The UN Secretary-General's Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, has called upon the United States to support the implementation of the 'Plan of Action' for religious leaders and actors to prevent incitement that could lead to atrocity crimes.
Speaking at a panel discussion on the role of religious leaders in preventing incitement to violence at the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, Dieng noted that religious leaders can have a strong influence - either positive or negative ways - over the behaviour of those who follow their faith and share their beliefs in many parts of the world.
He added that for this reason his office decided to work more closely with these eminent actors, and over the last two years, have engaged with religious leaders across the world in a process that we refer to as the "Fez Process", which refers to a series of consultations between April 2015 and December 2016, in collaboration with a range of partners, including religious leaders, faith-based and secular organizations, as well as government officials, regional organizations, UN agencies and subject matter experts.
The Special Advisor said that several organisations have supported the process, including the KAICIID International Dialogue Centre, the World Council of Churches and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, and the consultations were hosted by the Governments of Ethiopia, Morocco, Italy, Jordan, Thailand and the United States.
The first consultation took place in April 2015 in Fez, Morocco, led to the development of a draft declaration of principles - also called the "Fez Declaration" - and a draft Plan of Action for religious leaders and actors to prevent incitement that could lead to atrocity crimes - called the "Fez Plan of Action". The regional consultations served to develop context specific regional strategies for religious leaders and actors to prevent incitement to violence - also called regional plans of actions - and served to refine the Fez Plan of Action.
In all, a total of 232 religious leaders and actors from 77 countries, including the United States, took part in the consultations. Participants included Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Sikhs from different groups and denominations, as well as representatives from various religious minorities, including Bahai, Kakai, Yazidi, and Candomble, and humanists. At least 30 percent of participants at all meetings were women.
The outcome of the Fez Process is a consolidated "Plan of Action for religious leaders and actors to prevent and counter incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes."
There are three sets of recommendations. The first focuses on prevention, recommending specific actions to prevent and counter incitement to violence; prevent violent extremism and prevent and counter gender-based violence. The second focuses on strengthening societal resilience by enhancing education and capacity building; strengthening collaboration with traditional and new media; strengthening engagement with regional and international partners and fostering interfaith and intra-faith dialogue. The third sets out recommendations on ways to establish peaceful, inclusive and just societies through respecting, protecting and promoting human rights and establishing networks of religious leaders.
Of note, fundamental to the whole Plan of Action is the respect and promotion of international human rights standards, in particular the right to freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of religion and belief and the right to peaceful association.
Dieng said that the Plan of Action is a pioneering document, as it is the first to engage with faith leaders to develop context specific strategies to prevent incitement that could lead to atrocity crimes. It will be officially launched at a meeting chaired by the Secretary-General on 14 July in New York, and will be followed by meetings with member states and a range of organisations interested in supporting its implementation.
He said that the implementation of the Plan of Action is more likely to succeed with political support adding, "In this context, I hope that the United States, as a champion of peace and security worldwide, as well as of freedom of religion and belief, will support the implementation of the Plan of Action, both in the United States and in other parts of the world."