Thoraya Ahmed Obaid

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, operates under a unique mandate — one that is as important as it is often overlooked. It is a mandate that champions the health and rights of the world’s most impoverished, marginalized and forgotten populations: women, adolescents and those living with HIV/AIDS.

UNFPA works to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect. This vision drives us to advance a comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights and it is one that has put the Fund squarely at the forefront of some of development’s most serious, sensitive and important issues.

In 2006, UNFPA assisted 154 developing and transition countries and territories to reduce maternal death, promote HIV prevention, and address unmet needs for family planning. We also promoted effective population policies to alleviate poverty and to empower women and men to make the choices necessary to improve their lives and those of their families.

As a solid sign of confidence in our global commitment, 180 countries contributed to the Fund in 2006— the highest number of donor nations and the largest amount of contributions to UNFPA since it began operations in 1969.

In 2006, UNFPA also focused on mainstreaming population, gender and reproductive health into global, regional and national development strategies. We played an active role in United Nations reform with the aim of improving aid effectiveness in support of nationally owned and led development.

We continued to support countries in developing their capacities to implement the Programme of Action of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In order to speed progress, our Fund endorsed new strategies to enhance humanitarian relief efforts, gender mainstreaming and action on adolescents and youth. We strengthened and expanded our partnerships—a strategy that is absolutely critical to the achievement of our mandate.

Throughout the year, UNFPA mobilized widespread support for sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. The benefits of family planning, skilled attendance at birth, emergency obstetric care, and HIV prevention are brought to life by people such as Kouboura, Tarcila, Nazia and Khadija, whose stories we share in this report. The Fund also called for the integration of sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS policies and programmes to more specifically meet the needs of women and youth.

In Africa, 48 countries pledged to expand access to sexual and reproductive health throughout the continent with the Maputo Plan of Action. The Hammamet Call to Action on Scaling-up Midwifery in the Community and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health reinforced commitments to improve maternal health.

UNFPA played a part in strengthening global human rights with the adoption of the new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which specifically mentions the right to reproductive health. The Third International Parliamentary Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action, held in Bangkok, galvanized parliamentary commitment and reinforced the necessity of creating a world free of gender discrimination.

Throughout the year, we also spoke out against gender-based violence and for gender equality and the empowerment of women. We count the adoption of the Brussels Call to Action at the International Symposium on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Beyond as a watershed moment in the history of conflict and humanitarian relief.

UNFPA continued to support the collection, analysis and use of sex disaggregated data to inform humanitarian and development strategies in a bid to increase national capacity development. During the year, we supported nations’ quests to integrate population dynamics into development and poverty reduction plans. The State of World Population report shone a worldwide spotlight on the plight of migrant women and contributed to the global dialogue on international migration and development.

In October, United Nations Member States took note of the Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization, which included four new targets, among them universal access to reproductive health, thereby reinforcing the centrality of the ICPD goals to the attainment of all of the MDGs— particularly Goals 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

To that end, 2006 saw more and more countries allocating larger amounts of their national resources towards funding contraceptive purchases, expanding family planning services, improving maternal care and preventing HIV, especially among women and adolescents. Partly as a result of UNFPA efforts, reproductive health services were made more widely available through increased capacity-building for service providers, and the development of national guidelines and protocols.

Despite these significant successes, more needs to be done. In terms of the UNFPA mandate, several lessons emerge: Policy advances need to be capitalized on in order to scale up effective programmes targeting the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations. To consolidate and further these positive trends, we need to continue strengthening human resource capacity at the country level to link reproductive health, population and gender with the broader issues of poverty reduction. We will also have to increase efforts to incorporate emerging population issues, such as migration and ageing, into our programming.

Although the organization and its partners have successfully developed a strategic framework that includes young people, UNFPA will require resources to strengthen its leadership, particularly at the country level. This is because out-of-school young people are still not being adequately reached with HIVprevention information and reproductive health services.

Advocacy and policy efforts around gender-based violence, likewise, need to be followed up with increased monitoring and accountability. In the same vein, the Fund has also become a leading partner in the area of humanitarian response. We continue to press for the incorporation of ICPD priorities into emergency preparedness plans to ensure that humanitarian response on the ground will include reproductive health, gender and HIV programming.

We have so much to do, and a busy year is ahead of us. With our partners, we will accelerate the great strides made in 2006 and move forward into a new era where everyone, indeed, counts.