posted on Wed 21 Aug 2019 5:19 PM
Arria-formula Meeting: Advancing the Safety and Security of Persons belonging to Religious Minorities in Armed Conflict

Tomorrow (22 August) an open Arria-formula meeting will be held at 10 a.m. in the ECOSOC chamber on: “Advancing the safety and security of persons belonging to religious minorities in armed conflict”. The meeting has been organised by Poland in partnership with the UK and the US and non-Council members Brazil, Canada, and Jordan. The meeting is planned to coincide with the inaugural “International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief”, which was established by a General Assembly resolution adopted on 28 May (A/73/L.85).

After opening remarks by Poland and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (via video-teleconference), three civil society representatives will brief, followed by statements by the co-sponsors and Council members. Poland’s Foreign Minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, will chair the meeting.

The civil society briefers will be: Sali AbdoulAziz, the Head of Partnerships of the Coordination des Organisations Musulmanes de Centrafrique (COMUC), which was established in 2014 to advocate on the discrimination against Muslim Central Africans; Naveed Walter, the president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), an organisation that works to protect and promote human rights of religious minorities, women and children; and Dalal Khairo, a Yazidi writer from Iraq who survived the crimes of the Islamic State and promotes Yazidi rights. The three briefers—representing three distinct religions and regions—are expected to describe their personal experiences and may speak about measures that can be taken to prevent violence against religious minorities. The briefers and a senior OHCHR representative will have the opportunity to respond to member state interventions at the close of the meeting.

According to a concept paper circulated by Poland, the objective of the meeting is not only “to analyze the scale of the problem but most importantly to discuss ways…to pre-empt violence impacting persons belonging to religious minorities…[including] by early warning and preventive mechanisms”. It notes that conflict risk can be assessed by exploring the level of human rights protections, including in relation to religious freedoms, freedom of association and press, and women’s rights, among other indicators. The note encourages participants “to share recommendations on early warning mechanisms” and ways of implementing such recommendations.

In recent years, the Council has addressed the protection of religious minorities in various contexts. On 27 March 2015, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius chaired a ministerial-level open debate in the Council on the situation of persecuted ethnic or religious minorities in the Middle East (S/PV.7419). Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein briefed. An Iraqi parliamentarian of the Yazidi faith and the head of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon also addressed the Council at that debate.  Religious minorities have also briefed the Council in the context of human trafficking and sexual violence in armed conflict; in this regard, Nobel Laureate and Yazidi human rights advocate Nadia Murad has briefed the Council on numerous occasions. (See, for example, S/PV.7585, S/PV.7847, and S/PV.8514).

Members will have an opportunity to use the meeting to explore solution-oriented strategies to prevent violence against religious minorities. They are likely to cite concerns about specific country cases in which religious minorities have been persecuted. References may not be limited to country situations on the Council’s agenda, which could heighten the political sensitivity of the discussion. Some members may emphasise the role of religious leaders in promoting peace and reconciliation, a theme that was explored by Council members in a 24 April 2018 Arria-formula meeting called “Religious leaders for a safe world” that was hosted by Kazakhstan. There may also be references made in the meeting to the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, which was launched in June and which has been described by the Secretary-General as “an ambitious programme to coordinate efforts across the UN system to identify, prevent and confront hate speech, using all the means in our power”.