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Interfaith Programs

Proposed Interreligious Council at the UN: Options to Explore

UPF has held consultations with statesmen, diplomats, political scientists, jurists, and NGO representatives about the establishment of an interreligious council connected in some way with the UN. We invite further reflection and consultations on one or more of the following:

Ways an interreligious council might relate to the UN

  1. As an official body? To establish an official body, either on par with the Security Council or as a replacement for the Trusteeship Council, would require an amendment of the UN Charter. However, since even minor amendments to the Charter have almost impossible to achieve, this option seems unlikely, at least in the near future.
  2. As a subsidiary organ of a body such as the Security Council or General Assembly? An interreligious voice could impact the whole range of UN activities related to international peace and security. If interreligious representatives are allowed give input to debates at the UN Security Council, it could make this body less cynical and more transparent and effective. However, while the numbers of countries backing the proposal have grown, it has not yet received support from members of the Security Council.
  3. As an international NGO affiliated with ECOSOC? The UN Charter allows ECOSOC to set up commissions to help it perform its functions and consult with non-governmental organizations. As an NGO affiliated with ECOSOC, an interreligious council could submit statements at the annual ECOSOC meetings and meetings of its Functional Commissions and Regional Commissions. This option is open, and the records of such proceedings could lay the groundwork for closer affiliation with the United Nations.

    Religions to be represented

    Which religions?
    Would diverse groups within each religion be represented?
    Would indigenous religions and atheist groups be represented?

    Method of choosing members

    Appointed by national governments? 
    Appointed by national interreligious council?
    Appointed by a transnational council of each religion?

    Terms of office

    How many years?
    Terms ending in different years to ensure continuity?

    Equal or proportional representation

    Equal vote for each member?
    Vote proportionate to number of adherents to a religion?
    How might religiously divided or pluralistic societies be represented so that minority groups are not excluded?

    Qualifications of members (examples)

    Moral authority representing a religious tradition
    Acceptance of the existence of other religions
    Respect for other religions
    Record of interest and participation in interreligious dialogue
    Belief in peace
    Practical abilities to cooperate and change the world for the better

    Functions (examples)

    Promote communication, pluralistic dialogue, and networking
    Balance centralization and discipline with democracy, pluralism, and grass-roots links
    Address not only the commonalities among religions but also the differences
    Possible active role, such as sending interreligious mediators to areas of conflict

    Funding

    Contributions by religious bodies?
    Other?

    Agenda items (examples)

    Human rights
    Customary laws
    Differing cultural values
    Differing understandings of gender, race, and culture
    Conflicts over resources
    Environmental concerns

    Potential benefits (examples)

    Contribute to a more broad-based form of global governance.
    Help resolve conflicts that have a religious dimension.
    Defuse the “clash of civilizations.”
    Expand the UN’s concern about human rights from individual freedom of religion to the broader concerns of religious communities and collective security.


    Send responses to:

    Universal Peace Federation International Secretariat
    200 White Plains Road
    Tarrytown, New York, 10591 USA

    Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

     

    For additional background materials on the proposal for an interreligious council at the UN, click here.

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