On 5th March, the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, received answers to two written questions on Freedom of Religion and Belief:
The Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the details of the £600,000 worth of projects funded by the Magna Carta Fund in 2016–17 which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated have directly led to positive freedom of religion or belief outcomes in 20 countries; and what are those outcomes.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Several projects were funded by the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy in 2016-17, including:
- Hardwired Inc is running a project which promotes tolerance in secondary school curricula in 50 schools in Iraq, Morocco and Lebanon.
- Christian Solidarity Worldwide is running a project to support human rights defenders in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. This project raises awareness at the national, regional and international level of the unique challenges human rights defenders campaigning for FoRB face in South Asia and Central Asia. It also raises their security awareness and their advocacy capability.
- The Salzburg Global Seminar brings together experts and educational practitioners from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East to explore approaches for combating extremism, preventing genocide and promoting tolerance. There is a particular emphasis on Rwanda, South Africa and Cambodia.
- In Malaysia, we supported a project implemented by Article 19 which aimed to strengthen the ability of Malaysia’s national human rights institution to advance the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religious belief. The project engaged a range of influential religious groups, with the view to widening the space for constructive debate in the public sphere and encouraging greater tolerance in the socio-political discourse.
- Article 19 run a project in Tunisia and Egypt, to strengthen civil society to build consensus on institutional, legislative and policy change, engage with international human rights mechanisms and prevent intolerance and hate speech.
- The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan run a project, which contributes to social stability and security in Central Asia through building the capacity of key state and non-state stakeholders to advance FoRB for all.
- Cumberland Lodge is running a project to promote understanding among overseas students studying in the UK of the right to FoRB. The students will be better sensitised to FoRB issues before returning to their native countries where we hope that they will act as informal advocates for human rights, including FoRB.
The Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government when their strategy covering freedom of religion or belief will be published
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) freedom of religion or belief work plan is for internal use only. However, the FCO’s “toolkit” for use by UK diplomats in promoting and defending the right to FoRB and setting out our policy has been published and can be seen at the gov.uk website.