UN Vote Shows Waning Support for Limits on Religious Speech

Third Committee Passes Dangerous Proposition 81 to 55

On November 12th, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly once again voted on a proposal to restrict religious speech. The vote on the so-called “Defamation of Religions” resolution showed a continued decline in support for the dangerous proposition. While 81 nations voted in favor of the resolution, this was down by 5 votes from 2008—a 6% decline in support. The number of nations voting “no” on the resolution increased by 2, a 4% increase. In total, 81 nations voted in favor of the resolution, while 111 nations either voted no (55 nations), abstained (43 nations) or did not vote (13). A vote of the UN General Assembly is expected in December.

The decline in support for the resolution between 2008 and 2009 is consistent with recent trends. Between 2006 and 2009, the number of nations voting in favor of the resolution dropped 30 votes, from 111 nations supporting the resolution to 81 nations voting in favor—a 27% decline in support.

“It is good to see the United Nations moving in the right direction on this issue,” states John Graz, Secretary-General of the IRLA, “but this has only happened due to the very hard work of a small group of civil society organizations working with national delegations. This struggle is far from over. The resolution will be voted on again in December, wll almost certainly be reintroduced in 2010, and efforts are underway in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to craft treaty language to accomplish the goals of the resolution’s backers.”

The IRLA looks forward to working with friends and colleagues in other civil society organizations to build on the momentum at the UN in favor of free religious speech. The IRLA will continue to work on the issue this year and will ramp up its program of meeting with national delegations in 2010. It will particularly target nations where the IRLA has strong national chapters but which have record voting in favor of restricting religious speech.

For the IRLA’s panel of experts analysis of the defamation resolution, click here.

For more information on the IRLA’s work on the defamation issue at the UN Human Rights Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards, click here.

James Standish, UN Liaison