Second Regular Session of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA

7 September 2005
Author: UNFPA


Madame President, distinguished delegates, colleagues and friends,

It is a pleasure for me to address this second regular session of the Executive Board and it is an honour to lead, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund during this momentous time.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members of the Executive Board for your continuing support and guidance. And I would like to extend a warm welcome to those of you who are participating in the Executive Board for the first time and also offer best wishes to those who are leaving us. Once again, I would like to pledge to you our full support and cooperation. As we seek to rise to the challenges ahead, leadership by this Board will be as important as ever.

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to the new Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Kemal Dervis. We look forward to cooperating closely with him as he leads UNDP and chairs the United Nations Development Group (UNDG). We wish him much success.

I would also like to offer sincere condolences to the many families who have suffered from the devastating destruction of Hurricane Katrina. As I see the images in the media, I am once again reminded of the vulnerability of people who are forced to evacuate their homes and communities when disaster strikes. For the poor, the elderly and pregnant women and newborn children, this vulnerability is particularly striking, and universal.

Madame President,

As you know, we are meeting at a critical time. One week from today, leaders from more than 170 countries will gather here, in what will be the largest gathering of Heads of State and Government in history. The issues of peace and security, human rights and development, and United Nations reform are on our minds and also in the headlines of newspapers, magazines as well as television and radio reports worldwide. There is also the issue of accountability—which is being demanded as never before of the United Nations system and of governments and private corporations. This means accountability by each one of us as well.

There is no doubt that the rise in global communications and public advocacy and our successes in development have resulted in increasing people power. Yet, we are meeting, 60 years after the founding of the United Nations at a time when poverty, disease and conflict continue to take a titanic and terrible toll. There remains an untenable gulf between the powerful and the powerless. The basic human rights of millions of people are being denied and violated. And people across the globe are looking to governments and the United Nations to deliver—to deliver on promises, on public services and on protection—and to advance freedom from fear and freedom from want.

Freedom from fear, freedom from want

The notion of larger freedom, inscribed in the United Nations Charter 60 years ago, encapsulates the idea that development, security and human rights go hand in hand. They reinforce each other. As the United Nations Secretary-General said in his report to the Summit: “We will not enjoy security without development, we will not enjoy development without security, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.”

Next week’s Summit provides a unique opportunity for world leaders to forge a collective strategy for dealing with today’s threats and challenges.

Much has changed since the United Nations was founded six decades ago. At that time, the United Nations had 51 Members; today membership totals 191 countries. Sixty years ago, the world had not yet heard of HIV and AIDS and world population stood at less than 2.5 billion. Today, there are 6.5 billion people on earth and 42 million people are living with AIDS. Sixty years ago, the average woman had 5 children. Today, she has half that number and it has made a difference in the progress achieved by women, and nations, so far. The success of international family planning shows that when women have choices, they can change their lives and their communities. And yet there are an estimated 200 million women who currently lack access to quality contraceptives. Each year half a million women continue to die needlessly from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and millions of people are newly infected with HIV because they lack reproductive health services.

Today, universal access to reproductive health, including family planning, is viewed as essential to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The reports at the back of the room, Reducing Poverty and Achieving the Millennium Development Goals , contain arguments for investing in reproductive health and rights, and the Stockholm Call to Action. It is now widely agreed that sexual and reproductive health is a key component of the policy mix needed to reduce poverty, to improve child and maternal health, to empower women and promote gender equality, and to combat HIV and AIDS.

The world’s leaders have it in their power to make decisions to ensure achievement of these goals by 2015. And, once again, as leaders gather here next week, I would like to encourage Board members not to forget, in the exciting atmosphere of the Summit, that the issues of population, gender, and reproductive heath and rights are critical to the larger development, security and human rights agenda. Today’s demographic trends and population dynamics—featuring large youth populations in the developing world, unprecedented ageing, migration, urbanization and HIV and AIDS—and continuing widespread gender discrimination and violence, and high unmet needs in reproductive health require an urgent and effective policy response. And we need to work together to ensure that these policies are translated into more effective programmes that reach communities in every corner of each country.

Reform and Renewal: Increasing Aid Effectiveness

In June, at the annual session of the Board, I spoke about four issues: reform and renewal, responding to a changing world, achieving results and making UNFPA a more effective development partner. I am glad to report that we are on track and making further progress in these priority areas.

I believe that UNFPA and the agenda of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) are well positioned on the eve of the Summit. Together with our partners, including the Board, we have worked hard to ensure that the organization is more flexible, transparent, effective and accountable in serving the priorities of Member States and the interests of the world’s people, especially the poor. Through advocacy and policy dialogue, we are making progress to integrate the ICPD issues of population, reproductive health and gender into development planning and debates; poverty reduction strategies; and sector-wide approaches (SWAps). But we need to move faster and scale up such interventions and integration.

As an active member of the UNDG Executive Committee, UNFPA is advancing United Nations reform and focusing on the field to make assistance more effective in line with the Paris Declaration, the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review and the outcome of the recent substantive session of the Economic and Social Council. We are guided by the principle that country ownership is the key to sustainable development. And we view United Nations reform, not merely as a series of improved processes and institutions, but as a way to deliver results and make a positive difference in people’s daily lives. Building national capacity does not only mean building human resources, institutions and systems at the national level. It also means building human resources, institutions and systems at the community level.

Madame President,

During this session, you will hear about the common United Nations country programme in Cape Verde. As a pilot, it represents the new way of doing things. It embodies the spirit of teamwork in the United Nations, but there is no doubt that it is only a first step and there is a need for further improvement and coordination. We know that like anything new, there will be teething problems but we also know that we, as a United Nations Country Team, can and will overcome them in cooperation with the Government.

While UNFPA has continued to move forward since I assumed leadership, we remain committed to further improvement. In response to the increasing focus on country-level action, UNFPA commissioned a study on regionalization and the UNFPA Executive Committee took a decision in July to move forward, in principle, with regionalization of the organization. We see this as a way to increase UNFPA effectiveness and deliver stronger results in line with our strategic direction, United Nations reform and the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review.

During the past few months, UNFPA has begun the process of consultation, both inside and outside the organization, and I would like to assure you that the consultations on regionalization will involve the members of the Board and of the UNDG Executive Committee.

As we look ahead at the organizational priorities for 2006, the overarching priority is a stronger field focus to ensure stronger results at the country level. I intend to steer the organization for the next two years towards expanding UNFPA’s response to the needs of the countries through a more strengthened UNFPA country and regional presence, working closely with our partners in the UN system, governments, NGOs and, of course, all of you in the Executive Board. Country led development means national ownership. For us at UNFPA, it requires being closer to the people and countries we serve and also bringing lessons learned up to the global level.

Achieving Results at Country Level

UNFPA will continue to be a key partner to support countries to achieve the MDG and ICPD goals. We are sharpening the Fund’s approaches to population, reducing maternal mortality, combating HIV and AIDS, and promoting reproductive health for all with a focus on advocacy, policy dialogue, programme support, scaling up, partnerships and technical support. We are also developing a strategy for increased South-South cooperation, building on past experiences.

I am pleased to report that UNFPA is active in the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, which will be officially launched next week. During the launch, I will deliver the United Nations perspective on the Partnership on behalf of the United Nations partners involved. The vision of the Partnership is to galvanize commitment and action, both global and national, to achieve accelerated reduction of maternal, newborn and child mortality, and promote universal coverage of essential interventions throughout a continuum of care.

The Partnership is a bold initiative that strives to provide a unifying framework for action to achieve MDGs 4 and 5 on maternal and child health. The priority is to reach those most in need. We are excited about this effort and fully committed to ensuring its success.

UNFPA is also fully committed to scaling up HIV prevention in line with the newly approved UNAIDS policy paper on intensifying prevention. We are working to more fully link sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS policies and programmes, with a focus on women and youth, and comprehensive condom programming. We are also focusing efforts on uniformed forces and vulnerable populations—always with a culture and gender sensitive approach.

Madame President,

Key to all of these efforts is reproductive health commodity security. Commodity security is as important to the success of reproductive health as vaccines are to the success of child survival. It is vital to reducing maternal and infant mortality and the spread of HIV and AIDS. It is the fundamental and indispensable base upon which programmes are built. As the old saying goes, “no supplies, no programme.” We can even expand this old saying to: "no supplies, no programmes, and no exercise of the human right to health." We see this clearly when it comes to HIV test kits and male and female condoms for HIV prevention. I would like to assure you that our efforts in comprehensive condom programming—and safe motherhood and family planning—are integral to reproductive health commodity security. Equally, behaviour change programmes are fatally undermined by stock-outs and irregular supplies.

I believe it is important for donors to give higher priority to supplies in their assistance packages and, where donors are moving towards budgetary support and basket funding, to ensure that countries have made adequate budgetary and institutional provision for commodity purchases and logistics. Similarly, countries receiving assistance have an obligation, whether or not donors raise the subject, to ensure that commodities are at the top of their list of priorities, as one of the components of the essential drug list.

At UNFPA, we have endeavoured for many years to ensure that the international system of commodity procurement and distribution runs well. We are committed to leadership in this area and we are making progress. The formation some 18 months ago of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition represents a major step forward in this coordination effort because, for the first time, all the major players are involved on an equal footing. UNFPA is itself fully committed to ensuring the success of the Coalition and its goal – global reproductive health commodity security -- so that the goal of Cairo, universal access to reproductive health, finally moves from dream to reality.

To achieve this, we have developed a Global Programme to Enhance Reproductive Health Commodity Security, which builds on previous efforts and represents an integrated, country-driven approach to build national capacity, sustainability and ultimately self-sufficiency. We are integrating the effort into all of our work at UNFPA and all country programmes, as outlined in our recent policy and procedures manual. We are also incorporating commodity security into the country office annual reports to help us measure and track progress. I would also like to stress that reproductive health commodities are an integral part of humanitarian and transition response. We are currently working with United Nations humanitarian partners to set up a system so that we can adequately respond to commodity needs in emergency and reconstruction efforts.

The Global Programme is a bold and ambitious undertaking and it requires strong partnership and political will. UNFPA is appealing to the international development community, as a transitional measure, to contribute $150 million per year, taking us up to 2015—the target date for the achievement of the Cairo and Millennium development goals. We realize that this is a major request, but we are confident that, together with the Coalition and programme countries, we can ensure that the funds are spent wisely and produce tangible results. I ask for your support and also your further guidance on this important initiative.

Technical Assistance

Madame President,

I would now like to turn to the issue of technical assistance. Our Technical Advisory Programme (TAP) will be taken up in a more comprehensive manner this afternoon. We are requesting a relatively modest two-year extension of the Programme.

The external evaluation concluded that the TAP is a cost-effective way of supporting capacity building at country and regional levels, which has increased the accessibility and use of technical information and has been instrumental in supporting country office implementation of United Nations reform processes. The evaluation also showed that the Country Support Teams provide UNFPA with a regional presence that facilitates the work with United Nations and other regional agencies. In addition, the strategic partnership programme was recognized as an important instrument in increasing cooperation between UNFPA and other United Nations agencies.

However, the evaluation also found that the TAP needs some adjustments to ensure that the original intentions are carried out more effectively and that the Programme responds to the needs of a changing environment. The main challenges identified are related to the focus of the work of Country Support Teams, capacity development efforts, and the planning of technical assistance.

As we move forward, we will ensure that these efforts are fully aligned with those of regionalization to better serve the needs of countries. We are working towards an enhanced regional presence with functions related to both programme management and technical support. In addition, from the cycle starting 2008, UNFPA technical assistance will be harmonized with the biennial budget, the multi-year funding framework and the inter-country programme to serve countries more effectively and further enhance accountability.

Humanitarian Response and Peacebuilding

Madame President,

UNFPA plays a growing role within the United Nations system in emergency preparedness, humanitarian response and transition and recovery. We cooperate closely with the Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs and will host a meeting next week of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC). We are currently working in 40 countries that are in some phase of crisis or transition. The report before the Board highlights some of the achievements and challenges of the Fund in the past five years and also our plans to strengthen UNFPA institutional capacity in this area. Our overall goal is to mainstream preparedness into all aspects of the organization’s work. Our niche is ensuring that gender and reproductive health are integral parts of humanitarian response and recovery. In concrete terms, this means effectively addressing the issues of safe motherhood, HIV prevention, and gender based violence. As we all know, pregnant women need support wherever they are. We also work to collect demographic data to ensure an effective response during the humanitarian assistance period and during the transition.

I would like to stress that our experience in countries has underscored that disasters, whether natural or man-made, affect the development prospects of countries and should be seen as an integral part of the development agenda requiring flexible responses from United Nations agencies, such as UNFPA. In this regard, I am asking for your support for increased flexibility to allocate funds for emergency response. We are currently constrained by a past Board decision, which set the ceiling for the revolving emergency fund at $1 million. The increasing demand over the past few years in places such as Timor-Leste, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan, and in countries affected by the December 2004 tsunami, reveals the need for increased financial flexibility. This is required to initiate rapid response while seeking extra-budgetary support through the Consolidated Appeals Process.

I am pleased that reproductive health is now firmly placed in international standards for humanitarian response. Our main challenge now is implementation. This means ensuring that our humanitarian partners have the knowledge, skills and resources to ensure that appropriate reproductive health services are available.

Many conflict situations, and even some natural disaster situations, sadly, involve terrible patterns of violence against women. In many countries, starting in the Balkans and now in the Sudan and other conflict and post-conflict settings, UNFPA has worked with partners and the local community to assist women who were subjected to violence and to prevent such violence from occurring. In places as diverse as Bosnia and Timor-Leste, Colombia and Sierra Leone, we have done the delicate and diligent work it takes to help exploited and traumatized women recover and reintegrate into society, understanding that the recovery of women and families is critical for the recovery of nations. And we are now undertaking such work together with United Nations partners and others in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Our concern about sexual and gender-based violence is also reflected in our leadership of the IASC working group on the development of comprehensive guidelines to address such violence in humanitarian settings. These guidelines provide a solid basis for real coordination and collaboration among stakeholders to work in a much more concerted way to end violence against women. We have a wealth of experience in this area and there is high demand for our expertise. Together with the World Health Organization, United Nations Development Fund for Women, United Nations Children’s Fund, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, UNDP and others, we are hoping to initiate a global campaign to address sexual violence in conflict over the next year.

Budget Matters

Madame President,

I would now like to draw your attention to our proposed biennial support budget for the next two years and our financial situation.

Of course, it is obvious that we would not be able to do the work we are doing without a secure and reliable source of funding. I would also like to assure you that UNFPA is fully committed, and has put systems in place, to ensure that our resources respond to needs and are well spent. We will discuss the budget in more detail later on today, but before we do I would like to point out some of the highlights.

The Fund’s biennial support budget for 2006-2007 totals $209 million (gross) and $196.4 million (net), a 23 per cent increase from that of 2004-2005. It is based on a projection for regular resource income for the biennium of $747 million and reinforces our strategic direction and the achievement of ICPD and Millennium development goals.

It is geared to making UNFPA more effective in responding to country needs with a focus on strengthening country offices so they are better positioned to assist in national capacity-building and to support programmes that respond to national priorities.

Making UNFPA a more effective development partner requires that UNFPA further build its own staff capacity and competency in key areas so that we can make vital contributions to national capacity-building and engage in SWAps, poverty reduction strategies, and other national development processes.

The budget proposal focuses on strategic investments of which the most important is the addition of posts at the field level, particularly in Africa. But the proposal also reflects additional investments for staff training and enhancing UNFPA capacity in the area of strategic planning and resource mobilization.

The new budget also establishes required provisions in support of the next wave of ATLAS implementation, as well as to adequately equip UNFPA to face increasing mandatory costs, particularly in the area of security.

I am pleased to announce that the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) is a positive one. The Committee acknowledges our success in making the document more strategic, the progress made so far in results-based budgeting, as well as our increased effectiveness in the area of fund-raising.

While there are many positive trends, observations were also made by the Committee on the proposed reclassification of posts at Headquarters, as well as on the ratio of spending on programmes. On the matter of post reclassifications, I had explained to the ACABQ and I wish to reaffirm here that, due to our limited size, we don’t have much scope to add new posts at Headquarters. Priority in this matter is given to country offices. As new challenges lead to increases in responsibilities, especially at headquarters where growth is less possible, it is often more cost-effective for us either to cut existing posts and establish new ones, or to upgrade the terms of reference of posts to which the additional responsibilities have been assigned. All reclassifications are based on existing International Civil Service criteria and policies.

On the matter of the share of our programmes, allow me to inform you that we are presently looking into more cost-effective options to deliver our mandate. One of these is the regionalization of our organizational units, which will certainly impact on the budget in a positive way. A cost-benefit analysis of various regionalization scenarios is currently underway, and we will take a decision soon on how to proceed. We expect that there will be some budget implications due to regionalization, especially one-time costs, and we will come back to the Board with an amended budget, if necessary, in September 2006.

Focus on Culture, Gender and Human Rights

Madame President,

For all of the efforts of UNFPA to be effective, we must focus on culture, gender and human rights. Securing a better life for all – a healthy, productive and meaningful life - is pivoted on human rights for all.

In our complex world, cultural sensitivity is needed. It is especially important to international development, and even more important when dealing with the agenda of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.

During the past few years, much work has been done in UNFPA to develop a culturally sensitive approach to programming. As you know, I am committed to this approach in order to advance human rights, and I am pleased to report that we are now entering a new phase of our work in this important area. During the first phase, we concentrated on making sure our thinking was correct. To verify that culture does indeed matter, we undertook field-based research and published the findings of case studies from nine programme countries. We also developed a knowledge asset and a new section of the UNFPA web site that can be used by development practitioners, donors, researchers and others. We have recently completed a region-by-region analysis of cultural factors, which are relevant for developing effective programmes and advocacy.

Now, we are entering a new phase of applying the knowledge and wisdom we have gained. We have developed a comprehensive training programme and are organizing a series of training sessions designed specifically for policy makers, management and programmers. It is my great pleasure to announce that one Board member has already tested the first training module for its staff working in development cooperation as well as some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other government staff. Switzerland was the first Member State and partner to believe in my vision on Culture Matters and provide funding. Sweden also showed interest in the training during my visit last year and we will be engaging Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) soon to pursue this matter. It is great when UNFPA can also be of service to its donor countries.

The overall goal is to ensure that efforts undertaken are sustainable, effective and owned at the country and community levels. I am confident that this approach is not only an effective strategy, but also a prerequisite to the achievement of the ICPD and Millennium Development Goals.

In Conclusion, Madame President,

I would like to assure you that we at UNFPA are doing all we can to seize this unique and historic moment and to accelerate action in the countdown to 2015. We firmly believe that development, security and human rights go hand in hand—and that achieving the ICPD goals is fundamental for achieving the MDGs. The United Nations Millennium Project has emphasized that expanding access to sexual and reproductive health services was a “quick win” to enable countries to achieve the MDGs. And there are mountains of evidence to show that empowering women and advancing gender equality improves the quality of life for all. This is the subject of our upcoming The State of the World Population 2005 report, which will be launched next month in capitals worldwide. We hope the report will raise awareness and commitment to women’s human rights and foster greater participation of women in efforts for development, peace and security.

As we prepare for next week’s Summit, we agree with the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, that, “At this defining moment in history, we must be ambitious. Our action must be as urgent as the need and on the same scale.”

Thank you.