In November 2021, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced that the UK will host the next ministerial-level meeting on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in July 2022. As a former US diplomat who conceptualised the first two ministerial meetings held in Washington, I believe the London summit provides a unique opportunity for the UK to lead the world on defending religious freedom for all. To ensure the 2022 ministerial meets Truss’s goal of ‘boost[ing] global efforts to tackle persecution’, I offer several suggestions for consideration.
The UK has been a leader in promoting international religious freedom, and, reflecting our shared values, an essential partner of the US. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has created a special envoy position for FoRB and named two very active MPs – first Rehman Chishti and now Fiona Bruce. In March, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development (FCDO) Minister Lord Ahmad convened a high-level UN meeting on the margins of the Security Council focused on ‘Religion, Belief and Conflict’. In May, the UK secured a reference in the G7 communique to FoRB, which was a first. While I was in government, US and UK cooperation was very close, and the State Department even co-funded, with the Department for International Department, a Wilton Park meeting on the unique needs of religious minorities in humanitarian crises.