The 2018 SEAFORB Conference convened from 17 August, 2018 to 19 August, 2018. Co-organizers chose these dates early in the planning process in order to ensure the attendance of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed. The UNSR/FORB not only gave keynote speeches opening and closing the conference, but also attended conference sessions and met with country-specific focus groups to discuss the context of FORB in their respective countries. His presence elevated the event and provided an opportunity for civil society leaders and advocates in the region to engage with important international stakeholders and leaders.
The 2018 SEAFORB Conference consisted of the following strategic objectives:
1. To provide a platform for civil society groups, representatives from religious groups, and key policymakers in Southeast Asia, to have greater understanding of the importance of the right to freedom of religion or belief, in the context of legal infrastructure and mechanisms and its impact on FORB; deepen the understanding of participants on new thematic issues such as freedom of expression and the use of restrictive laws in Southeast Asia, harmful practices and violation to women’s FORB in Southeast Asia, intersectionality of ethnicity and gender.
2. To strengthen the SEAFORB Network by further engaging civil society groups with key policymakers and international FORB protection mechanisms such as the members of Parliament, UNSR/FORB, and the EU Special Envoy for the Promotion of FORB outside the EU.
3. To develop action plans for the SEAFORB Network to carry out the commitment made in the 2015 Bangkok Declaration.