Statement at the 2006 Annual Session of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA

12 June 2006
Author: UNFPA


Mr. President,

Distinguished Members of the Executive Board,

Good morning and welcome to Geneva. It is always a pleasure to address you as members of the Executive Board, and my colleagues and I are looking forward to our discussions and dialogue this week. We have many important agenda items to discuss and a number of informal sessions around the work and future of UNFPA.

First, I would like to express my colleagues’ and my sincere condolences to Dr. Lee’s family, friends and colleagues at the World Health Organization (WHO). We will continue our collaboration with WHO in honour of his memory.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to my colleague, Mari Simonen, whom many of you know, and who was appointed in March as UNFPA’s new Deputy Executive Director of External Relations, United Nations Affairs and Management. Mari has served UNFPA for the past 25 years with distinction. She has held many different positions within UNFPA, including Chief of the Office of the Executive Director and Director of the Technical Support Division (TSD).

Mr. President,

When I addressed this Board last January, I spoke about UNFPA’s four priorities for 2006: follow-up to the 2005 World Summit; United Nations reform; accountability; and regionalization. Today, I will update you on these priorities and give you an overview of where we stand and where we are headed during these times of change.

Follow-up to 2005 World Summit and AIDS Review Meeting

Allow me, first, to address the follow-up to the 2005 World Summit, and to the recently concluded High-Level Review meeting on HIV/AIDS.

The Political Declaration adopted at the General Assembly meeting on AIDS states clearly that prevention is the mainstay of the response to the pandemic. And, of course, the challenge now is turning good words into action with our eyes on the goal of universal access to treatment, prevention, support and care, and to reproductive health.

As I see it, the newly adopted Political Declaration offers UNFPA an unprecedented opportunity and responsibility to:

  • Strengthen policy and programme linkages between HIV/AIDS and sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights;
  • Further promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls to end the increased feminization of the pandemic;
  • Expand information and services for and with young people;
  • Further strengthen efforts for the supply and use of affordable reproductive health commodities, including male and female condoms, contraceptives and HIV test kits; and
  • Support governments in significantly expanding sexual and reproductive health and comprehensive HIV prevention coverage for women, young people, people living with HIV, and other vulnerable groups.

We are moving rapidly, in what constitutes a significant effort, to strengthen our support to countries that are highly affected by HIV and AIDS. We welcome the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Sexually Transmitted Infections that was adopted at the recent World Health Assembly. We will do our part to ensure that it is well integrated and linked with services for family planning, maternal health and HIV prevention. Later this week, I will meet with Dr. Anders Nordstrom, WHO Acting Director-General, to discuss how WHO and UNFPA can further strengthen our collaboration as a continuation of our bilateral meetings with WHO. And we are also continuing to collaborate with other organizations, including United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Bank.

UNFPA is now focusing its efforts to ensure that the targets that countries committed themselves to set this year to scale up their response to AIDS are appropriately ambitious in expanding coverage of comprehensive HIV prevention and reproductive health and in promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality.

All of these efforts form part of our follow-up to the High-Level meeting on AIDS, and they are also in line with our follow-up to the 2005 World Summit.

Overall, we are according high priority to adolescents and young people and I must say that quite a bit of groundbreaking work is being done. There is good news from Africa—the drafting of the first African Youth Charter since 1964. It is a very strong Charter and is scheduled for adoption at the African Union Summit in Gambia in July. Also, the League of Arab States has adopted a strategy for youth in development to which UNFPA provided technical support. We will support their popularization and implementation to make a difference in the lives of young men and women.

In every region, a growing number of countries are adopting Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health Strategies—Bangladesh, China and India are examples from this year. Morocco and Mozambique are scaling up youth health services nationwide. In Latin America, for the first time ever, governments have agreed to grant adolescents the right to sexual and reproductive health and they have signed a binding agreement committing themselves to these rights. And here I would like to thank Finland for its support for UNFPA’s work with adolescents.

Mr. President,

A central focus for UNFPA is advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, and eliminating all kinds of violence against women and girls. These are guiding principles of the ICPD Programme of Action. And, as we all know, a great deal more needs to be done. While great strides have been made over the past decade, and are continuing, in terms of new and amended laws and policies, greater attention needs to be paid to implementation and monitoring. Yes, we need to continue to build a strong policy and legal framework for women’s empowerment and rights. But we also need to focus and invest heavily in the popularization, ownership and implementation of these laws and policies so women can, and do, benefit.

Next week in Brussels, in partnership with the Government of Belgium and the European Commission, UNFPA is convening the first International Symposium on Sexual Violence in Conflict Situations and Beyond. As you know, there is mounting demand for the United Nations to do more in this area and there is recognition that UNFPA plays a key role in working with partners to facilitate an effective response.

It is our hope that the Brussels Symposium will galvanize efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence against women in conflict and to end the widespread impunity that currently exists.

I am also pleased to announce that UNFPA is in the process of publishing 10 case studies on successful interventions that address violence against women that used an inclusive and culturally sensitive approach. I would like to thank Switzerland for funding this important effort. Based on this field-based evidence, we also developed a programming tool, which we hope will help programmers in UNFPA and other development organizations to design and implement effective projects on violence against women. The countries covered by this work are Mexico, Colombia, Romania, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Turkey and Bangladesh. I would also like to thank Sweden and Germany for their strong support to UNFPA in developing a culturally sensitive approach to promote human rights and gender equality.

Achieving MDG 5

Mr. President,

The community of nations has agreed that improving maternal health is a top development priority, constituting the fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5). Yet, progress towards this goal remains below our common aspirations and its achievement in many countries remains a long-term challenge unless greater attention and resources are devoted to women and their right to health, including sexual and reproductive health.

Recognizing the importance of achieving MDG 5, the leaders at the 2005 World Summit committed themselves to achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2015 as an input into national development plans. As the General Assembly will be discussing the follow-up to the Summit this fall, UNFPA hopes that your Excellencies, members of this Board, will take a proactive role in ensuring that this commitment is translated into a measurable target to monitor the improvement in maternal health, which basically means saving women’s lives and achieving their human rights.

UNFPA is working with partners, including the Partnership on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, to expand reproductive health services and improve their quality so that women can have safe deliveries and healthy babies. We are working to expand access to the three proven interventions that promote safe motherhood: family planning, skilled attendance at birth and emergency obstetric care. To improve skilled attendance at birth, UNFPA has teamed up with the International Confederation of Midwives—a confederation of 88 midwifery associations from 75 countries.

Today, one of the most difficult places in which to become a mother is sub-Saharan Africa, where a woman faces a 1 in 16 lifetime risk of dying during childbirth. I am pleased to report that maternal health roadmaps in Africa are advancing. Roadmaps are well underway in dozens of countries. They contain clear targets and costing requirements, and implementation plans will be developed to rapidly scale up programmes. In September, Health Ministers of the African Union will meet in Maputo, Mozambique, to discuss scaling up efforts for sexual and reproductive health.

But I would like to note that improving maternal health is an enormous challenge. It involves the improvement of health systems and the strengthening of human resources. It requires community-based services and greater progress in addressing gender disparities and inequalities. It is an area where we need sustained commitment, engagement and funding to ensure success.

Investing in reproductive health brings economic benefits and advances the promotion and enjoyment of human rights. Investment in this critical area also reduces the recourse to abortion and addresses the consequences of unsafe abortion, which is one the major causes of women’s death and disability. The ICPD Programme of Action clearly indicates that abortion should never be a method of family planning, and where legal it has to be done under good medical conditions.

Yes, we all agree that progress for women is progress for all. But, as we know, progress requires investment. And it is time to put women, especially young women and girls, and their health, well-being and human rights at the top of the global development agenda —in words and in deeds.

Reproductive Health Commodity Security

Mr. President,

At the heart of the right to sexual and reproductive health are reproductive health commodities — contraceptives, condoms, test kits and maternal health supplies and drugs that save lives. I am pleased to report that progress is being made to secure greater national ownership of this important policy and programming area. We are witnessing and supporting increased cost sharing agreements, budget lines, coordinating committees, and policy initiatives for reproductive health commodity security in all regions. We took important steps forward during the recent meeting, which UNFPA hosted, of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition.

The Global Programme to enhance Reproductive Health Commodity Security, developed with input from key global partners, is guiding our efforts. We believe that with rising commitment at country level to finance commodities and strengthen capacities and systems, and increased advocacy, greater international support will be provided to complement national efforts. To implement the Global Programme, UNFPA is appealing for US$150 million per year for the next five years.

We take note of the initiative to create the International Drug Purchase Facility as an innovative financing mechanism for life-savings commodities and drugs for HIV/AIDS and other diseases. We hope an explicit focus will be placed on prevention, treatment, care and support and the link with sexual and reproductive health, so that national efforts can be scaled up to meet the existing and growing challenge of making reproductive health commodities more affordable and accessible.

Population and Development

Mr. President,

In the rapidly changing world in which we are living, unprecedented ageing, migration, urbanization, and large youth populations in many developing countries, present new challenges and highlight the very powerful dynamics that exist between population and development. We will launch the State of World Population 2006 on migration and women, on 6 September this year. The 2007 report will be on urbanization.

Knowledge of countries’ demographic situations has increased significantly over the years, and there is evidence that investments in education and reproductive health reduce poverty. During the past four decades, fertility rates have declined dramatically, and the use of contraceptives increased from 9 per cent in 1960 to more than 60 per cent today. It is no exaggeration to state that these changes reflect how women and men exercise their reproductive rights. However, we have to remember the unmet need of 200 million women who would like to plan their families, but are unable to do so.

We will have a chance to examine the broad area of population and development in more detail at the special event this afternoon, as well as at the informal session, later this week, on migration. I look forward to our discussions.

UN Reform

Mr. President,

Let me now turn to United Nations reform.

As I have stated many times before, United Nations reform that places people at the centre of development would accelerate the achievement of the Programme of the Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals. My United Nations Development Group (UNDG) Executive Committee colleagues–UNDP, UNICEF, WFP—and I share the view that we need to stay focused on results at country level as well as effective and efficient programme implementation.

UNFPA believes in the concept of one United Nations leader, one United Nations team and one United Nations programme at the country level.

The leader of the United Nations country team should support the comprehensive development and human rights agenda that has emerged from the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits and their follow-up. He or she should lead a team that works to support countries to build national capacity to achieve development goals. It is important that the Resident Coordinator system is fully owned by all members of the United Nations country team.

In terms of results, especially at country level, but also at regional and global levels: 

  • The United Nations has to be an effective advocate on the full range of international goals, that are well grounded in the mandates of all United Nations sister agencies;
  • The United Nations has to do everything possible to enhance national capacity. This includes institutional building and South-South cooperation; and
  • We have to provide the highest quality technical assistance to scale up programmes and services to reach people, especially the poorest and most marginalized and the most vulnerable. UNFPA’s upcoming review of its current technical support programme will ensure that we respond even more effectively to what countries need and request.

For the United Nations system to carry out its development support more effectively, we need greater system-wide coherence—not only within the United Nations but also within the development community as a whole. In this context, I would like to highlight the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment. While all agencies are required to mainstream gender, the absence of a strong mechanism for coordination and to hold the executive heads accountable has affected the United Nations effectiveness in this area. UNFPA hopes that Member States will clearly signal the political importance to promote gender equality within the United Nations system and in all its work – normative as well as operational.

When it comes to One Team, UNFPA believes that mutual support and collegiality will continue to be the prerequisite for successful team cooperation and effective programme planning and delivery, in support of governments to achieve the countries’ national goals.

On One Programme, UNFPA looks forward to continuing dialogue with all of you over the coming months, with a view to reaching agreement on a common programme process, as a first step towards fully responding to the demands of programme countries for streamlined programming. To us in UNFPA, the formulation of the one programme is envisaged to be an even stronger leadership by government in response to national priorities, with special attention paid to critical issues of the social sector.

Over the years, UNFPA has built a strong partnership for the broad area of population and development, for the empowerment of women and reproductive health and rights. It is a coalition with passion and commitment. It is a partnership between governments, including members of the Executive Board, civil society, women’s and youth groups, health-worker associations, midwives, family planning providers, parliamentarians, legal associations, human rights ombudsmen, human rights and AIDS activists, people living with AIDS and others. I see this as a critical strategy to making our assistance more effective and as a contribution to aid effectiveness in support of national ownership.

We plan to further strengthen our partnership with these groups because we know that development is about people—and building relationships of trust and coalitions for action and accountability.

UNFPA Financial Resources

Mr. President,

After the Cairo Conference, UNFPA achieved a new record for core resources of $312 million in 1995. Eleven years later, in 2006, the estimated core resource base hovers around the $350-million mark. Taking the effects of inflation into account, one could easily argue that during the past decade, UNFPA’s core resources have been, at best, stagnant. Yet, the challenges and needs continue to grow especially in view of the larger cohort of young people in human history.

Nevertheless, UNFPA’s income has grown and I would like to thank all of our donors for making this possible. Regardless of the size of contribution, the record number of donors last year – 172 – reflects the political support UNFPA has to implement the ICPD Programme of Action, and, in particular, to ensure universal access to reproductive health by 2015. This was reiterated by the General Assembly at the 2005 World Summit, and also at the recent high-level AIDS review meeting.

We appreciate the increased donor commitment to direct budget support, as an evolving approach for ensuring national ownership of programmes. We also look forward to your continuous support to the funds and programmes, including UNFPA, as we fulfil our advocacy, technical assistance and capacity-building roles in this new aid environment. I, therefore, appeal to the donor community to increase core contributions to UNFPA in the multi-year format with the very feasible and modest goal of reaching $400 million in 2007.

We would like to thank our major donors (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) for ensuring the financial stability of UNFPA, including multi-year pledges. Especially, I would like to thank UNFPA’s number one donor, the Netherlands, for its support. Today, I should like to pay special tribute to the growing number of programme countries that enable us to have the largest donor base within the United Nations system, as well as those that provide multi-year funding and contribute in national currencies to their country programmes.


Mr. President,

In response to the changing aid environment and the need to continuously deliver better results, UNFPA is carrying out a process of regionalization. We briefed Board members on this about a month ago at UNFPA Headquarters and would like to update you on where we stand. It is a complex undertaking, but we are committed to getting it right.

We are now in the phase where we are determining the actual regionalization model. We began in January with a functional analysis that examined the needs of country offices and how functions should be allocated at the regional and headquarters levels to best serve these needs. We also looked at the experiences of other United Nations organizations that have regionalized, to take stock of their experiences, adapt best practices to UNFPA’s context and mitigate risks.

We will have the opportunity to further discuss this with you at the informal session on Wednesday.

As we proceed to strengthen the capacity of the Geographic Divisions to meet the larger agenda of development in their regions, which would allow them to provide greater and more meaningful support to country-level implementation to regional and subregional institutions and to South-South cooperation, we are also looking at the needs of country offices. We are planning to further strengthen country office capacity and we have identified certain criteria to determine phasing of such support according to the priority needs of the countries. Such proposals will be reflected progressively in forthcoming budgets. It is imperative that country office capacity be strengthened so that it can respond to increased national processes, the changing aid environment and United Nations reform.

We are also at a timely and appropriate juncture to redesign and further align our global and regional programmes with our technical assistance, in order to increase our effectiveness at the country level and strengthen the development of national capacity. Both programmes will be instrumental to the implementation of our Mid-Term Strategic Plan for 2008-2011. Included in the main strategies will be South-South cooperation, strengthened partnerships with regional institutions and coordinated efforts to support national development and poverty reduction processes. UNFPA’s new proposals for the Technical Advisory Programme and the Intercountry Programme will be presented next year for your consideration and approval.

Allow me now to turn to the issue of accountability.


Mr. President,

One of our organizational priorities for 2006 is to increase accountability. This means making sure that our resources are well spent, producing results and developing a culture of transparency and integrity. The various monitoring tools as well as ATLAS have begun to provide us with the information that allows assessing the organizational performance in order to take corrective actions.

Naturally, audit compliance is an important part of this effort. Our internal Programme and Management Committees are also playing a stronger role than ever before in monitoring and reviewing performance and delivery.

Our ultimate goal is to build a coherent and transparent system of accountability. This is being carried forward as we develop the next multi-year funding framework as the primary instrument of accountability at each level of the organization. Work is progressing in the area of results-based budgeting and the first results-based biennial support budget will be presented to the Board in September 2007, covering the 2008-9 biennium.

As I informed you at the last Board session, I am serving as Chair of the High-Level Committee on Management (HLCM). We are working to ensure that management systems are standardized and/or harmonized across the United Nations system. In cooperation with UNDP, UNFPA has already initiated the planning process for implementing the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), which was adopted by HLCM in December last year as a common system throughout the United Nations by 2010. Other areas of HLCM concerns include audits, human resources, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and staff security.

In terms of personal accountability and adherence to relevant codes of conduct, I should like to stress that these issues are included for evaluation in our performance appraisal system and we have introduced procedures for dealing with allegations of harassment and abuse of authority in the workplace.

Mr. President,

On the broader front, it is important that, in our system of governance, we maintain a clear distinction between the responsibilities of the various parties for their respective roles of management, oversight, and guidance. We shall discuss these issues during our sessions on evaluation and internal audit. During these sessions, in addition to the reports on evaluation and audit activities, we shall propose how to integrate evaluation and audit into the management of risks, while preserving the independence of the internal oversight function, and how to articulate risk management with the internal control framework.


In conclusion, I would like to stress that, during this period of change and transformation, UNFPA is committed to staying focused on its very relevant mandate, doing an effective job and being a valued partner in development and humanitarian assistance. We, its staff, are committed to responding to realities on the ground, using national systems and processes where they are available, being part of sector-wide programmes and poverty reduction strategies, building capacity and working with partners and leveraging resources for greater results. We are committed to human rights, including the right to development and to sexual and reproductive health, and to the principle that development is about people and improving people’s lives.

I would like to conclude my statement today with a quote from UNFPA’s first Executive Director, Rafael M. Salas. Although his words were spoken nearly a quarter of a century ago, they remain relevant to this day. He said:

"As far as we may increase and stretch our assistance, it is still true that UNFPA and the other international agencies cannot supply more than a small proportion of the resources needed for development. We can, however, act as a catalyst in the development of ideas and approaches to development problems and thus through small inputs produce larger results."

Mr. President,

Members of the Board,

Since its inception, UNFPA has constantly been mindful of the fact that assistance to countries must produce synergy for larger results and be built on national ownership. We know that our assistance must remain consistently relevant to national development priorities. We also know that social investments, including in reproductive health and rights, pave the way for equitable economic growth and real improvements in the quality of life and well-being of people. Over the years, we have played the role of an honest broker, a facilitator and a catalyst for change. This is the role we will continue to play as a partner in development and a champion of United Nations reform. The larger results to which UNFPA remains committed are the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity, 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.

We continue to pursue these results with both passion and compassion, as the President of the General Assembly and I agreed during the HIV/AIDS High-Level Meeting—with passion to do what should be done and compassion to do it right for those who deserve it most.

Thank you.

1.3 mil
  • Fertility rate
  • Maternal Mortality Ratio
  • Contraceptives prevalence rate
  • Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment:
Boys 32%
Girls 38%