Webinar Episode 5: Multilateral Organisations’ Perspective

In this webinar episode, panelists engage with issues involving religion and the pandemic from the perspective of multilateral organisations.

Webinar Summary

Merete Bilde begins the panel with remarks on how the EU is responding simultaneously to multiple challenges coming at religion from the pandemic. She emphasizes the way in which the virus has shown that governments cannot handle this challenge on their own and the intimate position religion holds to give unique insights on the needs of vulnerable populations. Ismat Jahan then describes actions taken by the OIC to respond to the coronavirus including dedicated funds to assist member states through the virus as well as a wellness campaign to promote health practices. She further highlights the need to voice concerns being felt in vulnerable or forgotten minority communities such as Muslims with whom the OIC has worked. Kishan Manocha follows with comments about OSCE engagement with religion in the crisis. When it comes to freedom of religion, he invites consideration on how we must be wary of new types of violations that could now be cloaked under the guise of the coronavirus. Ibrahim Salama concludes the panelist remarks by sharing the strain already felt on multilateralism. He advocates a rights-based approach to resolving current and future religious issues stemming from COVID-19. Panelists close the webinar by answering questions about the new EU External Action Service religious initiative, the OSCE response to countries who have taken a discriminatory approach to religious groups, and how multilateral organisations can ensure equitable distribution of a vaccine and other medical aid.


  • Merete Bilde, Policy Advisor, European External Action Service
  • H.E. Mrs. Ismat Jahan, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation to the European Union
  • Dr. Kishan Manocha, Senior Adviser on Freedom of Religion or Belief, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
  • Dr. Ibrahim Salama, Chief Human Rights Treaties Branch, Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, United Nations


  • Dr. Judd Birdsall, Cambridge Institute for Religious and International Studies