USIP Special Report: Global Trends and Challenges to Protecting and Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief

Religious restrictions and hostilities around the world have risen steadily over the past few decades, reaching an all-time high in 2018 — a trend that has only worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic. Against this backdrop, USIP collaborated with USAID’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to critically examine the causes and consequences of freedom of religion or belief violations and search for solutions. A new USIP report, Global Trends and Challenges to Protecting and Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief, summarizes the key findings of this study. Below are top line notes from the study which will be discussed during an upcoming USIP event on August 2, 2022 at 11am ET. Register to attend in person or online and to access report here.

•Existing efforts to protect religious freedom primarily rely on international community mechanisms that hold national governments accountable for violations. Calls for more evidence-based approaches have also grown in recent years.

• Recognizing the importance of such approaches, the United States Institute of Peace conducted a two year study on the relationship between freedom of religion or belief and regime type, political stability, and economic development.

• The analysis found that freedom of religion or belief correlates positively and significantly with democracy, and that some types of violations of religious freedom correlate positively and significantly with political instability. Although it did not find a statistically significant correlation with country-level economic development, the case studies illustrate how religious discrimination can influence local economies, and vice versa.

• Policymakers and peacebuilders should better integrate religious freedom into democracy-promotion efforts and the broader human rights agenda. They should also develop context-specific and locally owned initiatives and pursue evidence-based research and policy.

Access the free report here.