10th Anniversary Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs—Human Rights and Dignity: Towards a Just, Peaceable and Inclusive Future

10th Anniversary Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs

Human Rights and Dignity: Towards a Just, Peaceable and Inclusive Future

Tuesday, 23 January 2024
8:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Venue: Virtual (Register here)

Sponsoring Organizations:

ACT Alliance, General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, Islamic
Relief, Religions for Peace, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Soka Gakkai International, United
Religions Initiative, World Council of Churches, UN Women, UNFPA, UN Office on the Prevention of Genocide

In partnership with:

UN Inter-agency Task Force on Religion and Development

The 2024 Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-based Organizations in International Affairs marks a significant milestone as it celebrates its tenth anniversary. A decade ago, faith-based partners initiated this symposium, which coincided with Martin Luther King’s birthday and aimed at fostering dialogue on the intricate interplay between religion and international affairs. With a deliberate inclusion of UN member states and entities, the symposium sought to create a platform for collaborative policymaking and constructive engagement.

In 2016, the second symposium established a strong partnership with the UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Sustainable Development, creating an annual policy dialogue involving UN entities, member states, faith-based actors, and civil society to address pressing global challenges. Past themes have included a wide range of critical issues related to human rights, the prevention of atrocity crimes and their incitement, the promotion of peace, inclusion, and combating systemic injustice. The upcoming 10th Symposium will reiterate commitment to human rights and dignity. It aims to inspire collective action for a compassionate society and aligns with World Interfaith Harmony Week that will take place from 1 – 7 February 2024 to promote understanding among diverse religious communities worldwide.

See full concept note


CoNGO, WCC, and civil society groups, reiterate shared commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

During a webinar presented by the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) and hosted by the World Council of Churches (WCC), civil society and faith-based groups explored their shared commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Speaking at the podium at the Main Hall of the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva is CoNGO President Liberato Bautista, delivering his presidential remarks at the 75th anniversary commemoration of CoNGO on December 15. The event was held in a hybrid format–in person in Geneva, online webinar, and live streamed via the CoNGO YouTube channel–with a little over 200 participants hearing the presentations in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. Photo: Gregoire de Fombelle/WCC

Geneva, Switzerland | 18 December 2023 — CoNGO, the Conference of Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations, is celebrating its 75th anniversary, as is the World Council of Churches (WCC)—and the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights itself. 

Among keynote speakers at the commemorative event held on December 15 at the main hall of the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva was Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, WCC programme director of Public Witness and Diakonia. He thanked CoNGO president Liberato Bautista for his leadership at a time when civil society space is closing up and getting restricted. 

We must indeed celebrate some considerable progress made in the advancement and reinforcement of the human rights protection mechanisms over the last years,” said Mtata. The establishment of the Human Rights Council and of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism could be listed among the efforts to strengthen the United Nations human rights machinery in a more democratic and transparent way.”

However, Mtata said, most human rights mechanisms do not yet adequately take into account the human rights violations amplified by perpetrators of climate crimes. Many governments encroach on the freedom of worship and numerous places of worship are attacked by non-state actors,” he noted. It is evident that there is still a huge gap between words and deeds, promises and action.”

Adopting and ratifying intergovernmental human rights instruments, although very important, simply does not suffice, Mtata continued. Governments must defend the rights of the people that are under their jurisdiction and must show their political will to seriously tackle the grave human rights violations that occur in various parts of the world,” he said. First, we must reiterate our shared commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the principles enshrined within it, and advocate for its full adaptation to the human rights violations caused by climate destruction.”

UN officials pay tribute to CoNGO and civil society; no civil society without faith-based actors

Sophie Torelli-Chironi, head of the NGO liaison unit, speaking on behalf of Tatiana Valovaya, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, highlighted the partnership between the United Nations and CoNGO. “It is a longstanding and solid relationship which dates back to 1948 when the NGO was created. CoNGO has since played a major role in strengthening the relations between NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC and various UN bodies. This is particularly true for us here at the United Nations Office at Geneva. We have collaborated with CoNGO for many years to reinforce the participation of civil
society in multilateral processes in Geneva in our areas of work – sustainable development, peace and disarmament, and human rights.”

Ibrahim Salama, chief, Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was among several keynote speakers who underscored the importance of faith-based voices for human rights. There is no human rights without civil society,” he said. There is no civil society without faith-based actors.”

Lina Nykanen-Rettaroli, senior technical lead for human rights, World Health Organization, spoke about the human rights of women in low-income countries. A woman in a low-income country is about 30 times more likely to die from pregnancy or child-birth related causes than a woman living in a high-income country,” she said. They so often have the worst health outcomes.”

Ruth Marlyn Grace Sidabutar, project officer, World Summit on the Information Society at the International Telecommunication Union, the UN Agency for Digital Technologies, reflected on the challenges to human rights posed by artificial intelligence and other technology.

The opportunities for advancing human rights are enormous—but so are the challenges,” Sidabutar said. There are now more mobile phones than people in the planet.”

Barbara Reynolds, chair, United Nations Working Group of Experts of People on African Descent, also mentioned the importance of civic and faith-based groups in drawing the world together. The pursuit of human rights can be seen as a saving of our people today,” she said. 

Alejandro Bonilla, NGO Committee on Ageing Geneva, spoke of how ageism intersects with every other form of discrimination. In a world where many circumstances are beyond our control, we are eventually presented with a choice: how will we relate to our people, and how will we relate to others?” he asked. The divide between older and younger generations—age is one of the first things we notice about the others.”

In his presidential remarks, Liberato Bautista pointed to CoNGO’s organizational motto: “defining the present, shaping the future,” and the addition of a third phrase for the anniversary year, “making the change now,” The motto, he said, “indicates how crucial the role of civil society is in addressing the existential threats to people and the planet—including climate change that is compromising planetary sustainability and human rights violations that are threatening human dignity.”

“For all the lofty words we manufacture—whether at the UN or in our NGO circles—we must be willing to be the change we want and get ready to work on those changes now,” Bautista said.

CoNGOs 75th anniversary year was marked by four commemorative celebrations at UN centers in Vienna (April), Bangkok (May), New York (October), and Geneva (December) and six global thematic webinars which attracted a little over 3,500 participants worldwide. (Marianne Ejdersten/WCC and CoNGO InfoNews)


For more information about the event, including concept note, speakers and schedule, please visit this link.

CoNGO President Bautista at the 2023 ECOSOC Partnership Forum: “Partnerships must be at the core of what multilateral and multistakeholder mean. But there are as many perils as there are possibilities in these partnerships.”

New York City | 1 March 2023 (CoNGO InfoNews) – “Partnerships must be at the core of what multilateral and multistakeholder indeed mean. But there are as many perils as there are possibilities in these partnerships, ” stated Liberato Bautista, President of CoNGO, at a side event on January 31 during the 2023 ECOSOC Partnership Forum.

The virtual side event, WSIS Cooperation for Accelerating Progress on the SDGs, was organized by the United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS) and the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Bautista also said, “Partnerships at the UN flourish under conditions that make it possible for all stakeholders to access both physical space (premises) and substantive agenda (promises) of the UN, not the least on all matters related to the successful implementation of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Read the complete statement of the CoNGO President here.

Read the Summary of the UNGIS | WSIS Side Event here.

61st Session of the Commission for Social Development – CSocD61

61st Session of the Commission for Social Development – CSocD61

Photo by ILOThe 61st United Nations Commission for Social Development (CSocD61) will take place from 6 to 15 February 2023 in conference room 4 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Priority Theme

Creating full and productive employment and decent work for all as a way of overcoming inequalities to accelerate the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups

(i) Outcome document of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities: the way forward, a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond;
(ii) World Programme of Action for Youth;
(iii) Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002;
(iv) Family issues, policies and programmes.

CoNGO Board of Directors (2018-2021) Meets in New York Oct. 2-4, 2018

CoNGO Board of Directors (2018-2021) in attendance at the Oct. 2-4, 2018 meeting at the Church Center for the United Nations. Seated in front row, from L to R: Yamile Eusebio (Global Foundation for Democracy and Development, Secretary), Cyril Ritchie (First Vice President), Liberato Bautista (President), Martina Gredler (Second Vice President), and Margaretha Jones (International Humanist and Ethical Union, Treasurer). Standing in back row, from L to R: John T. Digilio (Knight Templars, OSMTH), Julianna Taimoorazy (OSMTH), Daniel Jeon (OSMTH), Paul Jensen (OSMTH), Robert Bateman (OSMTH), Anders Olauson (Agrenska Foundation), Varun Anand (International Planned Parenthood Federation, South Asia Region), George McClean (OSMTH), Humphrey Tonkin (Universal Esperanto Association), Jerry Price (OSMTH), David Kisrchbaum (Nonviolence International), and Saionara-Koenig-Reis (Dianova International, Vice President-at-Large), Not in photo is Patrick Rea (OSMTH, Vice President-at-Large).

Declaration on UN 75th Anniversary

Liberato Bautista re-elected to unprecedented third term as President of CoNGO

The Rev. Dr. Liberato C. Bautista is the President of CoNGO—The Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations. CoNGO is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1948 that relates to the United Nations through its General Consultative Status granted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

In the seventy-five years of CoNGO, Bautista is one of only two among nineteen CoNGO Presidents who have served two terms in a non-consecutive fashion. On December 1, 2021, he was reelected to an unprecedented third term. He was CoNGO President between December 2007 and January 2011 and was elected again in 2017. He will serve his current term until 2025.

Bautista concurrently serves as the main representative to the UN for the United Methodist Church—General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), the international public policy and social justice agency of The United Methodist Church. He has represented GBCS at the UN for the last 25 years. GBCS is a longstanding full member of CoNGO. As a nongovernmental representative of a faith-based organization at the UN, Bautista served as president of the Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations  (CRNGO@UN, 2015-2017). Bautista chaired the Council of Organizations in New York of the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA, 2006-2007) and was elected in 2018 to serve on its Executive Committee. Bautista’s NGO-related activities date back to 1974, starting with a faith-based youth organization and moving on to work and related with ecumenical organizations, then on to a non-governmental position vis-a-vis the UN. His work has allowed him to travel and meet people in at least 80 nations worldwide.

Bautista teaches, writes, and lectures extensively in a variety of fields, including international affairs; NGO and civil society dynamics; social and political ethics; theology and religion; ecumenism and religious liberty; human rights and human dignity; indigeneity and indigenous peoples; and peace, justice, and social transformation. He has taught politics and civil society at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Korea, and the dynamics of culture and community organizing at Saint Andrews {Episcopal} Theological Seminary in the Philippines. He occasionally teaches an online course on Christian social ethics at John Wesley College in Tuguegarao City.

Bautista studied political science, history, and international studies at the University of the Philippines in Manila, which in 2000 awarded him the “Most Outstanding Alumnus in the Social Sciences.” His doctoral studies at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, focused on religion and social and political ethics. Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines awarded him the Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, in 2016. Bautista is an ordained United Methodist minister. In December 2021, the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS) inducted Bautista as a Fellow.

Bautista has attended major United Nations, ecumenical, inter-religious, civil society, and academic conferences since the late 1970s. He has traveled extensively to some 80 countries and territories. Bautista’s biography appears in Who’s Who in the World (4th ed. 1991 – 1992) and Who’s Who in Religion (10th ed. 1993-1994). Among the awards and accolades, he received the 1996 Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award given by Drew University; one of eleven around the world awarded a plaque of thanks in 2017 by the Korea Democracy Foundation as a recognition by Korean civil society and human rights organizations of Bautista’s contributions to the democratization and struggle for peace and justice in the Korean Peninsula. Bautista also received an  award of honor in 2017 from the International Religious Liberty Association during that year’s World Congress for Religious Freedom for his work on religious freedom worldwide. In 2000, his alma mater, the University of the Philippines Manila, recognized him as the “Most Outstanding Alumnus in the Social Sciences.”

Bautista’s published work in books and journals includes, among others,  Shaping a World of Freedoms: 75 Years of Legacy and Impact of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Nelu Burcea and Liberato Bautista, co-editors, 2023), Book of Abstracts: Freedom of Expression, Hate Speech, Religious Freedom: A Human Rights Perspective (Nelu Burcea and Liberato Bautista, co-editors, 2023);  Migrants and Refugees: Voice and Agency–Towards an Infrastructure of Welcome and Hospitality and an Architecture of Advocacy and Solidarity, in International Handbook on Ecumenical Diakonia (Oxford: Regnum Books, 2021); Turning Strangers Into Friends: Hospitality, Mercy, Justice—A Workbook on the Framework Documents of the Churches Witnessing With Migrants, editor (NCCP and CWWM: Manila, 2017); The Intersections of Human Rights, Migration and Development Justice, Liberato Bautista and Mervin Toquero, editors (GBCS and NCCP, New York and Manila, 2014); Engaging the Powers and Public Theology from the Perspective of Indigenous Peoples as a Key Mandate in Asian Ecumenism, in Asian Handbook for Theological Education and Ecumenism (WCC Publications and Oxford, England: Regnum Books International, 2013); Meditations and Devotions on the Millennium Development Goals: A Prayerful Guide (GBCS, New York, 2012); Sustainable Development Goals: The Ethical Demands of Human Rights and Equity (in MDG Global Watch Journal, New York, 2012); Indigenous Peoples: Confession, Repentance and Forgiveness, in On This Spirit Walk—The Voices of Native American and Indigenous Peoples (Nashville, Tennessee, 2012);  And None Shall Make Them Afraid: Militarism, Militarization and Human Rights, in Praxis (Hong Kong: WSCF Asia Pacific, 2000);  War, Peace and the Ecumenical Movement in the Philippines (Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1993); Witness and Hope Amidst Struggle (1991), Religious Freedom and Liberty in the Philippines (CCA: Hong Kong, 1991) And She Said No: Human Rights, Women’s Identities and Struggles, Liberato Bautista and Elizabeth B. Rifareal, editors (Quezon City: NCCP, 1990), Human Rights: Biblical and Theological Readings (Quezon City: NCCP, 1988), Towards a Theology of Struggle, co-editor (Manila, 1988), and Those Who Would Give Light Must Endure Burning: Spirituality for Justice and Peace, Samuel Amirtham and Liberato Bautista, editors (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1986). For more information about Bautista’s publications, see Worldcat.

Bautista has written and published essays and monographs, many based on his lectures and speeches on the work and role of civil society and non-governmental and grassroots organizations in local, national, regional, international, and multilateral arenas. These writings address Bautista’s concern for the organizational life of NGOs and civil society organizations characterized by consultative processes, collaborative approaches, and cooperative spirit. Such organizational values elaborated in his writings point to the importance of NGOs as influential forces for change and transformation if they imbibe and flourish what he calls the “power of Co – consultation, collaboration, and cooperation.

A representative body of Bautista’s presentations and writings on matters related to his NGO and civil society work include, among others: Combating Corruption: The Relevance and Capacities of Faith-Based Organizations (Vienna: UN General Assembly Special Session Against Corruption, 2021); Words, Worlds and Worldviews: Glocal Citizenship Education, Learning and Literacy (La Union, Philippines: Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University, 2021); Global Citizenship Education in a Human Crisis of Solidarity (Seoul: Interfaith Coalition Conference for Global Citizens, 2020);  Seeking Peace, Pursuing Justice: An Account of Hope for the Korean Peninsula (No Gun Ri Global Peace Forum, 2020);  Beijing+25 and UNSRC 1325+20: Gender Equality Action for an Equal Future (Seoul: Women’s Forum for Peace and Diplomacy, 2020);  Liberty, Citizen and the Future: A Tale of Two Revolutions—Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution and South Korea’s Candle Revolution (Seoul, 2017); (Re)Locating Religious Freedom and (Re)Imagining  Sustainable Peace in the Context of Multilateralism and in the Service of Transformation (Ft. Lauderdale, FL: 8th IRLA World Congress on Religious Freedom, 2017); Civil Society and Business: Working Together for Peace, Security and Sustainable Development (UN Alliance of Civilizations Forum, Baku, Azerbaijan, 2016); Global Forced Migration and Challenges to NGO Work (Dianova International Assembly, Mallorca, Spain, 2015); The Intersections of Peace, Human Security, Human Rights and Human Dignity: Considerations of Ecumenical Discourses and Praxes (Princeton Theological Seminary 2015); Peace Education and Women’s Empowerment: A Reprise of Old Themes and Recurrent Concerns (CSW, New York, 2011); The Role of Men and Boys in Gender Equality (Geneva, 2010);  Another Global Warming is Possible: (Re)imagining Multilateralism, (En)gendering Civic Action, (Re)locating Transformation, and (Re)constituting A Humanitarian Planet (Seoul, 2009); Food for Thought, Thoughts on Food: The Role of NGOs in Fostering Multilateralism for a More Secure, More Just and More Peaceable World (Hamburg, 2009); Threats to the Health and Sustainable Development of Nations: Global Public Health in the Context of the Global Economic Crisis (ILO, Geneva, 2009);Multilateralism and Beyond: When and How NGOs Matter in a World of Nation States (San Jose, Costa Rica, 2008); Global Issues of the 21st Century and the Role of University Youth (KHU, Seoul, 2008); Fighting Poverty at Home or Fighting Poverty Abroad: Do We Have and Must We Really Make a Choice? (Detroit, 2008); and The Underside of Human Rights: On the Occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (NGO DPI Conference, UNESCO, Paris, 2008).

Bautista is married to Adora Bautista, a public school teacher focused on early childhood education curriculum development and special education. They have two adult children, Arvin Louis, in the film and television industry, and Aiena Laya, in the health profession.

Updated 13 May 2022