In March 2019, following the attacks against mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the UN Secretary-General requested the High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos, to elaborate a Plan of Action to safeguard religious sites.
The Plan, which was developed in the context of an inclusive consultative process involving all relevant stakeholders, was officially launched by the UN Secretary-General on 12 September in New York. It is meant to provide a result-oriented framework for action with recommendations to help prevent possible attacks against religious sites and enhance preparedness and response.
The document is anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and relevant General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council resolutions. It also takes into account documents issued by religious entities promoting interfaith dialogue, tolerance and understanding.
The Plan is anchored in the following principles:
to accept and respect the differences among human beings.
The Plan contains a framework for action with recommendations for Member States, religious leaders, civil society, media to better prevent, prepare and respond to attacks on religious sites.
- Proactive and regular engagement in interfaith dialogue will help better understanding of different faiths and beliefs.
- Education initiatives at the local level will help highlight the role of religious sites in bringing people together.
- Active engagement in social media and the development of media content by religious leaders will contribute to make religious texts accessible to a wider audience.
- Risk assessments at religious sites should be conducted regularly.
- Sharing information with law enforcement and first responders about the particular features of religious sites can help in the case of attacks.
- Community-level initiatives to disseminate information on risk assessment and preparedness, can help in preparing for the eventuality of an attack.
- Response can be more efficient if there are national strategies and plans in place that include early-warning systems, emergency response, crisis management, security and resilience.
- Sustained collaboration between all those involved in responding to attacks will help ensure a more efficient response to attacks against religious sites.
- Engagement between law enforcement officers and the community can help build trust and provide concrete advice that can mitigate the effects of a potential attack.