Beirut Declaration and its 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”
In March 2017, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched its initiative on “Faith for Rights” (PDF) with an expert workshop in Beirut. This initiative provides space for a cross-disciplinary reflection on the deep, and mutually enriching, connections between religions and human rights. The objective is to foster the development of peaceful societies, which uphold human dignity and equality for all and where diversity is not just tolerated but fully respected and celebrated.
In his video message
, the High Commissioner stressed that religious leaders are potentially very important human rights actors in view of their considerable influence on the hearts and minds of millions of people. The 2012 Rabat Plan of Action
on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence already laid out some of religious leaders’ core responsibilities against incitement to hatred. Expanding those responsibilities to the full spectrum of human rights, the faith-based and civil society actors participating at the OHCHR workshop on 28-29 March 2017 adopted the Beirut Declaration and its 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”.
Beirut Declaration (March 2017)
Beirut Declaration considers that all believers – whether theistic, non-theistic, atheistic or other – should join hands and hearts in articulating ways in which “Faith” can stand up for “Rights” more effectively so that both enhance each other. Individual and communal expression of religions or beliefs thrive and flourish in environments where human rights are protected. Similarly, human rights can benefit from deeply rooted ethical and spiritual foundations provided by religions or beliefs.
Rather than focusing on theological and doctrinal divides, the Beirut Declaration favours the identification of common ground among all religions and beliefs to uphold the dignity and equal worth of all human beings.
The Beirut Declaration reaches out to persons belonging to religions and beliefs in all regions of the world, with a view to enhancing cohesive, peaceful and respectful societies on the basis of a common action-oriented platform which is open to all actors that share its objectives. Download a PDF file with the Beirut Declaration in English, French, Arabic, Russian,
18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”
Linked to the Beirut Declaration are 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”, with corresponding follow-up actions. These include the commitments:
- to prevent the use of the notion of “State religion” to discriminate against any individual or group;
- to revisit religious interpretations that appear to perpetuate gender inequality and harmful stereotypes or even condone gender-based violence;
- to stand up for the rights of all persons belonging to minorities;
- to publicly denounce all instances of advocacy of hatred that incites to violence, discrimination or hostility;
- to monitor interpretations, determinations or other religious views that manifestly conflict with universal human rights norms and standards;
- to refrain from oppressing critical voices and to urge States to repeal any existing anti-blasphemy or anti-apostasy laws;
- to refine the curriculums, teaching materials and textbooks; and
- to engage with children and youth who are either victims of or vulnerable to incitement to violence in the name of religion.
Download a PDF file with the 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights” in English, French, Arabic,
Russian, Albanian, Serbian,
Symposium in Dakar (May 2017)
From 3 to 4 May 2017, OHCHR Regional Office for West Africa organized with the Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice a symposium for religious leaders and civil society representatives on the rights of women and children from the perspective of Islam. This symposium in Dakar served as a first test and application of the Beirut Declaration and its 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”.
The Dakar symposium resulted in:
- The validation after thorough discussions of the 18 commitments framework, while adapting it to the Senegalese context;
- The creation of a national “Faith for Rights” coalition in Senegal, open to new members from all religions; and
- A concrete project focusing on Commitment 13 on children’s rights, especially children who are exploited by certain “Marabouts” in the name of religion.
Rabat+5 symposium (December 2017)
On 6-7 December 2017, more than 100 States, national human rights institutions, regional organizations, religious authorities and faith-based civil society actors participated in the Rabat+5 symposium, which was held on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Rabat Plan of Action (see
opening statement, the High Commissioner urged the various stakeholders to implement and support concrete “Faith for Rights” projects, notably at the grassroots level. During the Rabat+5 symposium, sixteen civil society organizations and OHCHR’s Regional Office for Middle East and North Africa
presented their projects and areas of future cooperation on combatting discrimination on the basis of religion and enhancing the role of faith-based actors in the defence of human dignity (see
Furthermore, an academic initiative presented the “Faith for Rights” online platform, which will serve as an inventory of relevant actors and projects in order to disseminate the 18 commitments, collect capacity building approaches and facilitate networking. This should also lead to strengthening the capacities of the existing UN human rights mechanisms by providing them with accurate and up-to-date analysis on environments, dynamics and early warning signs of incidents leading to sectarian conflicts and violence committed in the name of religion.
The Rabat+5 symposium offered an opportunity for the various stakeholders to engage with several experts who had contributed to the elaboration of the Rabat Plan of Action and the 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights” and to hear experiences in the area of combatting violence in the name of religion, both by State representatives, national human rights institutions and civil society actors. The participation of a number of mandate holders of international human rights mechanisms also enriched the discussions at the Rabat+5 symposium from a human rights perspective (see
Chairman’s final statement).
The Beirut Declaration and its 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights” have been referred to in several thematic and country-specific reports by the UN Secretary-General (concerning minorities’ rights, combating intolerance and the UN operations in Cyprus), the High Commissioner (in his
annual report and thematic reports concerning
minorities’ rights and
combating intolerance), Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (in reports to the
General Assembly and
Human Rights Council) and Treaty Bodies. For example, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women raised the “Faith for Rights” framework in their dialogues with three States parties in July 2017, which was also reflected in the Committee’s concluding observations.
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 day-long seminar in Geneva (see programme) brought together civil society activists, UN officials and Member States to share diverse new initiatives in reconciling religion and rights to build common ground to advance human rights for all. The Geneva seminar:
- Introduced international initiatives that promote a rights-based understanding of religion to build common ground between faith and rights;
- Explored ways to enhance collaboration and more effective engagement with the international system to promote human rights for all; and
- 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.
Should you have any questions or wish to add your name as a supporter of the Beirut Declaration and its 18 commitments, please send an email to
Download the full report and outlook on “Faith for Rights” (PDF)