Commemoration of UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin

06 June 2017

United Nations, New York

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, 1949-2017. © UNFPA/Ilona Lalova Los Angeles
UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, 1949-2017. © UNFPA/Ilona Lalova Los Angeles

The Executive Board held a one-hour commemoration ceremony for UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, on 6 June 2017 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Dr. Osotimehin passed away suddenly on 4 June. He had served UNFPA as Executive Director since January 2011. 

Below are selected statements delivered at the event.

Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the United Nations General Assembly

“As a physician and a professor, as a professional advocate and as a global leader, Dr. Osotimehin was throughout a steadfast champion of the rights of women and girls and young people...
“During his time at the helm of UNFPA, Dr. Osotimehin was a forceful advocate for women and girls, fighting tirelessly for the importance of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as drivers of human dignity, gender equality, human rights and sustainable development...
“Here at the United Nations, [we] will never forget the force for the good that he represented in that advancement.”

Ib Petersen, Denmark’s Ambassador to the United Nations, President of UNFPA Executive Board, on behalf of the Western and other States Group

“Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin [was] a true leader and a champion for girls’ and women’s health and rights...
“Since Dr. Osotimehin took over the post as Executive Director in 2011, we have enjoyed a close and fruitful collaboration and partnership with him. We stood side by side in the global fight for the rights of women and girls to make decisions on matters related to their own bodies and lives. In this joint endeavour, we have time and again been impressed by Dr. Osotimehin’s in-depth knowledge and personal commitment to the advancement and protection of these goals...
“His deep knowledge of the situation of women and girls in many developing countries played a critical role in ensuring that these goals and these objectives made it into the 2030 agenda...
“He always championed the cause of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged girls and women who had been left behind. His voice was their voices. Adolescents and youth, girls and women have lost a leading champion and a defender of sexual and reproductive health.”

Laura Flores, Panama’s Ambassador to the United Nations, on behalf of Latin American and Caribbean Group

“He brought to UNFPA a business savvy that was necessary at that time in order to take the organization to the next level in its effectiveness and efficiency. The business model he introduced, featuring a very clever and pertinent bull’s eye, is still relevant to this day as we discuss the next stage of the Strategic Plan...
“He became a champion for every girl everywhere to go to school safely, free of female genital mutilation, avoiding teenage pregnancy, and free to exercise her rights...
“And under his guard, progress was not going to stop...
“Even though Dr. Babatunde was cut short in his ability to continue to be bold for UNFPA and the UN development system, his example and inspiration will live on. He has passed on the torch to the next generation of the bold.”

Omar Annakou, Libya’s Ambassador to the United Nations, on behalf of the African Group

“The UN family has lost a leader and a dedicated servant. Prof. Babatunde was a strong advocate for the rights of all people, especially of women, girls and children to whom he dedicated most of his working life...
“In seven short years as the head of UNFPA, he has completely revolutionized the way we perceive and deal with issues of rights of those far left behind, and worked hard to bring these issues onto the mainstream...
“He was visionary leader who carried along with him his passion and hard work. He was an elder of the African Group and true son of Africa...
“He was known as a hands-on leader who was always at the forefront in advocating for the rights of others...
“He will be missed, but his legacy will live on in the hearts of the countless people whose lives he well touched and transformed.”

Carolina Popovici, Moldova’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on behalf of the Eastern European Group

“He will be remembered as a global leader of public health, women’s empowerment and young people, particularly focused on promoting human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, as well as population and development...
“He introduced reforms aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness of UNFPA, in order to better respond to today’s challenges.”

Guamaral Altangerel, Mongolia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on behalf of the Asian and Pacific Group

“Under his skillful leadership, UNFPA had consistently and successfully advanced the cause of youth and gender within in the context of reproductive health and rights in the overall ICPD agenda. Dr. Babatunde’s leadership and advocacy with governments and other key stakeholders, with a particular focus on youth and voluntary family planning, have achieved remarkable results worldwide, especially in the developing world...
“We are mourning together with you for the loss of our common leader and extraordinary human being and long-term colleague and friend. This is a loss of a global leader and champion of public health. And it is a loss to the region as well as to the world.”

Adonia Ayebare, Uganda’s Ambassador to the United Nations, on behalf of the African Group

“Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin was both an advocate and intellectual of renowned remit. He was admired globally for his leadership of the UN Population Fund and for his forceful advocacy for girls and women in particular...
“He vigorously championed [the] three transformative goals of [ending] preventable maternal death, [ending un]met need of family planning and the elimination of harmful practices against women and girls. His strong leadership helped keep health and rights of women and girls high on the global agenda. This is what will be missed most.”

Dr. Natalia Kanem, Acting Executive Director of UNFPA

“Dr. Babatunde never shied away from a challenge. His strong leadership, even in the face of significant adversity, helped keeping sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights high on the global agenda. And he was a stand-up global advocate for young people and their right to information and services for their sexual and reproductive health. He did so not just as a physician who was committed to public health, but as a man who knew the many benefits and clearly saw the connections between sexual and reproductive health and sustainable development. A champion of human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, Dr. Babatunde understood that countries cannot advance while leaving half of their population behind...
“He stood up for the human rights of all people. He was not afraid to take a principled stand, even if it meant losing the support of some. He saw the world’s 1.8 billion young people as its greatest hope for the future – not as a challenge to be solved, but as a solution and the drivers of innovation, prosperity and peace.”

Representatives of the UN Secretary-General, UNDP, UNOPS, UNICEF and UN WOMEN also made statements.

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