Statement held by Ambassador Steffen Kongstad

The special event "Intensifying Mobilization and Involvement of Health Personnel to accelerate the Achievement of Zero Tolerance to FGM" was held on 6 February. Below is the statement held by Ambassador Kongstad, Permanent Representative of Norway, at the event.

I wish to thank the organisers for making this year’s event on the international FGM-day different. Because it is important to bring the realities into the comfortable meeting rooms of Geneva. We have all been moved by the film and the stories of Domtila Chesang and dr Jasmine Abdulcadir, and deeply impressed by their work. 

The recently adopted UNGA resolution “Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations” and the discussions held in the Human Rights Council, confirm the continued attention and commitment by the international community and states to end FGM. But it also clearly demonstrates that we still have a long way to go.

 And we should not shy away from recognising what this is about: A systematic oppression of women in most horrific ways. We are faced with gross violations of fundamental rights and appalling stories of human suffering.

 We are here because we refuse to tolerate atrocious treatment of human beings and because we know that the fight against FGM must be accelerated. We need more effective measures to stop a practice that we know violates girls’ and women’s right to life, right to physical integrity, and right to sexual and reproductive health.

The underlying causes of the practice must be addressed and not excused. They include gender inequality, poverty, social pressure, exclusion from education and job opportunities, as well as attitudes and negative stereotypes of women and girls. There is no doubt, that active engagement of men and boys also is highly important. Men have to stand up and say that this is not acceptable.

Trained and accessible health workers is key in the prevention of FGM. This includes combating medicalization of the practice, as well as much needed treatment of medical complications. Many still have too little knowledge about how they can contribute to preventing FGM and how to treat the complications suffered by those already subjected to the practice.

 It is important to recognise that efforts carried out to date have achieved encouraging results, even with limited funding. The approaches have been effective, yet we need to strengthen our collective response to successfully scale up efforts against FGM.

 The UNFPA and UNICEF’s joint programme on FGM has been instrumental to the fight against FGM. Not only to the progress made in specific countries, but also in advocating for sustained focus on FGM/C.  

What can we do in Geneva? We do not need more exercises that merely serves the Geneva community in looking good. We must ensure that our efforts have a real benefit in combatting FGM. We must i a ask ourselves; what will be the benefit of new resolutions and panels? Activities in Geneva are only meaningful if they can fuel and support practical action on the ground.

In Geneva, we have several actors, arenas and institutions that are relevant to the work on FGM, such as the WHO and the HR council. These are indeed important, but are often addressing rather specialized audiences. We might also benefit from including the humanitarian community to a larger degree. Perhaps there is a need for some sort of a network that could help connecting the various dots.

 The recently adopted UNGA resolution clearly illustrates that we need to do more and to go outside our “business as usual” thinking. We need a place allowing in-debt, but strategic, discussions on what our added value could be and how we can take smart, collective efforts forward.

Such a network needs to be inclusive. Broad participation from the civil society, the UN and states are needed if we are to succeed.

 Without increased cooperation, we will not be able to eliminate the practice. This includes national leadership and strengthened partnerships among the multitude of actors working at all levels in different contexts using different modalities and tools. 

 The reasons for, and the consequences of, FGM are sufficiently documented. All necessary legal and normative requirements do exist. It is the implementation gap and the accountability of governments we need to address.

 We also need to communicate our maintained focus on the issue and not the least the progress being made; -everyone wants to be part of something that is meaningful and successful. And what can be more meaningful than fighting gross violations of fundamental human rights and inhumane behaviour?

To sum up, it should not, and cannot, be beyond our reach, to prevent and eliminate this cruel practice. We must all do our part, locally and internationally, to engage more people, countries and health workers for accelerating the inevitable end of FGM.

 Read the full article on the event here.