Middle East instability, the Syrian crisis and the resulting refugee emergency and the battle for human rights were the topics of discussion in Minister Emma Bonino’s meetings in Lebanon and Djibouti. In Africa the minister also addressed a battle that has placed her in the forefront since her days as a young human rights activist. “The scourge of female genital mutilation”, a tragedy that “touches not only Africa, but also the West, and my country included”, the minister said in her speech a the conference “A Region Without FGM”, held in coincidence with the International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation.
Cooperation funding 40 programmes
The minister pointed out that Italy had long been among the countries most committed to combating this tragedy, and it is a priority of our government, parliament and civil society. Italy has adopted very severe legislation against the practice and is working to have the issue placed at the centre of the European debate”. “The Italian Development Cooperation funds approximately 40 programmes aimed at ending FGM, contributing USD 7.5 million to the UNFPA and UNICEF programmes between 2008 and 2013, and I believe I will soon be able to confirm another €1.5 million for this year”, Bonino pointed out, recalling the conference held in Rome last October.
Applying UN resolution
“The practice of female genital mutilation is a violation of human rights, and an unjustifiable form of violence with dramatic health and emotional circumstances. Much progress has been made, many villages have announced that they have abandoned the practice, and we are encouraged by this. But we are left the challenge of applying the December 2012 UN resolution, which Italy and Europe supported”, the minister added.
The many faces of rights campaigners in Djibouti
“Here I am in Djibouti after almost 10 years, and I am seeing the familiar faces of many human rights campaigners that have become friends”, she said to the audience and Djibouti’s first lady and president of the National Union of Women Kadra Mahamoud Haid. “I am also pleased to see that so many men have joined us here today. That was never something to be taken for granted – welcome”.
Refugee emergency, 1 million in Lebanon alone
The mission to Lebanon follows on the heels of the Rome conference on humanitarian aid to Syria, which is in the throes of a crisis that has become “unacceptable”, the minister said, recalling that Lebanon alone had taken in one million Syrian refugees, a number equal to one quarter of the Lebanese population: “It’s as if we were to have 15 million arrive here in Italy”, explained the minister, who some months ago visited a refugee camp in Jordan.
Rome conference to boost Lebanese armed forces
Not least to prevent the spread of the Syrian conflict to Lebanon where, against the backdrop of a long political crisis and the recent bombings in Beirut, “Italy is interested in convening a meeting centred on reinforcement of the Lebanese armed forces”, Bonino said, echoing Premier Letta’s earlier announcement on a visit in December. An initial “technical-military” meeting is to be held within the month of March, followed by a political one in April or May.
Visit to the Italian Unifil contingent
Bonino will conclude her visit to Lebanon with a visit to the Italian Unifil contingent, currently under the command of General Paolo Serra, in the southern part of the country at the Israeli border, which Italy has offered to lead through July 2015, not least in light of its “well-deserved general recognition for a job well done”.