Meetings at the UN in Geneva

July 10, 2018

The last week of June 2018, I was in Geneva for several UN meetings. First of all, a side-event at the 38th session of the Human Rights Council entitled ‘Legal Frameworks to end Female Genital Mutilation: closing the implementation gab’ was organized in Palais des Nations. As the invitation below mentions, the event focused on the legal frameworks and discussed the impact, gaps and challenges of legal measures against FGM/C, including medicalisation of FGM/C and cross-border issues. Most importantly, the report I wrote for UNFPA that was published in February this year was at the core of this side-event! Dozens of copies of the report were spread among different organisations and NGOs.

To my mind, sharing knowledge is key to generate change and it is of upmost importance to inform policymaking at the highest level! I was very delighted that the research I conducted together with staff from UNFPA WCARO receives the attention it deserves.

During this week, a new UN Resolution was being discussed at the Human Rights Council.

I was overly excited to:

(1) see the beautiful room (Room XX of the Palais des Nations) from the inside with the breathtaking colored ceiling. The ceiling is designed by the Spanish artist Miquel Barceló and it is covered with irregular stalactites, evoking the sea in pastel colours, which gives a feeling of perpetual motion.

(2) but I was even more excited to see my PhD thesis as well as my report literally on the table of the Human Rights Council while the elimination of FGM/C was being discussed!

The Human Rights Council adopted the 5th of July 2018 10 resolutions, including a resolution on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. The resolution, entitled ‘Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation’ was adopted the 2nd of July without a vote and can be accessed here.

In the resolution, it was recognized again that FGM/C is a harmful practice that violates and undermines the human rights of women and girls, and that it is linked to other harmful practices and violations of such rights. In addition, it was recognized that FGM/C poses a serious threat to the health and well-being of women and girls, including their physical integrity and their mental, sexual and reproductive health. Furthermore, it was recognized that FGM/C not only has an adverse effect on the economic, legal, health and social status of women and girls, but also on the development of society as a whole, while the empowerment of and investment in women and girls, their full enjoyment of their human rights and their full, equal, effective and meaningful participation at all levels of decision-making are key to breaking the cycle of gender inequality, discrimination, gender violence and poverty and are critical, inter alia, to sustainable development. The Human Rights Council reaffirmed the obligations and commitments of States to respect, protect and promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls and to prevent and eliminate FGM/C. States are urged to promote accountability and ensure access to justice for the effective implementation and enforcement of laws aimed at preventing and eliminating all forms of FGM/C.

Interestingly, the Human Rights Council requests in the 16th paragraph of this Resolution “the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in close collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and other United Nations specialized agencies, funds and programmes, international human rights mechanisms and civil society organizations, to organize a two-day meeting in 2019, preferably in Addis Ababa, to discuss progress, gaps and challenges in the application of human rights norms, standards and principles to the measures taken by State and non-State actors to prevent and eliminate female genital mutilation in different contexts, including in the context of communities, humanitarian assistance and migration and other population movements, and to submit a report on the outcome of the above-mentioned meeting at the forty-fourth session of the Human Rights Council.”

During this week in Geneva, I also had several meetings with UNFPA staff. Some of them I met a couple of years ago at the Headquarters of UNFPA in New York when I was working with Dr. Nafissatou Diop on another report. We had a coffee and a nice chats about their work and the current initiatives taken by UNFPA in the field of FGM/C in Geneva.

All in all, I had a great week in Switzerland and returned home with a lot of positive energy!