Protecting Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion or Belief for All

Enhancing Efforts to Consolidate and Implement HRC Resolution 16/18

Organized by FIDH in collaboration with ARTICLE 19, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights First, Universal Rights Group, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) & the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015, 16:30 – 18:00
Room XXII, Palais des Nations, UN in Geneva

Challenges to the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, as well as rising religious into- lerance and discrimination, increasingly threaten the ability of people around the world to enjoy their basic human rights.

Recent events starkly demonstrate the urgent need for the international community to comprehensively address this issue. All people, in all countries, of all faiths or none, are affected; the attacks against Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher Supermarket in Paris and the murders in Copenhagen; the murder of Muslim students in North Carolina; the anti-Muslim marches in Germany; the flogging of Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia; the on-going persecution of Mus- lims and other religious minorities in Burma/Myanmar and in Sri Lanka; the mass executions of Coptic Christian migrant workers in Libya… The list goes on.

In the face of violent attacks such as these, the universality of human rights is often questioned. However, as Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 and the Rabat Plan of Action make clear, the promotion and protection of all human rights, in particular freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, is the only way to effectively counter intolerance and discrimination and prevent associated violence.

In spite of the international community agreeing on a “road map” of action in resolution 16/18 and the Rabat Plan of Action, the increased attacks and threats against human rights defenders around the world demonstrate that pro- tection for rights on the ground is backsliding, and the space for civil society to freely operate to work against this trend is shrinking.

Blasphemy laws and broad or vague criminal prohibitions on expression deemed unwelcome by governments, or provisions on “incitement to hatred”, are applied to silence minority groups and dissident voices. Minority represen- tatives are denied the platforms to speak out and be heard, further exacerbating tensions. Violence against these groups is often incited by influential public figures with total impunity. Human rights defenders and journalists who attempt to inform the public and question social, religious or political taboos, are also at serious risk.

Join us during the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council to discuss:

  • What global and local challenges do we face in protecting and promoting the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and non-discrimination?
  • What more must States and other stakeholders do to translate 16/18 and the Rabat Plan of Action into legal and policy changes on the ground, to counter the backsliding in rights protection?
  • What must the UN do to consolidate the consensus of 16/18 and support its implementation?
Moderator: Andrew Smith, Legal Officer, ARTICLE 19
Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of religion or belief, UN
Ibn Adbur Rehman, Secretary-General, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Wai Wai Nu, Director, Women Peace Network Arakan, Burma/Myanmar
Michelle Yesudas, Lawyer, Lawyers for Liberty, Malaysia
Brian Dooley, Director, Human Rights Defenders Program, Human Rights First Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General, Reporters Without Borders
Introductory remarks by Nicolas Agostini, Representative to the UN, FIDH


AWID’s Programme at CSW59

Member states and women’s rights advocates and organizations will gather at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 9-20 March 2015 for the 59th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59). The 2015 session will focus as a priority on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and will address opportunities for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in the post-2015 development agenda.

AWID will be at CSW59 contributing to the debate about the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as well as contributing to strengthening the post-2015 development agenda by putting human rights, women’s rights and transformational change at the core of the framing.

In collaboration with our partners, AWID will also be working to:

  • advance the integrated protection, security and an enabling environment for Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs);
  • inform and support positions on development, women’s rights and human rights that challenge the use of religion, culture and tradition to roll back and violate rights;
  • raise visibility of and support for effective funding strategies to support women’s rights and feminist organizing.

Please join us at the following events and activities


Protection in practice for women human rights defenders and their work

Monday, 9 March, 2015 
13.15 – 14.45 hours
Conference Room 7, General Assembly Building, UN Headquarters
Learn more about the first ever UN resolution on the protection of women human rights defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2013, advances made since its creation and the obstacles to, and good practices in providing protection to defenders.

Sponsored by: Association for Women’s Rights in Development, Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Permanent Mission of Tunisia to the United Nations (TBC), Amnesty International, International Civil Society Action Network, Just Associates, International Service for Human Rights and Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition.

Featuring: Hans Brattskar (Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Ivan Simonović (Office of the High Commisoner of Human Rights), Cristina Hardaga Fernández, (Just Associates), Mary Akrami (Afghan Women’s Network), Reine Alapini-Gansou (African Commission), Mozn Hassan (Nazra for Feminist Studies), Mohamed Khaled Khiari (Tunisian Permanent Representative)

End Gender Discrimination Now!

Wednesday, 11
 March 2015

14.30 – 16.00 hours
Salvation Army Auditorium, 221 East 52nd Street

Meet and hear from the winners of our End Gender Discrimination Now! Contest. The competition was organized by four partners: Gender at Work, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, BRIDGE, and the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Argentina. Three first prizewinners and six runners-up were selected from more than 250 submissions from 63 countries. Prizes were awarded for examples of innovative initiatives that challenge gender discrimination.

Organized by: Gender at Work, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, BRIDGE, and the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Argentina

Featuring: Tashia Peterson (Malaysia), Momal Mushtaq (Pakistan) and Lilian Soto (Paraguay).

Close the Gap: Ending Violence against Women and Girls Beyond 2015
Wednesday, 11 March 2015
18.15 hours
2nd Floor, Church Centre for the United Nations, 777 UN Plaza

Violence against women and girls is the most widespread and persistent violation of human rights worldwide. As we near critical momentum for the realization of women’s rights and gender equality, governments and the international community must urgently step up their efforts and take leadership to end violence against women and girls in the years to come. How can this be done? What is being done already? And what is needed to achieve real change?

Sponsored by: Association for Women’s Rights in Development, Action Aid, Due Diligence Project and Oxfam.

Featuring: Dr. Ranjana Kumari (Center for Social Research, India), Angelika Arutyunova (Association for Women’s Rights in Development)

Development, Gender Equality and Religious Fundamentalisms 

Friday, 13 March 2015
10.30 – 12.00 hours
Ballroom 1, Armenian Convention Center, 630 2nd Avenue

The rise of religious fundamentalisms around the world constitutes a growing and urgent challenge to the full realization of women’s human rights and gender justice, without which development cannot be achieved. The ongoing post 2015 process provides a critical opportunity to address religious fundamentalisms as a key structural barrier to gender equality and women’s rights and inextricably linked to all sustainable development goals. This event seeks to engage in a critical discussion of how to strengthen the responses to religious fundamentalisms from a gendered and comprehensive perspective in the development framework.

Sponsored by: Association for Women’s Rights in Development and Oxfam International

Featuring: Shareen Gokal, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, Ayesha Imam (Independent expert), Sepali Kottegoda (Women and Media Collective), Maria Consuelo Mejia (Catholics for the Right to Decide – Mexico), Monica Rijal (United Nations Development Program – UNDP), Sussan Tahmasebi (International Civil Action Network – ICAN)

The Buck Stops Here: The Road to Addis, Financing Gender Equality and Mobilizing for Political Momentum

Friday, 13 March 2015

12.30 hours

Salvation Army Auditorium, 221 East 52nd Street

In the context of the ongoing negotiations around the post 2015 sustainable development goals, this event will explore opportunities for engagement by feminists and women’s rights advocates on the road to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (13-16 July 2015, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) and will address what is at stake regarding financing for gender equality and women rights.

Organized by: Feminist Task Force, Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development, Llamado Global de Acción ante la Pobreza, Latinoamérica y el Caribe (GCAP-LAC)

Featuring: Rosa Lizarde (FTF), Nicole Bidegain (DAWN), Tessa Khan (APWLD), Zohra Khan (UN Women)


Implementing the Beijing Platform for Action: Learning from Leaders on the Ground

Friday, 13 March 2015
14.30 – 16.00 hours
Church Center for the United Nations, 777 UN Plaza

The views of grassroots groups are often excluded from spaces like the Commission on the Status of Women. Through this parallel event, VGIF is making sure the voices of current and former grantees – women leaders working on the Beijing Critical Areas of Concern locally – are heard in discussions about women’s rights and gender equality at the UN.

Light Trust Project Coordinator Margret Joeji from India, and FIDA Program Coordinator Saratu Mahama from Ghana will participate in this parallel event at CSW59. Both local women leaders will highlight their efforts to address the Beijing Platform for Action’s Critical Areas of Concern in their communities.

Sponsored by: VGIF and the Association for Women’s Rights in Development

Featuring: Margret Joeji (India), Saratu Mahama (Ghana) and Kim Bylander (VGIF)


A Worrying Trend: Increased Systematic Threats Against Women Human Rights Defenders 

Monday, 16 March 2015
10.30 – 11.30 hours
Salvation Army Venue, UN Plaza  
The event will provide a crucial opportunity to reflect on the key role that Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) are playing in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the national level, as well as the countless restrictions and violations they face because of who they are and the work they do. The panel will also provide a venue to discuss concrete measures that states need to take at the national level to ensure effective protection for WHRDs and safeguard their rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression.

Sponsored by: Association for Women’s Rights in Development, MADRE, CIVICUS, Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, Amnesty International and Urgent Action Fund.

Featuring: Maryam Alkhawaja (GCHR), Nimalka Fernando (IMADR), Shehnilla Mohammed (IGLHRC), Sara Garcia (Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto) and Charlotte Bunch.

AWID will also be speaking at the following events:
Opening of Fifty-Ninth Session of the Commission on the Status of Women 
9 March 2015 
10.00 – 13.00 hours 
General Assembly Hall, UN Headquarters
Organized by: Commission on the Status of Women


Increasing Global Giving to Address Violence against Women and Girls
9 March 2015
11.00 – 13.00 hours 
River View Room, Millenium Hotel, 55 Church Street

Organized by: UN Trust Fund on Violence Against Women


High Level Meeting on the Role of Governments in Ending Violence and Discrimination Against Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Women 

9 March, 2015
18.30 – 19.45 hours
DHL, Auditorium, Dag Hammarskjöld Library, UN Headquarters

Organized by: Coalition of UN Member States, Observers, Council of Europe, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Women, Human Rights Watch and International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission


High Level Session From Commitment To Action: Financing Gender Equality In The Post-2015 Agenda

10 March 2015
15.00 – 16:15 hours
DHL Auditorium, Dag Hammarskjöld Library, UN Headquarters

Organized by: Switzerland, Sweden, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development


Global Feminist Journey(s): Mexico, Copenhagen, Nairobi, Beijing And Beyond
10 March 2015

18.15 – 19.45 hours

Ballroom 1, Armenian Convention Centre, 630 2nd Avenue

Organized by: ASR Resource Centre, Institute of Women’s Studies Lahore and Center for Women’s Global Leadership


Honoring Charlotte Bunch – Founding Director, Center For Women’s Global Leadership Rutgers University (CUNY School Of Law, The Dean’s Social Justice Award) 

11 March 2015
18.00 – 20.00 hours
Dave Fields Auditorium, CUNY School of Law, 2 Court Square, Long Island City

Organized by: CUNY School of Law, Sorensen Center for International Peace and Justice, Center for Women’s Global Leadership Rutgers and MADRE


No more shoestrings! Financing the Transformative Change Needed to Secure Progress on the Beijing Platform for Action and Post-2015 Framework

12 March 2015
18.15 – 19.45 hours
Drew Room, UN Church Centre, 777 UN Plaza
Organized by: Womankind Worldwide
Intergenerational Dialogue
13 March 2015
9.30 – 18.00 hours
Conference Building, ECOSOC Chamber, UN Headquarters

Organized by: UN Women


Resources For Gender Equality: Good Practices and Strategies for Action/The Way Forward 
13 March 2015
15.00 – 18.00 hours
Conference Room 4, UN Headquarters
Organized by: UN Women