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  • Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy

     

  • CONFERENCE CONCEPT

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    Freedom of Religion or Belief as a Pillar of Democracy

    Warsaw, 3 October 2019

     

     

    CONCEPT NOTE

     

     

    Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy 2019

     

    The Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy has been organized since 2012. It brings together civil society activists, academics and government representatives from around the world to discuss ways of promoting democracy. The conference is a platform for exchanging ideas and experiences in the area of consolidating democracy, strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing civil society and upholding human rights. Thus, each year it gives voice to human rights defenders from more than 30 countries and facilitates the exchange of local experiences and know-how.

     

    The 2019 edition will explore themes related to the opportunities and challenges coming with freedom of religion or belief as one of the main pillars of democracy and a fundamental human right. Protection and promotion of freedom of religion and belief is a cornerstone of Poland’s human rights policy. As a country with a long tradition of peaceful co-existence of various religious groups within its territory, Poland attaches particular importance to interreligious dialogue. This topic acquires particular importance in a world where religion-motivated hatred and violence are becoming even more frequent. On the one hand, in some cases persons belonging to religious minorities are deprived of their political rights, which are so important in democracies, on the other – freedom of religion is interlinked with other fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of  speech, association and assembly what constitutes basis of democratic societies.

     

    Objectives

     

    The Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy 2019 focuses on problems in the implementation of the right to freedom of religion or belief for all as well as on its importance for democracy. For this purpose, the panelists will explore such various fields as legislative process, education, peacebuilding, media, corporate sector, NGOs, ecumenism etc.

     

    Expected Results

     

    The conference will catalogue experiences from different areas related to freedom of religion or belief, interreligious and intercultural dialogue and building and promoting tolerance. It will identify actions that can be taken forward by governments, civil society and international organizations. Based on these discussions, a set of concrete recommendations will be elaborated and transmitted to international fora devoted to the promotion of democracy and human rights.

     

    Methodology 

     

    The programme of the Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy 2019 will feature a high-level opening session with the representatives of both governmental and non-governmental international organizations, as well as human rights activists and high-level representatives of the Polish MFA. Three panel debates will focus on analysis and possible outcomes. Each panel will host a Q&A interactive session with the audience.

     

    Panels

     

    1: OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights: ‘Freedom of religion or belief and the state’

     The session will serve as a platform for experts and practitioners to have an open conversation about the opportunities and challenges presented by the universal right to freedom of religion or belief as one of the main pillars of democracy, sustainable peace and security, with the focus on identifying and sharing best practices that could stimulate further reflection and action.

     

    The panelists will also explore important issues such as the state’s duty to provide an open, inclusive space which ensures the non-discriminatory implementation of the right to freedom or belief for all. In this regard, they will discuss the importance of adopting laws, practices and policies that are fully in line with international standards on freedom of religion or belief.  Further, the specific roles and responsibilities of civil society, religious or belief communities, the corporate sector, the media, and the academy in contributing to a culture of respect for everyone’s freedom of religion or belief will also be addressed.

     

    Another significant theme that will be discussed in this session is the work of defending freedom of religion or belief for all in countries where this human right is constantly violated. Representatives of civil society organizations and human rights defenders will share their work experience  which they often gain under extreme conditions, for example in countries where those advocating for freedom of religion or belief face threats to their lives and livelihoods.

     

    2: Polish Institute of International Affairs: ‘Interreligious and intercultural dialogue’

     

    What all the great religions of the world have in common is their moral values.  Recalling them now is more timely and necessary than ever to a world in which various fanaticisms and extreme nationalisms are being constantly reborn. They manipulate on human religious feelings.

     

    The world we live in is increasingly under "technical and economic pressure". It is also necessary to remind the truth about a man; who is a man, what is his true dignity and calling. It is an inalienable mission of the great religions of our planet.

     

    The panelists and audience will focus on finding responses to the following questions: which forms of dialogue are most effective? What are the ways to facilitate intra- and interreligious dialogue? What are the final goals of the process? What skills should be developed in the representatives of particular religious and cultural groups? They may also consider the role of ecumenism and summarize previous achievements in this field. The experts will deliberate on how interreligious and intercultural dialogue can counter extremism in the globalized world and pave a way to a more peaceful world.

     

    The experts will weigh in on the subject of religion as a tool for creating lasting peace, not constant wars. They will reflect on the causes of sectarian violence and the methods to oppose it. The panelists will try to find means to begin or expand dialogue between various religious groups and they will discuss how to encourage leaders of these groups to take part in such process.  Another crucial topic to be discussed will be prevention of creating new divisions within socio-religious structures of societies.

     

    Participants will try to find such solutions, bearing in mind the fact, that young people are the cornerstone of sustainable development and lasting peace since they are the agents of innovation, development and change.

     

    Session 3: European Endowment for Democracy: ‘Building tolerance and understanding’

     

    In a world where democratic values are increasingly under threat,  lack of tolerance and dialogue often leads to armed conflicts or the growth of violent political movements, be that in the former Soviet republics, the Middle East, North Africa, or in the Balkans. The process of reconciliation is an important factor enabling democratic development. This session aims to explore how civil society, as well as religious and community leaders can contribute to building tolerance among current and former enemies. How can societies become truly inclusive, restoring a spirit of cooperation and trust among all parties?

     

    Peacebuilding and democratization conducted in countries that witnessed sectarian hostilities is a very fragile process. How can the international community best contribute to it respecting first and foremost the “do not harm” principle?

     

    Quality education is a cornerstone of peace, tolerance and interreligious understanding. What are the best ways to educate people for peace, dialogue and tolerance? Can new technology make this education more efficient or maybe just the opposite – does the social media “echo chamber” effect contribute to the worsening of the situation?

     

    Today many people in the world are still suffering from religious freedom deficits. What are the recent trends? What can we expect from the future?

     

     

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