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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Meeting of the ACT Alliance

03 June 2019

Video message by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

3 June 2019

Distinguished participants,

Time and again in recent months, we have seen places of worship come under attack. The world is experiencing a very dangerous rise in intolerance, xenophobia, racism and religious hatred. Every day, more vulnerable people are stripped of their rights, freedom and identity. Meanwhile, the pace of technological change and environmental destruction is quickening. And we are breaking our planet: catastrophic climate change, declining biodiversity, mass extinctions, plastic-polluted oceans are urgent threats. But the motivation of key world leaders to constructively address these issues are flagging. The movement to advance human rights for all human beings is under great pressure.

Faith-based organisations can be vital actors in this context. We need your help to address issues such as inequalities, hatred and violence -- which are sometimes condoned in the name of religion. The ecumenical and inter-religious vocation of  the ACT Alliance demonstrates that faith-based actors share fundamental values. The Alliance creates opportunities to build thematic partnerships among faith-based organizations, to work for better human rights protection.

Inter-religious dialogue is important to unlock action. We need to move towards creating change on the ground, based on concrete projects that give priority to education and capacity-building of faith actors within a shared vision and framework across different religious communities.

This is why my Office has been working in recent years with faith-based actors to conceive the Beirut Declaration and its corresponding 18 commitments on ‘Faith for Rights’.

This framework aims at transforming messages of mercy, compassion and solidarity into inter-communal and faith-based projects aimed at social, developmental and environmental change.

With regard to humanitarian assistance, the 18 commitments emphasise that aid must be given regardless of the recipients’ religious beliefs, and must not be used to further a particular religious standpoint.

In addition to thematic partnerships, another key principle of the ‘Faith for Rights’ framework is to “act as one”. Faith-based actors gain far more than their simple added weight when all, together, defend every religious or belief community. Speaking with one voice does not mean losing one’s identity: it demonstrates mutual respect.

We count on the ACT Alliance to help us stand up for human rights around the world. I look forward to hearing more about the discussions that will take place at this meeting, and particularly the efforts underway to ensure financial stability for the Alliance as we look forward to continued work in the context of our shared goals.