups from marginalised religious or belief minorities and communities.
  4. Other issues considered pertinent.
How inputs will be used

Inputs will be used in conjunction with desk research to inform the structure and content of the thematic report. It is important to note that submissions may be referenced, quoted, and/or published with the report and on the OHCHR website and thus become publicly accessible unless it is explicitly stated that this is not desirable.

Next Steps

The Special Rapporteur requests that all submissions are written preferably in English or alternatively in French or Spanish. Submission should be a maximum of 2,500 words and should be submitted by Friday 2 June 2023, via email to [email protected].

Email address:
[email protected]

Email subject line:
Input for GA report – SRFORB

Word limit:
2,500 words

File formats:
Word, PDF

Accepted languages:
English (preferably), or Spanish or French