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High Level Meeting
13-15 December 2008 Cairo, Egypt

Meeting Overview

No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Egyptian National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) organized, under the patronage of H.E. Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, First Lady of Egypt, the "Cairo Declaration on FGM +5" High Level Meeting on 13 15 December 2008 in Cairo, Egypt, bringing together representatives of governments, parliaments, and civil society from 20 Afro-Arab countries affected by FGM as well as international and regional organizations and representatives of other stakeholder governments, parliaments and civil society.

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The meeting provided the opportunity, at five years from the Cairo Conference "Afro-Arab Expert Consultation on Legal Tools for the Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation" of 21-23 June 2003, to undertake a systematic review of progress achieved and challenges encountered following the campaigns aimed at the eradication of FGM and to strengthen and accelerate the global movement conducive to the eradication of FGM as a violation of the rights of girls and women, as proclaimed in the "Cairo + five declaration: ending FGM by outlawing it once and for all: a goal we can achieve".

By shifting the focus to legislation as an essential instrument in combating FGM and stressing the fact that FGM must be recognized and treated as a violation of human rights, the 2003 Cairo Conference represented a turning point in the campaign against the practice, and "The Cairo Declaration on the Elimination of FGM" encouraged governments to pass legislation aimed at the progressive elimination of the practice continues to be a benchmark document, elements of which have informed pivotal texts, such as national legislation) as well as Article 5 (which explicitly confronts FGM) of the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa; to date 18 African countries of the 28 in which FGM is practiced have laws.

In the intervening five years, there have been a number of positive developments, including the adoption of the Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, the presentation of the United Nations Secretary General's Study on Violence Against Children, the adoption or revision of anti-FGM legislation by a number of countries which participated in the 2003 Cairo Conference, including, most recently Egypt, the creation of National Action Plans on combating FGM, the creation of independent national human rights bodies and ombudsman positions, monitoring mechanisms including telephone help-lines, the development of new and emerging initiatives by international organizations, and strengthened, more coherent advocacy initiatives.

However, much work still remains to be done, and NPWJ organized the 2008 High Level Meeting with the intention of beginning a campaign to mobilize political will, turning stated commitments against FGM into a shared political strategy that marginalizes the practice and strengthens and broadens the political impact of campaigns to date. Among its aims was to generate a "positive competitive environment" that may spur activists, parliamentarians and governments to work towards the enactment of the best possible legislation on FGM, though the sharing of experiences from countries where effective laws have been adopted as positive templates for other countries so as to encourage the building of technical capacity in developing effective legislative measures.

The High Level Meeting was attended by H.E. Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, First Lady of Egypt and H.E. Mrs Chantal Compaoré, First Lady of Burkina Faso and delegations representing 20 affected countries of the region, at the Ministerial level (Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo) as well as representatives of ministries and parliamentarians who have been at the forefront of work to pass effective FGM legislation, prominent members of civil society whose campaigns to end FGM in their respective countries have been of key importance, and international representatives and UN and regional organizations.

The main work of the High Level Meeting took place in three working sessions each of which confronted a central issue in current worldwide work on FGM. In the session on “FGM Legislation as a Tool for Behavioral Change”, participants agreed that legislation is both a reflection of society and has a role to play in leading society towards changing behavior, and that FGM should not be defended under the guise of ‘culture’ or ‘tradition’, but should explicitly be treated as a human rights violation. Participants launched an appeal to outlaw FGM in all its forms at the local level, in national legislation and through any appropriate regional and international instruments, pointing out that adequate rights-based legislation is a pre-requisite for outlawing FGM entirely, with a view to its total eradication.

The session on “Reaching the FGM Communities: the Role of Outreach, Public Information and Media Campaigns” discussed the critical role that media has to play in informing communities, and specific target groups within communities, about the basic facts related to FGM, engaging them in discussions to challenge historical attitudes and persuading them that FGM is harmful to the best interests of their children and, in their recommendations, participants emphasized that use be made of new and existing technologies that allow individuals to engage in interactive two way communication.

In the session on “Measuring Success: Sharing Knowledge Useful in Understanding Trends on FGM” participants focused on the fact that since recent strategies for eliminating FGM focus on changing communities’ perceptions of women's rights, the indicators and measures used for evaluating the success of anti-FGM projects must undergo a similar reorientation away from medical indicators towards ones that can express changes in societal attitudes and behaviors.

The final declaration presented the occasion for all participants to call for accelerated action, to keep the momentum and redouble efforts, to make ending FGM - by outlawing it once and for all - not only an achievable goal, but one that will be achieved. To keep the momentum, participants suggested that within a year, a follow-up conference be organized to continue the assessment of implementation of the High Level Meeting recommendations and all other efforts to address FGM as a human rights violation.

Planned Follow-up Activities

With the High Level Meeting, NPWJ has relaunched its FGM campaign, with a view, on the one hand, to seek opportunities and possibilities to increase worldwide awareness – through advocacy aimed at international instruments and commitments – of the need to pass legislation outlawing FGM, and on the other hand to strengthen the commitment and the political will of concerned states, in particular in 2009 in West Africa, to work towards the elimination of the practice.

To this end, NPWJ aims to organize a series of actions, also to determine a possible host for the follow-up conference called for in the "Cairo + five declaration: ending FGM by outlawing it once and for all: a goal we can achieve", so that at the highest levels it will provide an opportunity for the reaffirmation of political commitment to FGM legislation, to fight against FGM and to consolidate technical capacity. NPWJ will hold consultations with stakeholders in countries with high FGM prevalence, and, in collaboration with its local partners, will organize seminars in three of the interested countries to accelerate the implementation of effective anti-FGM legislation.

To build on the momentum generated by the High Level Meeting, NPWJ is seeking ways to widen its advocacy in the international sphere to mobilize resources for FGM elimination activities, such as lobbying at the parliamentary, government and inter-governmental levels for the adoption of relevant documents, resolutions and others instruments, as well as other actions, including notably the organization of a high-visibility event harnessing prominent artists to help spread the message, aimed at public opinion and decision-makers on the need to better fight FGM by outlawing it.

As part of its campaign, NPWJ is also planning activities aimed at addressing the regional/subregional/transregional elements of FGM practices and campaigns, where there is increasing need for a systematic and coherent approach: as part of this activity will be the development of a comparative assessment of the enactment and implementation of specific legislative measures on FGM, a "FGM Legislation Toolkit" which would serve as an instrument for parliamentarians, government representatives and civil society in their legal reform on FGM advocacy efforts.

December 13
Press Conference

December 14
Conference (First Day)

December 15
Conference (Second Day)


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