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Ladies and Gentlemen,
Harmful practices jeopardizes the health, rights and overall well-being of girls and women. Sometimes even resulting in death. They violate the human rights of women and girls and their elimination is a human rights imperative and an important end in itself.
Ending practices such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation is essential for allowing girls and young adolescents to achieve their full potential.
Empowering girls and women is the best investment any society can make. Families, communities, and societies prosper, economies grow, and development becomes more sustainable.
The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development last year was historical. We now have a universal framework that commits the international community and states to end harmful practices.
In the time to come, we need to strengthen the collective response. We must improve coordination if we are to successfully scale up efforts to combat these harmful practices. This includes strengthening partnerships between the multitude of actors working at all levels in different contexts and using different methods.
Comprehensive and coordinated approaches are needed to address the widespread cultural and social acceptance of harmful practices. The underlying causes of the practice must be addressed. This include gender inequality, poverty, social pressure, exclusion from education and from job opportunities, as well as attitudes and stereotypes. And let's not forget boys and men – their active engagement is vital for making progress.
Substantial progress has been made to end female genital mutilation, but recent data has also shown that the practice is much more widespread than previously assumed. Efforts on child, early and forced marriage has over the last years too started to pick up but more is needed.
Norway's international efforts to combat these harmful practices is focused on specific – and integrated efforts. Efforts to ending harmful practices are included in our programmes on gender equality, maternal and child health, primary- and secondary education and human rights.
In particular, we know that these harmful practices have a profound impact on girls' health, education and ability to participate in economic activities. The consequences are well documented and widely recognised.
The Norwegian Government sees education as a 'game-changer' and as the most effective investment that can be made in sustainable development. Our main priority is girls' education.
Another 'game-changer' has been the development of the global push to improve maternal and child health, through the UN Secretary-General's launch of the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health. The new plan that will come into force in 2016 will include young people's health, and efforts to prevent and treat FGM. Our support for this work will help ensure that countries are better able to provide sustainable basic health services, especially directed at women, children and young people.
To sum up, to end harmful practices we need to take a holistic approach that takes into account the underlying causes of the practices and to cooperate with others.