High-Level Meeting “From Cairo to Ouagadougou: Towards a Global Ban of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)”

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, 9-10 November 2009

Final Declaration
High Level Meeting - Ouagadougou, 8-10 November 2009
Organized by the Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity
and No Peace Without Justice
Under the High Patronage of H.E. Mrs. Chantal Compaoré,
 First Lady of Burkina Faso
Download the Final declaration in English, French
WE, the representatives of the 13 West African States, together with Uganda, Djibouti, and Egypt; civil society and international, regional and national organisations, having participated in the High Level Meeting “From Cairo to Ouagadougou: towards a global ban of Female Genital Mutilation”, organized by the Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity of Burkina Faso and the association No Peace Without Justice from 8 to 10 November 2009, under the High Patronage and with the presence of H.E. Chantal Compaoré, First Lady of Burkina Faso;
Welcoming the organisation of this important meeting one year after the High Level Meeting Cairo+5, in order to: continue the work in West Africa, share the progress achieved and the difficulties encountered in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), widen actions at a regional level to find a common solution to this transnational and cross border practice;
Thanking and paying tribute to Mrs. Chantal Compaoré, First Lady of Burkina Faso, who initiated this meeting one year ago on the occasion of the Cairo Conference in 2008 and who, through her presence and her important call for the total elimination of FGM, ensured the smooth running of the meeting and injected a message of hope and a new impetus to the ongoing battle against FGM;
Thanking and paying tribute to Mrs. Mariana Mané Sanha, First Lady of Guinea Bissau and to Mrs. Pascaline Tamini-Bihoun, Minister of Social Action and National Solidarity of Burkina Faso;
Recalling the fundamental texts relating to women's rights, including the Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which calls upon States to adopt all policies and legal measures necessary to eliminate female genital mutilation;
Recalling that States parties are committed to ensure respect for and safeguarding of the fundamental rights of women;
Affirming that it is essential to guarantee and respect women’s rights and in particular their right to physical and psychological integrity;
Congratulating the organisers, the Comité National de Lutte contre la Pratique de l’Excision and No Peace Without Justice, for making this meeting a success both in terms of preparation and outcome;
Acknowledging the invaluable contribution of national and international participants;
Taking into consideration the significant progress in recent years in the fight against FGM, in particular the very strong political commitment of African States;
Believing that to achieve a result it is necessary that States work together in achieving a common understanding through the harmonization of instruments and means of combating FGM;
Recognizing the global dimension of FGM, not only due to its extended geographic range and to international migration which results in a more widespread and pernicious practice, but also because as a violation of human rights, it concerns the whole of humanity;
WE, the participants of the High Level Meeting “From Cairo to Ouagadougou: Towards a Global Ban of Female Genital Mutilation”;
Welcoming the high-quality interventions during the three parallel thematic sessions which focused on the importance of legal frameworks and the harmonization of national legislations, the enforcement of the law and the potential of the media in the fight against FGM;
More determined than ever to renew our common struggle to end female genital mutilation;
Adopting the following recommendations proposed by the three working groups, we:
FGM as a global issue; the importance of legal frameworks and harmonization of national legislations in Africa
1.1 Call upon States that have not yet done so to adopt national legislation to prohibit FGM including persuasive and dissuasive sanctions, as clear signs of the visible and unequivocal commitment of States for the abandonment of the practice, taking into account education, training for magistrates and police among others in order to build law enforcement capacity, allocation of adequate resources and implementation of legislation and plans of action for the elimination of FGM;
1.2 Call upon States to ensure compliance of their legislation with international instruments on human rights, norms and principles especially those of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, as well as the principles contained in the Cairo Declaration of 2003 on FGM;
1.3 Call upon States that have already legislated on FGM to encourage States that have not yet done so to do the same, in order to prevent the danger of a cross-border phenomenon that reduces the effectiveness of the law in the countries where legislation already exists;
1.4 Encourage the establishment of a mechanism for follow up aimed at influencing the process for adopting policies and guiding revisions of the law, when necessary;
At sub-regional level
1.5 Encourage States to engage with sub-regional institutions, such as ECOWAS and the Community of East Africa, to include women’s rights and FGM in their agendas;
1.6 Encourage States to ensure not only the adoption of legislation in all countries where FGM is practiced, but to work towards their harmonization so that their scope and the sanctions they foresee are comparable;
At regional level
1.7 Call upon countries to ratify the conventions that recognize FGM as a violation of human rights, in particular the Additional Protocol of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights related to the rights of women in Africa;
1.8 Request the African Union to assign relevant agencies responsible for monitoring and ensuring the implementation of the commitment of states parties;
1.9 In view of the up-coming regional conference in Banjul to be held from the 16th to the 20th of November 2009, insist that civil society and representatives of the government work together to prepare reports from each country to evaluate the situation of FGM in their countries;
At international level
1.10 Call for the development, where appropriate, of specific policies on FGM for migrant communities (both permanent and seasonal), taking into account also the regional context and the migration flows so as to harmonize the interventions;
1.11 Encourage countries that are not directly affected by FGM to provide financial assistance to those countries where the practice still persists, in order to ensure that the issue will be treated not only at an isolated national level, but also within the sub-regional and regional contexts, thus allowing a more comprehensive approach;
1.12 In view of the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women, held from 1st to 12th March 2010, at which governments will gather to assess progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, States affected by the practice of FGM should ensure that it will be explicitly discussed as an issue of human rights and women’s empowerment in this important forum;
1.13 Call upon States concerned to take an active and leading role in developing and advocating the adoption of a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, which will specifically and exclusively focus on FGM;
1.14 insist that these efforts should be undertaken in partnership between governments, civil society and the private sector as well as with the support of the international community when necessary;
1.15 Invite all actors to work toward the elimination of FGM, abandoning any approach that discredits the understanding of the issue as a human rights violation, including zero tolerance for medicalisation;
1.16 Call upon States to increase their resolute actions to ensure a total elimination of FGM through the efforts of protecting and promoting the rights of women and empowering them, taking into account their access to education, their legal redress and their leadership in promoting their own advancement;
1.17 Encourage States to respect their commitment to fight women’s rights violations through appropriate reporting mechanisms at the sub-regional, regional and international level.
The effectiveness of the law
2.1 Recommend that, in order to combat widespread lack of knowledge on the issues, States translate into national languages their FGM laws and the conventions they have ratified, with the aim of disseminating them and making them more accessible to the general population
2.2. Call upon States to train and/or strengthen the skills of judges and the forces charged with the application of the law (police, gendarmerie, etc…) in order to reverse the absence of meaningful national strategies tasked with disseminating the law.
2.3 In view of the conservative socio-cultural forces and the complexity of social relations which inhibit people from filing complaints, propose to States to strengthen the involvement of traditional and religious chiefs in the fight against FGM through concrete frameworks.
2.4 In order to fight against cumbersome judicial procedures and a lack of knowledge surrounding their operation, as well as the social pressures brought to bear on judges, we recommend States to allow civil society organizations dedicated to the promotion of human rights to initiate civil action on behalf of victims of FGM.
2.5 Call upon States to emphasize in their outreach the value of the law as an instrument of education and for the protection of women, rather than just a means of repression in order to counter the insufficient, or absent, media coverage on lawsuits related to FGM
2.6 Given the hesitation in enforcing the law in all its rigor, we invoke the Ministries of Justice to engage with the issue and encourage the inclusion of modules on FGM in the training of magistrates, court officers, health and educational sectors, and all appropriate judicial staff in order to strengthen the sanctions which are applied and to exclude the possibility of suspended sentences;
2.7 We recommend that lobbying efforts be undertaken targeting decision makers and other relevant actors and encouraging the adoption of laws or application of existing legislation, in order to counter any absence of political will in relation to FGM
2.8 In order to break the silence of communities not willing to denounce cases of FGM, we encourage the States:
-         to train and sensitize traditional authorities and communities about FGM and to ensure that relevant laws are effective;
-         to put in place an institution that could act as mediator for children, with jurisdiction over cases of FGM;                                                                                 
-         to remove a doctor’s obligation to retain medical confidentiality in cases of FGM, and instead allow them to bring such cases to justice;
-         to put in place a telephone hot-line to allow anonymous reporting of cases of FGM.
2.9 We call upon States to allocate more resources for actions to fight against FGM and educate communities regarding existing laws, in order to raise awareness of the laws, sensitize communities to the issue, and provide much needed support to the activities and efforts of NGOs
2.10 We call upon the States to sensitize women to their rights, strengthening the capacity of women’s associations through training activities, in order to cope with the poor recognition of the laws concerning women;
2.11 We ask States to intensify their advocacy for the application of laws against FGM, to obtain the support of politicians in the struggle against FGM for the application of the law, and to ban the use of FGM as an instrument for their political positioning;
2.12 To fight against the cross-border practice of FGM, we recommend the harmonization of national laws, the promotion of international cooperation in case of extradition of persons who are guilty of FGM, be they parents or practitioners, and the sensitization of border police and cross-border communities to the phenomenon.
The potential of the media in the fight against FGM
3.1 Call for building the capacity of media, both in terms of technical equipment and training, with a focus on media run by women and emphasizing legal formation, especially about the international, regional and national instruments        
3.2 Encourage the harmonization of actions and activities of media at all levels, either through the promotion of new media or strengthening existing media      
3.3 Encourage the expansion of the CIAF media network to fight against FGM in all countries   
3.4 Advocate for the strengthening of legal perspectives within media at all levels, and in particular the use of community radio stations that broadcast in local languages    
3.5 Urge the development of specific outreach programs that can garner the support of religious leaders, especially in areas resistant to change
3.6 Urge countries to support religious leaders engaged in the campaign against FGM
3.7 Encourage the development of specific programs by members of the government, political leaders and media executives and the dissemination of information regarding such anti-FGM on private and public media         
3.8 Suggest the creation and use of other forms of communication with the media, including theater collaborations, community outreach, and movie screenings
3.9 Call for the experience of ex-practitioners to be utilized as a means of raising awareness within communities and the media, and to revisit and adapt the message depending on the context
3.10 Urge governments, UN agencies, technical and financial partners to support and strengthen the implementation of these recommendations   
3.11 emphasize the priority that must be given to the elaboration of a guide concerned with sensitization about FGM and lobbying to be used by media professionals.