Promoting the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is a foreign policy priority for
several countries, their concerns accentuated by considerable evidence of rising levels of
violations of this right worldwide. This puts a premium on solid evidence and on clear
assessment criteria to serve as objective guides for policy. This paper reviews the
complex landscape of approaches to assessing and measuring both the status of FoRB
and the degree to which this human right is being violated or protected. It introduces and
describes various transnational methodologies, both qualitative and quantitative, which
focus, in differing ways, on violations. Several are widely cited and have express policy
applications, while others have more indirect application to FoRB. The analysis highlights
the diversity of approaches, which both reflect and contribute to a tendency to politicise
FoRB issues. Challenges include differing understandings of the nature and relative
significance of violations and their comparability. Country analysis is crucial because the
specific context has vital importance for a granular appreciation for causes and impact of
FoRB violations. This granularity, however, is poorly reflected in broader quantitative
transnational and time series indices that highlight trends and comparative impact. The
review highlights the limited degree to which FoRB issues, specifically violations and
religiously related discrimination, are integrated in the policies and practice of
development approaches (including social change and progress towards wellbeing)
internationally and nationally. Effective approaches to addressing violations are few and
far between, especially at the international level. The review notes strengths and
weaknesses of specific approaches to assessment and reflects on possible
improvements focused on development challenges and better integration among
aspects of human rights.

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