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Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief.



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Media contact: Tony Parkinson (Ministerial) 0409 536 410 Scott Bolitho (Departmental) 02 6261 1555 www.dfat.gov.au

MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

FA132 24 November 2006

ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION ON THE ELIMINATION OF INTOLERANCE AND DESCRIMINATION BASED ON RELGION OR BELIEF

Saturday, 25 November 2006 marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. The Declaration remains the only international human rights instrument with an exclusive focus on the right to freedom of religion and belief. Having broad international support, the Declaration continues to play a pivotal role in the promotion and protection of that right.

Religious intolerance and extremism, however, continue to threaten global security, peace and stability. The importance of defending religious freedom cannot therefore be overstated.

Australia strongly supports freedom of religion and belief and is determined to promote understanding and foster harmony between faith communities across our region. To that end, I co-hosted with my Indonesian counterpart, Dr Hassan Wirajuda, the first regional Interfaith Dialogue in December 2004. In March this year, the Philippines and New Zealand joined Australia and Indonesia in co-chairing the second regional Interfaith Dialogue. Plans are in place to co-sponsor a third regional Interfaith Dialogue in May 2007. These Dialogues are an important forum within which to promote peace, tolerance and understanding through working with faith and civil society groups in our region and beyond.

Globally, Australia has regularly co-sponsored resolutions on freedom of religion and belief at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and the former Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. These resolutions, among other things, call on states to take all necessary action to combat hatred, intolerance, or acts of violence or intimidation or coercion based on religion or belief.

Australia has a proud record of advancing religious harmony in the national context and is committed to promoting religious freedom and tolerance internationally. The anniversary of the Declaration is a significant occasion on which to reiterate the importance of doing so.