As delivered by Minister Counsellor Herborg F. Alvsåker
I would like to thank the special rapporteur for his thematic report, and for his pertinent reports from recent missions to Uzbekistan and Albania.
Of special interest, we find the discussion on the fight against extremism. When handling these challenges we must have rule of law as our point of departure.
Government restrictions on the rights of freedom of religion or belief appear to be on the rise.
Religious freedom is important in itself, because it gives individuals the right to form personal beliefs, and to express them. Religion is also about a sense of identity and belonging to a group.
It is difficult to separate violations of freedom of religion or belief from other civil and political rights, such as the right to life, privacy, assembly and expression. As a result, the status of freedom of religion or belief can serve as an indicator of the general human rights situation in a given country.
Lack of religious freedom reduces people’s possibilities to form civil society groups and become actors for change. Faith based movements provide great opportunities for people to organize on grass roots level and become important actors for both democratization and poverty reduction.
As we can see from these examples, freedom of religion or belief is not only a fundamental individual right, but also important for the democratic and economic situation of a state, the wellbeing of its citizens, and the stability and peace among its inhabitants.
Norway has made freedom of religion or belief a priority in its foreign policy.