Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 is notable for the eight action points it contains in operative paragraph 5, subparagraphs (a) to (h).

The eight points commit all member States to take specific measures at the national level in policy, law and practice, to address intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief and its root causes. The opening paragraphs of the resolution provide context for these actions, raising serious concern at rising intolerance and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief in all parts of the world, condemning related human rights violations and abuses. The eight action points are intended as complementary measures that should be implemented holistically and comprehensively. The Istanbul Process is the forum where States and other stakeholders share good practice and experience in implementing these action points.

Explore the eight action points below

5a building collaborative networks

5a – building collaborative networks


Encouraging the creation of collaborative networks to build mutual understanding, promoting dialogue and inspiring constructive action towards shared policy goals and the pursuit of tangible outcomes, such as servicing projects in the fields of education, health, conflict prevention, employment, integration and media education.

5b mechanisms to identify tension

5b – mechanisms to identify tension


Creating an appropriate mechanism within Governments to, inter alia, identify and address potential areas of tension between members of different religious communities, and assisting with conflict prevention and mediation.

5c outreach training

5c – outreach training


Encouraging training of Government officials in effective outreach strategies.

5d discuss root causes of discrimination

5d – discuss root causes of discrimination


Encouraging the efforts of leaders to discuss within their communities the causes of discrimination, and evolving strategies to counter these causes.

5e speaking out

5e – speaking out


Speaking out against intolerance, including advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.

5f criminalising incitement to violence

5f – criminalising incitement to violence


Adopting measures to criminalise incitement to imminent violence based on religion or belief.

5g education to combat negative stereotyping

5g – education to combat negative stereotyping


Understanding the need to combat denigration and negative religious stereotyping of persons, as well as incitement to religious hatred, by strategising and harmonising actions at the local, national, regional and international levels through, inter alia, education and awareness-building.

5h open debate and interfaith dialogue

5h – open debate and interfaith dialogue


Recognising that the open, constructive and respectful debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local, national and international levels, can play a positive role in combating religious hatred, incitement and violence.

The resolution is not limited to these eight action points. Paragraph 6 of the resolution contains four further areas for States to address, namely:

  • ‘To take effective measures to ensure that public functionaries in the conduct of their public duties do not discriminate against an individual on the basis of religion or belief’;
  • ‘To foster religious freedom and pluralism by promoting the ability of members of all religious communities to manifest their religion, and to contribute openly and on an equal footing to society’;
  • ‘To encourage the representation and meaningful participation of individuals, irrespective of their religion, in all sectors of society’;
  • ‘To make a strong effort to counter religious profiling, which is understood to be the invidious use of religion as a criterion in conducting questionings, searches and other law enforcement investigative procedures’.

UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, though they represent a strong political commitment from States to act. The commitments in Resolution 16/18 are prefaced by strong references to States’ existing obligations under international human rights law, including on the right to freedom of religion or belief, and right to freedom of opinion and expression, as protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Any measures taken pursuant to implementing the resolution’s action plan must therefore comply with international human rights law.

Since 2011, as the Human Rights Council and General Assembly have adopted new iterations of the resolutions, they have included updates to language, reflecting the urgency of tackling intolerance based on religion or belief, and reflecting on the progress States have made to implement the resolution. Throughout these negotiations, the language of the 8-point action plan, and four additional commitments, has remained unchanged.

The vast majority of the resolutions adopted at the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have, respectively, invited States to provide information on their national implementation to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and to the Secretary General. These reports, which provide an additional mechanism for monitoring implementation alongside the Istanbul Process, can be found in our resources hub.


Learn more about the Istanbul Process and the seven meetings that have taken place over the past nine years.