Panel Discussion on HRC Resolution 16/18 and the Istanbul Process
I would like to begin by thanking Ambassador Foo to give us the opportunity to exchange views on a crucial topic. The latest edition of the Istanbul Process meetings, held in Singapore last July, was a genuine success. The authorities of Singapore deserve every praise for hosting this event, generating a fruitful debate. The participation of a wide range of practitioners, academicians, government officials and civil society representatives from various countries was a very good opportunity to learn more about implementation and best practices. Turkey was actively engaged at this sixth meeting of the Istanbul Process.
I would also like to thank Universal Rights Group for their tremendous work they have done so far on the 16/18 process. The report which has been launched today on the Istanbul Process is hence another good example and we hope that this important work will continue.
In terms of the framework of the Istanbul Process, let me underline that the adoption of 16/18 resolution in 2011 is a real breakthrough in terms of general agreement among states.
We are all concerned about growing trends of racism, xenophobia and intolerance all over the world. The resolution 16/18 is the response of the Human Rights Council to this existential concern. One of the main challenges today we are facing is that people becoming more closed to “the other”. In this regard, there is a need to foster inter-religious and cultural dialogue.
Obviously, in line with current developments, the fight against religious intolerance and discrimination must be a key political priority for the international community. Therefore, we should maintain the momentum on this valuable work.
At this point, I would also like to emphasize the importance of the duality of the Resolution 16/18 with the resolution on Freedom of Religion or Belief. These two resolutions represent a crucial balance within the Human Rights Council. Connecting religion, belief, faith on one the hand, and human rights on the other, they complement and reinforce each other.
One could easily say that the Resolution 16/18 is not declaratory but operative in nature. The essence of the Resolution is the action plan, which was skilfully elaborated by the then Secretary General of the OIC, Mr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu. It aims to “foster a domestic environment of religious tolerance, peace and respect", described in the operative paragraph 5. As such, the 16/18 resolution stands out as an original document, which contains an integrated road map.
Therefore, the implementation of the action plan is the heart of the matter. To this end, the Istanbul Process represents a useful and practical forum encouraging fruitful discussion.
The Istanbul Process has so far been very successful in helping countries and all stakeholders to better understand the action plan. It has also served as a practical platform for sharing experience and for developing a common understanding on difficult issues.
The series of meetings under the Istanbul Process provide us with an opportunity to address a vital issue through a sustained and structured engagement.
Concerning the participation to those meetings, we think there is a need of wider participation to the debate. This issue should not be just discussed between diplomats. Line Ministries, academia and civil society have to be more involved, as they were in Singapore.
As the number of activities increase and countries become more interested in this process, enhanced and joint coordination will be required. Since implementation-oriented practices were discussed and also will be discussed in the future, it might be useful to think about a sort of follow-up system.
Each meeting constitutes an important part of the entire Istanbul Process and should not be perceived as a “stand-alone” or “one-time” event. The series of meetings should build up on each other and reflect to a certain extent what was discussed at previous meetings. This would ensure the continuity, visibility of the process as well as result-oriented awareness-raising.
Therefore, the momentum sustained by the event in Singapore needs to continue. This means that further sessions of Istanbul Process have to be regularly organized. If possible, a schedule of future meetings could be agreed upon.
Regarding the next steps in the short term, the OIC Group is intending to run the usual follow-up resolution, to be adopted during the upcoming March session of the Human Rights Council.
Since 2011, a delicate consensus on the resolution has been reached with other groups of countries. Our aim is to ensure that this resolution will be adopted with consensus again. To this end, we all will have to work together in a constructive manner and open dialogue.
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