(Please check against actual speech delivered)
Distinguished and Honorable colleagues, Dear Friends,
It is a great pleasure to host this International Conference organized in collaboration with the UNFPA and UNICEF and to be seated once again next to my good friend Chantal, the First Lady of Burkina Faso, who has been at the forefront of our common battle against female genital mutilation for many years. I also welcome the attendance of such a huge number of prominent people from national Governments, political institutions, international and non-governmental organizations, members of civil society.
The past three years have been very important to scale up the movement for the elimination of this violation of human rights. We saw the political momentum growing and culminating last December with the consensual adoption by the General Assembly of Resolution 67/146 banning FGM worldwide. On that occasion all UN Member States sent a strong political message about their commitment. The Resolution calls upon Member States to ensure effective implementation of international and regional instruments protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls and to take all necessary measures to prohibit female genital mutilation.
The adoption of Resolution 67/146 was an important step forward: it is now our responsibility to ensure its effective implementation. The recent UNICEF report reminds us that despite best efforts towards its abandonment, female genital mutilation persists.
Today, we have representatives of the United Nations and of governments as well as parliamentarians, civil society organizations, human rights defenders, regional intergovernmental institutions.
This event in Rome is a great opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue and to lay out a platform for action in implementing the Resolution and thus to advance the protection of the rights of girls and women.
Less than a month ago, I met many of you in New York, at a side-event organized by Italy and Burkina Faso, together with UNFPA and UNICEF, to share specific contributions that governments and international institutions have made in response to the commitments undertaken with the adoption of 67/146 Resolution. During the meeting, it became clear that there is widely-shared agreement that truly holistic and comprehensive action is needed in order to implement the Resolution, providing political support to all those who fight to end this human rights violation.
Today, we are even more numerous than we were last month in New York. We should therefore seize the opportunity to build this response and to lay down an agenda for action, aimed at the implementation of the Resolution.
Let me reaffirm, once more, that Italy stands firm in supporting concrete international and regional efforts to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls; and to take all necessary measures to prohibit FGM.
To make this Resolution effective I consider that four areas require particular attention:
- In the first place, there must be outreach to all stakeholders about the Resolution and the commitments that states have undertaken by adopting it,
- The adoption and enforcement of legal and policy frameworks to advance gender equality must be speeded up;
- Partnerships for multi-sectoral and collective responses to scale up effective efforts to eliminate FGM should be strengthened,
In this regard, I am proud to say that over the years Italy has responsibly and consistently taken up a fair share of the burden and intends to continue to play such a role. Of particular relevance was also the partnership forged with many governments and activists during the campaign guided by the international NGO BanFGM Coalition. But the most crucial element has been the leadership of African States and especially of the African Union, and we are honored to host here today many of their representatives.
Of great importance are also the technical assistance and financial resources provided to support women and girls at risk of or subjected to FGM.
Among several initiatives, Italy has contributed to the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Accelerating Change” since 2008, with an amount of almost eight million US Dollars. This Programme, which concludes its first Phase at the end of this year, has been instrumental in the fight against FGM.
I am glad that Italy has been among its major contributors: we will continue our commitment in the future. The message conveyed by the assessment report of this Programme is one of hope: 12 of the 15 countries covered by the initiative have legislation that specifically tackles FGM, while nearly 10,000 communities, representing about 8 million people in the 15 countries, have committed to abandon the practice.
In addition, through our cooperation initiatives, Italy is also funding projects with an FGM component in target countries:
almost 2 million Euros in three years to the National Institute for the Health of Migrant Populations and to Combat Diseases linked to Poverty;
more than 2.3 million US Dollars over the past two years to the UNICEF Program for Iraq “Enhanced Access to Essential Services for Vulnerable Children and Women and Minority Communities in the Disputed Internal Boundaries Areas”.
In this respect, Italy looks forward to closer cooperation also with the United Nations regional offices in Africa, so as to maximize the impact of our common efforts.
The Italian Government takes this approach also at the national level. Several measures to protect the rights of women have been recently undertaken, such as increased government action against crimes that victimize women. With regard to FGM specifically, in 2006 the Italian Parliament adopted a comprehensive law, which bans the practice and envisages a range of preventive measures and support services for victims.
I am confident that the interventions and contributions from the floor today will enrich discussions of this High Level meeting and provide clear and action-oriented points to overcome the challenge of eliminating female genital mutilation, which, despite encouraging progress, is still immense.