Cairo Declaration on FGM +5 High Level Meeting 14 – 15 December 2008 Cairo, Egypt

Organised jointly by The Egyptian National Council for Childhood and Motherhood No Peace Without Justice

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. This meeting marked a starting point in a re-launch of an international campaign aimed at rekindling world-wide attention on FGM, five years after the 2003 Cairo Conference. The High Level Meeting was made possible by a contribution of Italian Cooperation channelled through the World Bank in partnership with NCCM, of the Open Society Institute, and with the support of the European Union, which since 2005 has extensively supported the national program in Egypt. Furthermore, additional partners include Donors Assistance Group (DAG) that fully established the core infrastructure of the Egyptian program (2003-2006), UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNIFEM, Plan International, and Community Health Living Project. From the private sector Suez Cement was also contributing to this international human and child rights initiative. 
The Meeting was attended, in addition to H.E. Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, 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.
Held five years after the Cairo Conference "Afro-Arab Expert Consultation on Legal Tools for the Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation" held on 21-23 June 2003, this High Level Meeting aimed to undertake a systematic review of progress achieved and challenges encountered in campaigns aiming to eradicate FGM, as well as to foster a global climate in which the eradication of this violation of the rights of girls and women can be achieved, as proclaimed in the "Cairo + five declaration: ending FGM by outlawing it once and for all: a goal we can achieve".
The intervening five years witnessed several 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.
In an attempt to build on the above successes, NPWJ and NCCM organized the 2008 High Level Meeting in order to mobilize political will and turn stated commitments against FGM into a shared political strategy that both marginalizes the practice and strengthens and broadens the political impact of campaigns to date. Among the Meeting’s principal aims was the creation of a "positive competitive environment" to spur activists, parliamentarians and governments to work towards the enactment of the best possible legislation on FGM. Meeting organizers and participants hoped to achieve this by sharing experiences from countries where effective laws have been adopted and to use these as positive templates for affected countries with a view to building technical capacity in the development of effective legislative measures.
The High Level Meeting was structured around three working sessions, each aiming to address a principal element in work currently being undertaken on FGM globally. In the session on “FGM Legislation as a Tool for Behavioral Change”, participants agreed that legislation is both a reflection of society and a force which can enact behavioural change and 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.
Participants in the session on “Reaching the FGM Communities: the Role of Outreach, Public Information and Media Campaigns” discussed the critical role that media must play in informing communities and specific target groups within communities, about the basic facts related to FGM, and in engaging them in discussions to challenge historical attitudes, as well as persuading them that FGM is harmful to the best interests of their children. In the session recommendations, participants called for the greater use of new and existing technologies which allow individuals to engage in interactive two-way communication.
In light of the newly emerging focus on changing communities’ perceptions of women’s rights, the third session “Measuring Success: Sharing Knowledge Useful in Understanding Trends on FGM” argued that in anti-FGM strategies, the indicators and measures used for evaluating the success of projects must undergo a parallel reorientation away from medical indicators towards ones that can express changes in societal attitudes and behaviours.
The final declaration provided an opportunity for all participants to call for accelerated and sustained action, and to redouble efforts in an attempt to make the outlawing of FGM 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 analyse the progress made on addressing the High Level Meeting’s recommendations as well as progress made in other efforts to address FGM as a human rights violation.