"When a conference is held in Paris, it attracts 30% more participants"

From 9 to 12 October 2023, Paris welcomed the FIGO World Congress. A global event that brought together 8,000 delegates, marked by the presence of Dr Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Paris je t’aime – Convention Bureau met Pr. Philippe Descamps, Vice-Chair of the FIGO. He spoke to us about the 2023 edition, with its record attendance and fine legacy programme.

  • Could you tell us a little about the FIGO?

FIGO is the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics. It comprises 135 national learned societies across the 5 continents and it encompasses all the specialities related to women's health. All aspects of obstetrics and gynaecology, whether scientific or advocacy for women's rights around the world.

  • 2023 marked the return of the in-person FIGO World Congress, which had not met since 2018. It was an important event, with a lot at stake. What made Paris the right choice?

When a conference is held in Paris, it attracts 30 % more delegates than any other city. This was a strong argument in our bid, and it proved true.
The Paris bid had some very strong attributes, not least the fact that it was being hosted at the Porte de Versailles Convention Centre, a venue I know well because we hold our annual French National College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians (CNGOF) congress there. It's a very practical convention centre, with several platforms that can be adapted to the size of the event. There's a good selection of hotels nearby and, most importantly, it's very close to the centre of Paris. You leave the convention centre, walk down the steps to the metro and immediately you're in the heart of Paris! A lot of convention centres in other capitals are very far away. In Paris, this proximity is much appreciated!
It is, of course, also a genuine recognition of the work and excellence of the CNGOF. During the selection process, we had also asked a young obstetrics and gynaecology intern to come and give a vision of young people, and that was much appreciated.

  • Was attracting young people a major challenge?

An enormous challenge! It's not easy to get interns to come here, because they have to juggle the requirements of their department, on-call duty, and family commitments (in gynaecology in particular, where 80% of interns are young women). But getting them to come is not impossible, you just have to find the right way to do it!
All day Friday 12 Occtober was devoted to them. The idea was to put them in touch with the world's elite in obstetrics and gynaecology, without no language barriers, as we had simultaneous translation. They got to know each other, took part in workshops together and spent evenings together. It's a good bet for the future: they are the leaders of tomorrow and it's very important to show them the usefulness of this type of event. It also helps them realize just how important mobility and experience abroad can be, and how much they can gain from it. It's also a way of opening up their minds.

  • The notion of ‘legacy’ occupied an important place in the FIGO congress, with support for three causes: violence against women, migrant women, and endometriosis research. Legacy is an important concept for us. What meaning do you attribute to the word?

We organized a charity evening at the end of the day, after the scientific session, to showcase local initiatives and encourage people to support them financially.
For us, ‘legacy’ is really the idea that the conference leaves a mark, that something endures, that there is a benefit for great causes, locally. We chose violence against women, migrant women and endometriosis research. Taking advantage of the presence of delegates, a large audience of experts, is a way of showcasing initiatives, raising awareness, and encouraging participation or funding. It's also important that it works both ways: that the local organizations and personalities we want to highlight are also aware of the FIGO. It is the idea that holding the conference in a city is an opportunity for the ideas conveyed to resonate far beyond the conference centre!

  • How would you sum up this year's edition in Paris?

Organizing this conference was a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was lucky to have the opportunity to take part in this event. I spent a lot of time there, but it was a privilege, and it turned out to be a great success.
In conclusion, I'd say that ... Paris is a source of attraction, that Paris is magical, and all the more so with the fine weather we were lucky enough to have!

  • Professor Philippe Descamps is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Head of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department at Angers University Hospital in France since 1999. He is chairman of the Endo Ref Pays de Loire regional endometriosis network.
    Professor Descamps was elected French representative to the FIGO Council 2015 – 2021 and was its Vice-Chair from 2021 to 2023.

    Pr Philippe Descamps