“This is a vital month for global cooperation,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks at St. Petersburg State University. “Around the world, human rights are at risk. Democracies are threatened. Legitimate voices and movements of dissent are being stifled. People everywhere are worried about the future and wonder whether institutions and decision-makers will hear their pleas and act on them.”Mr. Ban underlined that States have an obligation to address the immediate crises facing the world, including the civil war in Syria which has killed more than 100,000 people, displaced millions, and generated instability across the region.“The latest fighting has also raised the spectre of chemical warfare – which, if confirmed by the UN investigation mission, would be an atrocious violation of international law,” Mr. Ban said. “I continue to press for a political solution. Arms flows and militarization only sustain the bloodshed. It is time for the parties to stop fighting and start talking.”Mr. Ban also stressed that countries should continue to focus on long-term challenges, including the achievement of the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), strengthening global economic recovery, and achieving a sustainable future.“Putting off those challenges until tomorrow will only make them even more difficult and expensive to solve,” Mr. Ban said, adding that united action by the international community can make a difference in creating jobs, improving access to education, and addressing food insecurity.“So here at the G20, I will urge leaders to invest more in education, training and skills. This is crucial for ensuring that young people have the tools they need for decent work opportunities and a brighter future.” He stressed that 425 million young women and men are expected to join the global workforce over the next 20 years and better education and training would be crucial for ensuring that they have the tools they need for decent work opportunities and a brighter future.Mr. Ban also noted the need to take action on climate change by increasing commitments to low-carbon energy systems and green industries.“Many countries, rich and poor, have implemented green economy policies to promote low-emission technologies and energy efficiency. Here in St. Petersburg, I will call on all G20 countries to adopt and promote new patterns and models for environmentally sustainable economic growth.”Mr. Ban added that countries would have an opportunity to lay the groundwork for securing a universal, ambitious and binding climate agreement in 2015 at the high-level climate change summit next September.
“On this Day of Zero Tolerance, let us build on positive momentum and commit to intensifying global action against this heinous human rights violation for the sake of all affected women and girls, their communities and our common future,” the Secretary-General said in a message on the International Day, marked annually on 6 February to strengthen momentum towards ending the practice of female genital mutilation, globally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.Despite a significant an overall decline in the prevalence of the practice, widely referred to by the acronym FGM, the United Nations warns that this progress is likely to be offset as the population grows in countries where female genital mutilation is practiced, and without beefed up efforts to eliminate it, more girls will be cut.In a blog post on the occasion of the International, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, wrote: “The cutting and sewing of a young child’s private parts so that she is substantially damaged for the rest of her life, has no sensation during sex except probably pain, and may well face further damage when she gives birth, is to many an obvious and horrifying violation of that child’s rights.” “It is a kind of control that lasts a lifetime,” she continued. “It makes a mockery of the idea of any part being truly private and underlines the institutionalized way in which decisions over her own body have been taken from that girl – one of some 200 million currently.” The main reason that FGM continues – as it does in some 30 countries across three continents – is out of a desire for social acceptance and to avoid social stigma, according to a 2016 report by the Secretary-General . “The hidden nature of the support for ending the practice slows down the process of abandonment,” the authors wrote. World must speed up progress to end female genital mutilation by 2030Underlining that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015 and now heading their second year of implementation, recognized the close connection between FGM, gender inequality, and development – and reignited global action to end the practice by 2030, heads of UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) called for faster action to achieve this commitment. “It means creating greater access to support services for those at risk of undergoing FGM and those who have survived it,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin in a joint statement.“It also means driving greater demand for those services, providing families and communities with information about the harm FGM causes – and the benefits to be gained by ending it,” they added. VIDEO: On International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, UN chief António Guterres calls for greater commitment and intensifying global action against FGM. Credit: UN News Calling on governments to enact and enforce laws and policies that protect the rights of girls and women and prevent FGM, they urged everyone to make this the generation that abolishes FGM once and for all – and in doing so, helps create a healthier, better world for all.UNFPA, jointly with UNICEF, leads the largest global programme to accelerate the abandonment of FGM. The programme currently focuses on 17 African countries and also supports regional and global initiatives.The theme of the 2017 edition of the International Day is: ‘Building a solid and interactive bridge between Africa and the world to accelerate ending FGM by 2030.’Colombia: Bringing a hidden practice to lightIn Colombia, for example, some members of the Emberá, a historically impoverished and marginalized indigenous group, continue the practice. The practice is done quietly, so there are few reliable statistics. The Colombian National Indigenous Organization (ONIC) estimates that two out of three Emberá women have been cut, according to information used by the UNFPA.But in 2007, after two girls died from infections caused by FGM, some women tribal members began being more vocal about the practice.“In the beginning, it was really difficult,” Solani Zapata told UNFPA. “Nobody wanted to talk about the subject.” Slowly people began to open up, leading to conversations about related issues, including gender-based violence. Girls who undergo the practice are less likely to finish school, have limited formal employment prospects and are more likely to be married to an older man and become pregnant early in life. The practice has since been abandoned in many communities.“We don’t do it here anymore,” said Amanda Guasiruma Gaisama, in Valle del Cauca. “The adults know that if it’s done here and something happens to the girl, there are consequences… We know it is not normal for a girl, even if it’s part of a tradition.” To raise awareness about the negative impact of FGM, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is holding Facebook Live programming all day today. Watch live at facebook.com/UNFPA.