Norway's statement during International Conference to End Female Genital Mutilation

International Conference to End Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): From Goals to Action on FGM – Working Together to Bridge Gaps. Statement by Ambassador Steffen Kongstad, Permanent Representative of Norway

It is a great pleasure to be invited to take part in this panel. However, it is with considerable displeasure that I, in doing so, must also acknowledge that we – in 2016 – still have the need for a conference on the practice of FGM. A practice that since long should have been completely rejected and altogether eradicated.

Having said that, I would like to start by thanking the IAC for responding to the need for highlighting and discussing practical ways to fight FGM by organising this timely conference. I particularly wish to acknowledge the efforts in bringing together participants, from different regions, who are working directly with individuals and communities on this difficult issue.

Your voices and your experiences are essential in any discussion on how to go from statements and resolutions to actual change, on how we can move “from goals to action”, as this conference is aptly titled. It is imperative that we bring reality into the otherwise comfortable meeting rooms of Geneva.

We cannot shy away from recognising what this is really about: FGM represents systematic oppression of women in the most horrific ways. Rightly called “a costly, organised crime against women and girls”, FGM constitutes an extreme form of discrimination.

It is a violation of the right of the child. A violation of a person’s right to health, security and physical integrity. It is a violation of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

It is a violation of the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. As a potentially fatal practice, it is  - a violation of the very right to life.

Needless to say, we must find measures that can end this practice once and for all. So where do we go from here?

For Norway the elimination of FGM has been on the political agenda for several years. We know that the harmful practice also occurs within our own society. We have introduced various health, medical, legal and administrative measures and have strengthened preventive efforts in schools and through voluntary work. We also believe that the struggle against FGM can be better integrated in other priority areas, such as gender equality, maternal and child health, and education.

In our international efforts we continue to support the work of organisations like UNFPA and UNICEF through the Joint Programme, as well as WHO, and national and local organisations. We try to actively use a range of different channels and avenues to speak up on the issue. One relevant arena in Geneva is the Universal Periodic Review, within the UN Human Rights Council context, which is a country by country human rights appraisal taking place, as we speak, in Geneva this week. I believe, we as States, could use this mechanism even more actively to give recommendations to countries where FGM occurs.

The data on what is happening on the ground demonstrate that we still have a long way to go.

During your deliberations over the last two days you have taken stock of what has been achieved, you have identified remaining gaps and looked at best practices. You have discussed a fairly wide range of topics related to FGM, including the role of healthcare workers. We know that trained and accessible health workers are critical in terms of prevention as well as for the survivors who need treatment for medical complications. The inclusion of health personnel in our work therefore remains crucial.

To consolidate the global political commitment, it is evident that we need the continued engagement of civil society organisations and government institutions, parents and teachers, health workers and journalists, UN agencies and local figures of authority.

Underlying causes, such as gender inequality, social pressure and exclusion from education and job opportunities, must be addressed, not excused.

In closing, let me again emphasize that the active commitment of men and boys remains crucial in our efforts. Men have to stand up and state the obvious. By that I mean, to say unequivocally – in very clear terms – that this practice is simply not tolerable! 

It should not, and cannot, be beyond our reach, to prevent and eliminate this cruel practice. We must all do our part to support the many national and local initiatives that have actually proven successful.

With the ongoing efforts and determination, including by many of you in this very room, we are hopefully on the right track to FGM becoming an issue of the past.