Abant Africa Forum Calls for Freedom of Expression and Respect for the Sacred

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Abant Africa Forum Calls for Freedom of Expression and Respect for the Sacred

The 32nd Abant Platform forum, which took place in Addis Ababa on March 8-9, 2014, confirmed its commitment to the respect for sacred values and the encouragement of freedom of religion by international and regional organizations.

The Abant Forum … considering the social and legal aspects of FoE [freedom of expression] and RfS [respect for the sacred], emphasizing that FoE is not to destroy societies but to build them … calls upon international and regional organizations to take policy measures in line with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolution 16/18.

Final Declaration of the 32nd Abant Platform Forum

In a joint meeting with the African Union Commission’s Department of Political Affairs, the Abant Platform hosted 155 distinguished participants from 15 countries in the capital of Ethiopia. The title of the event was “Freedom of Speech and Respect for the Sacred.”

A common talking point at the forum was the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) Resolution 16/18, which was adopted in 2011 and focuses on the struggle against intolerance toward different religions. Abant participants agreed that the resolution provides common ground for the international community to promote both the freedom of expression and respect for the sacred. They also agreed that because these two values are complementary, the freedom of expression cannot be equated with the freedom to attack sacred values.

The forum’s final declaration included several calls to action. For example, the media was urged to play a constructive role in protecting sacred values. In addition, all governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society institutions were called on to defend the freedoms of expression and religion.

The 32nd Abant Platform was held in line with recommendations from the 29th Abant Platform in June 2013, titled “Africa: Between Experience and Inspiration.”

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