For the next three years, IPPFoRB together with ten other partners will work in eight countries across Africa and South Asia to build a knowledgeable and responsive network of parliamentarians and faith leaders. These actors will identify and challenge barriers to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in their own countries and wider regions.
With the view that agendas should be determined and driven by those on the ground, the project provides competency building on FoRB and related human rights, such as gender, health and education. The project aims at empowering both parliamentarians and faith leaders to put forward initiatives for their local and regional context which will be supported with technical assistance and expertise.
The IPPFoRB, which was launched in 2014 at the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo as a global network for parliamentarians committed to advancing FoRB for everyone, everywhere will take the lead in providing targeted support to parliamentarians in the project countries.
‘’Our experience of working with parliamentarians over the last few years has underlined the important role they play in reforming discriminatory legislation, and in challenging discrimination faced by religious and belief minorities’’, said David Anderson, Canadian parliamentarian (retired) and Chair of IPPFoRB Steering Committee. ‘’We are excited to intensify our work in the eight project countries together with our partners’’.
Liv Kvanvig, Director of IPPFoRB and Head of FoRB Section in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) said, ‘’Discrimination, intolerance and violence faced by religious and belief groups require collective responses and efforts from various stakeholders. Parliamentarians are key actors given the unique influence they have in their home countries and abroad’’.
‘’As part of our work in this project, IPPFoRB will provide parliamentarians tools, knowledge and skills that firmly anchor FoRB within the broad human rights system so that they are able to make informed decisions on FoRB issues in their contexts.’’
Katharine Thane, an expert on FoRB who joined as IPPFoRB’s project officer last month said, ‘’In my on-going engagements with parliamentarians we are already in the early stages of discussing ways to meaningfully address issues in their context to which we are providing technical assistance and support on a day-to-day basis.’’
The £5.6 million project is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development’ Office’s UK Aid Connect Fund until 2023. In addition to other organizations in the Consortium, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) is receiving part of this funding on behalf of IPPFoRB, whose Secretariat is based in the human rights organisation.
Geir Hønneland, Secretary-General of the NHC said, ‘’It is a matter of great pride for us in the NHC that we are part of an international project that works on some of the most relevant and timely issues facing humankind. This project is a step towards building more equal and inclusive societies for everyone, everywhere.’’
The Consortium Members in the FoRB Leadership Network project are:
The Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion (CSSC) at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at the University of Oxford
, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), International Panel of Parliamentarians for FoRB (IPPFoRB), Jinnah Institute, Nordic Ecumenical Network on FoRB (NORFoRB), Pak Mission Society (PMS), Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (PROCMURA).
**The Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict (CRIC), based at Oxford, is also offering strategic advice.