"In just a year's time, the international community will mark the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet, studies show that around 70 % of the world's population live in countries where freedom of religion and belief are restricted," said Mr Brende.
The extent and the nature of these restrictions vary. Many countries have introduced national legislation that restricts the right to freedom of religion and belief. In other countries, legislation on respect for minorities and their protection has been adopted, but is not enforced. On the contrary, there may be impunity for crimes against religious minorities, which in turn encourages more abuse and violence. The sustainable development agenda emphasises that no one is to be left behind, and that priority is to be given to those who are hardest to reach.
"Minorities are overrepresented among those living in extreme poverty, and they are often hard to reach. We therefore want to integrate issues relating to religious minorities into all other development policy, especially in the areas of health and education. This is both good human rights policy and good development policy," said Mr Brende.
In the white paper on the Sustainable Development Goals and Norwegian development policy, the Government sets out its intention to promote greater respect for and protection of freedom of religion and belief worldwide. With this in view, the Government will:
- identify and support measures and decisions at national, regional and global level that can enhance respect for and protection of the right to freedom of religion and belief;
- map the situation in individual countries and regions, and analyse the reasons why it is good or bad;
- identify existing and future obstacles to freedom of religion and belief;
- determine how Norway can support the work being done in places where progress can be seen;
- establish a pilot project to improve the situation of religious minorities in selected countries;
- work with international partners to achieve a more coherent effort in this field;
- support the continued role of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
In addition, training will be provided for Foreign Service employees who are to be posted to countries where the right to freedom of religion and belief is not respected, to ensure that they have the necessary knowledge and skills in this area.