Statement at the 2008 First Regular Session of the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board

22 January 2008
Author: UNFPA

Mr. President,
Distinguished Delegates,
Colleagues and Friends,

Happy New Year! It is always a pleasure to address you as members of the Executive Board. My colleagues and I extend a warm welcome to you, Ambassador Jean-Marie Ehouzou of Benin, as the new President, and to the other members of the new Bureau and pledge our continued cooperation. And we thank Ambassador Carsten Staur of Denmark and his Vice-Presidents, Madame Fernande Afiavi Houngbedji and Messieurs José Briz Gutiérrez, Mahmudul Karim and Andriy Nikitov, for their excellent leadership over the past very busy year.

We look forward to our discussions this week, and to working with all of you as Board members throughout the year.

I would like to pay tribute to the former UNFPA Director of the Africa Division, Fama Hane Ba, who retired in December after having served the organization for 15 years. My colleagues and I thank Fama for her distinguished service and wish all her all the best in the coming years. I am pleased to announce that efforts are well underway to recruit her successor.

In my statement today, I will focus on the highlights of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in 2007 and the outlook for 2008; and I will introduce the proposed biennial support budget.

Together with the strategic plan, the global and regional programmes, the accountability framework, the new organizational structure, and the resource allocation system that were approved by the Board in September, the proposed budget paves the way forward. Needless to say, my colleagues and I look forward to your comments and guidance on the budget today.

I would like to thank you for the kind words of support you expressed today. I also thank all Member States that have expressed their sympathy for the passing away of my mother. Many of you know that this is my second day back at work after having taken time off to be with my mother, who died on the 8th of January. I would like to thank Board members and my colleagues in UNFPA for your understanding and support. I would also like to thank my two Deputies, Mari and Purnima, for taking the lead while I was away, while keeping me informed of major developments and decisions that I needed to make myself. I would like to thank my colleagues, the Directors of the Divisions, as members of the Executive Committee, for being such great team members and for ensuring that the organization is moving forward.

I would like, most of all, to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who expressed “his unhesitating approval” for me to proceed to Saudi Arabia for such a long time. He understood well the challenges we face as international civil servants, as I am sure all of you do as members of the diplomatic community, of being away from our families. I am grateful to him for his support and confidence.

Mr. President,

I am raising this issue here because I always try to have a personal message in my statements. But most of all, I would like to emphasize the importance of having a workplace that allows us to balance our private and public lives, especially for one-time events, such as the passing away of parents or children. I believe that part of the United Nations reform should look further into how we can humanize the workplace and make it more family-friendly.

Yesterday, the Secretary-General told me he was happy I was back with the United Nations family. I am really happy to be back.

This is a big year for UNFPA and I am excited about leading the organization through change. Last year, we put our plans onto paper and this year we will put our plans into practice.

Mr. President,

I would like to pay tribute to the staff of UNFPA, many of whom work in difficult and dangerous conditions.

Since we last met in September, we suffered a devastating bombing in Algiers, which claimed the lives of dozens of people, including 17 United Nations colleagues, of whom three were staff members from UNFPA.

We lost Adnane Souilah, Assistant Representative; Kamel Sait, National Programme Analyst; and Mustapha Benbara, Administrative/Financial Assistant.

May they rest in peace. And may their families find solace in our support to them and to all staff around the world.

The tragedy in Algiers reminds us once again of the dangers we face as United Nations staff and the need for improved security.

The attacks remind us of the divisions and violence that can blind us from our shared humanity.

And the tragedy reaffirms our belief in the United Nations and its guiding principles of peace, justice, development and human rights—principles which you as Member States have repeatedly stated in many decisions and occasions.

Highlights of 2007

Mr. President,

As we look back on 2007, we can take pride in our collective work to advance the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Halfway into the MDGs timeline, UNFPA is committed to accelerated and coordinated action so we make greater progress.

Last year, together with partners, we registered significant achievements on which we will build.

In 2007, UNFPA supported 154 countries in expanding access to sexual and reproductive health services and supplies; and we made progress in linking sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.

We promoted gender equality and reproductive rights and worked to protect women against gender-based violence. We worked to address the impact of conflict on women and to strengthen women’s role in conflict prevention, peace-building and recovery in line with Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).

Together with United Nations partners, we mobilized a new alliance to champion increased investment in adolescent girls. We continued to support the establishment of national youth advisory panels for UNFPA and increasingly for United Nations country teams; 30 panels have been established so far.

In 2007, UNFPA responded to humanitarian crises in 50 countries. Whether it was natural disasters or sexual violence in wars and conflicts, UNFPA was part of the United Nations response, working to promote reproductive health and prevent HIV. Together with our partners in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, we issued guidelines to ensure that mental health and psychosocial support are provided to people in emergencies. And we trained UNFPA staff in more than 30 field offices as part of our capacity-building strategy that was approved in 2006 by the Executive Board.

In 2007, UNFPA provided technical assistance to more than 60 countries for their national censuses and surveys. We are working to ensure that data are disaggregated by gender, age and income, so officials can make social investments that tackle inequities and benefit the poor.

We are also proud of The State of the World Population 2007 report. It garnered unprecedented media coverage, raised awareness about future urban growth in developing countries and made key policy recommendations.

In October, UNFPA leadership at the Women Deliver Conference in London generated heightened commitment to improve maternal health. We were thrilled by the announcement of the United Kingdom to contribute 100 million pounds to UNFPA over the next five years for reproductive health commodity security. I thank the Government of the United Kingdom for its support and would like to assure all of you that we are committed to concrete results.

Throughout the past year, we strived to lay a solid foundation to advance the ICPD agenda and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We engaged in new global health initiatives and partnerships to accelerate the achievement of the health MDGs.

The target on universal access to reproductive health, which has now been finalized within the MDG monitoring framework, allows us to prioritize reproductive health, better monitor progress and address gaps as we go forward. Your involvement as Member States in this process has been critical and most valuable.

We are on solid ground as we carry out our new strategic plan and make moves for reorganization. In November, we discussed the way forward and strengthened our teamwork and unity at the UNFPA global staff meeting in Princeton.

Mr. President,

We could not have come this far without your guidance and support as Board members. Last year, we made progress in improving the accountability, oversight and management of UNFPA and charting our direction for the next four years.

I have been heartened by the flexibility and team spirit of UNFPA staff as we change to become a more responsive, effective and field-focused organization. I am also excited about the progress within United Nations country teams to work in a more unified and cohesive way to support national development. My colleagues and I look forward to the joint session of the Board on Friday, when we will discuss feedback from the Delivering as One pilots.

Mr. President,

The United Nations system is joining hands to work together. We are making progress, but we need to do more.

As we accelerate efforts to achieve the MDGs and scale-up national programmes, the unique and vital mission of UNFPA remains more important than ever. We will not achieve development goals unless population dynamics are addressed and gender equality and reproductive health are advanced.

I was honoured by the recent visit of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to UNFPA headquarters and his praise for our work.

Appreciation for our performance and mission, coupled with high expectations, is reflected in rising contributions and a widening donor base.

In 2007, UNFPA registered a record 181 donor countries providing voluntary contributions, up from 180 the year before, including all countries in Africa, and more donor countries than any other United Nations agency.

In 2007, regular contributions rose to $418 million, up from $360 million in 2006, pushing UNFPA beyond its $400 million mark for the first time in history. Co-financing contributions also hit record highs, rising from $167 million in 2006 to some $220 million in 2007.

These developments are extremely encouraging, Mr. President, as they show that the overwhelming majority of the United Nations Member States support the work of UNFPA. I would like to thank all governments for their contributions, regardless of their size. We really appreciate your expression of commitment and vote of confidence in UNFPA as a trusted partner. I would also like to thank our top 10 donors in 2007. They are the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, United Kingdom, Japan, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Spain and Canada.

Outlook for 2008

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

The year 2008 will mark a milestone for UNFPA. We will move closer to the countries and people we serve and begin implementing our new strategic plan for 2008 through 2011. This plan is a roadmap on how UNFPA will work with partners to achieve the MDGs. It is a plan of action to support nationally led and owned development.

We will strengthen partnerships by ensuring that specialized institutions and organizations are equipped to advance the ICPD agenda, provide technical assistance and build national capacity and ownership through South-South cooperation. We will build on local knowledge and expertise.

We will begin to establish five regional offices and six subregional offices. At headquarters, we will create a new Programme Division and revise the functions of the Technical Division. We will refine our business processes to ensure streamlined operations and communications across a more decentralized organization.

We plan to move three regional offices this year—to Panama City, Johannesburg and Bangkok—and expect that all regional and subregional offices will be fully operational by the end of 2009.

Discussions regarding enhanced co-location are being carefully reviewed within the United Nations Development Group (UNDG). UNFPA will report to the Board at the January 2009 session on progress with Member States.

To prepare for the changes, we have established a task force on human resources and another task force on facilities. We have launched the agreed separation programme and will soon launch job matching. We have developed a comprehensive master plan for the reorganization to ensure business continuity.

Mr. President,

As we restructure UNFPA, we will continue to work with governments and partners to more fully integrate population analysis, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS prevention and gender equality into national development plans and budgets.

Throughout 2008, UNFPA will continue to support countries in the 2010 round of censuses and pay special attention to the issues of migration, urbanization and ageing. We will also pay special attention to the largest youth generation in history.

We will follow-up on the Bali Conference on Climate Change by strengthening efforts in policy guidance, emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction.

I am looking forward to participating in the upcoming Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) in Yokohama. Addressing population, gender and reproductive health is critical to African development. I commend the Japanese Government for this important initiative and welcome the focus on health as an integral part of human security.

In line with our strategic plan, UNFPA will work with national partners to make available a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services, especially for young people and women, including women living with HIV.

We will focus on closing gaps in access to family planning, maternal health services and HIV prevention, and strengthening commodity security.

Overall, we will work to strengthen health systems with other partners and more fully link sexual and reproductive health and HIV interventions to get better public health results.

Today, complications of pregnancy and childbirth remain the leading cause of death and disability among women in developing countries, and this is not acceptable. I just lost my own mother, which was devastating to me as an adult woman. I can only imagine what it is like for a young child to lose his or her mother during childbirth in what should be one of the most joyful moments of their lives.

In many countries, progress to improve maternal health is lagging. In some, the situation has actually deteriorated. To reverse these trends, increased political will, capacity development and funding are urgently needed. Every woman needs access to family planning, skilled attendance at birth and emergency obstetric care. Health inequities need to be reduced and communities need to be mobilized.

We know from studies that mothers make their children a priority. Now we, as development partners, need to make mothers and the health of women a priority.

As I announced in September, UNFPA, in close collaboration with partners, has established a maternal health trust fund to garner increased resources to achieve MDG 5, on improving maternal health. The trust fund seeks to raise $466 million over the next four years, $116 million per year, to scale up maternal health services in countries, including those affected by conflict.

The first period, 2008 through 2011, will focus on bringing programmes to scale in at least 25 of 75 priority countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where maternal mortality is highest.

We have held discussions with the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank and are aligning efforts with global initiatives and national plans and systems. We are focused on strengthened advocacy, policy dialogue, technical support and capacity-building to improve access to reproductive health services. For more information, a summary can be found at the back of the room.

In the area of reproductive health commodity security, UNFPA will continue to build on the concrete gains of the past few years. I am happy to report that substantial progress is being made in many countries, including Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Burkina Faso. National action plans are leading to improvements in forecasting, procurement and distribution systems with large stakeholder buy-in and clearly defined targets. These efforts have resulted in better policy and coordination as well as significant decreases in public sector contraceptive stock-outs.

In 2008, thanks to the generous contribution of several of our partners, UNFPA will scale up its support to countries in line with the global programme to enhance reproductive health commodity security. To demonstrate tangible progress, we will work in an intensified manner in selected countries and will continue to provide support, as in the past, to a large number of low- and middle-income countries to help them avoid stock-outs and to build capacity in commodity security, specifically in national procurement, logistics and demand creation programmes. This year we will develop an advocacy strategy and tools for country offices to strengthen and systematize efforts for commodity security as an integral part of our efforts to achieve universal access to reproductive health.

Mr. President,

According to the new AIDS estimates released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and WHO in December, the percentage of people living with HIV has levelled off and the number of new infections has fallen. This good news is due in part to HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

However, AIDS still remains a leading cause of death worldwide and infection rates are rising among women. Clearly, there is a need for increased efforts to prevent HIV infection in women, empower women to ensure safer sexual relations, and to reduce unwanted pregnancies among women living with HIV.

UNFPA will work with partners to expand HIV prevention for women and youth. To ensure stronger delivery, we have added 130 HIV prevention experts in the field, the majority of whom are national staff members. And we are working with our country offices to provide support to governments and civil society partners for the next round of funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. As many of you know, this round focuses on HIV prevention and gender and provides an opportunity for stronger investments in women and sexual and reproductive health.

During this year, UNFPA will work closely with ministries of finance, health, women’s affairs, and youth. We will reach out to civil society and non-traditional partners. Knowing the local culture and working with local leaders is the only way to bring about lasting change in communities. We believe in national ownership and leadership and supporting change from within. I am pleased to announce that the role of culture in development is the theme of The State of the World Population 2008 report.

Biannial Support Budget 2008-09

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

As we move ahead with our strategic plan for the next four years, we have one item of unfinished business.

I am pleased to introduce document DP/FPA/2008/1, which contains the proposed biennial support budget for 2008-2009. As you know, this is the first budget linking resources to results. It is connected to the management results in our strategic plan that support programme results.

This results-based budget is the product of nearly two years of collaboration with colleagues in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNICEF on a harmonized format, extensive consultations with you as Board members and guidance from the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).

However, I would like to stress that the results-based budget is work in progress. And UNFPA is committed to improving the approach in collaboration with UNDP and UNICEF as we move along.

Allow me now to outline the key points of the proposed support budget before you.

The proposed budget reflects our commitment to strengthening the delivery capacity of UNFPA with a specific focus on country offices. The total budget proposal is for $259.8 million (gross) and $235.8 million (net). It is based on a total projected income of $1.26 billion in the 2008-2009 biennium, up from $910 million from 2006-2007, an increase of more than 38 per cent.

The proposed support budget includes major investments in strengthening country offices through additional posts and the realignment of existing ones. It supports the implementation of the strategic plan and strengthened accountability, oversight and security coordination. And it includes investments to provide more effective support to country offices and to sustain the growing volume and complexity of operations.

I am pleased to report that the overall ratio of the gross biennial support budget to total income has decreased from 23 per cent in 2006-2007 to 20.6 per cent in the proposed budget. This reflects our commitment to channel a larger proportion of total resources to programme implementation.

In the proposed budget, regular resources for programme implementation increased by nearly 20 per cent. And total resources, including co-financing, for programme implementation rose from $718 million to more than $1 billion, an increase of nearly 45 per cent. It is also worth noting that the percentage of posts in the field is rising from 77 per cent in the last biennium to 82 per cent in the proposed budget. This is an increase from 796 posts in the field to 918, which reflects our commitment to become more field-focused.

In addition to the budget, UNFPA is proposing a provision of $6 million to support the required upgrade of Atlas, including the roll-out of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), and $2.4 million to replenish the security reserve.

We are also requesting, in response to recent security assessments, an additional $5 million to further strengthen the safety and security of UNFPA personnel and premises and flexibility in spending. This request, which is contained in a conference room paper, is being made in coordination with UNDP and the United Nations Department for Safety and Security in response to escalating threats to United Nations personnel.

As the Secretary-General has asserted, the safety and security of all staff is a top priority and I hope you will give this proposal favourable consideration. We are also relying on your support as Member States to help protect our staff serving in your respective countries.

Mr. President,

The budget proposal before you includes $28.4 million for the one-time costs of the new organizational structure. I would like to thank countries that have expressed an interest in supporting the reorganization. And I would like to express our appreciation to the first two countries, Equatorial Guinea and Finland that have already made contributions. I encourage other governments to contribute, too.

I would also like to inform you that we will not have to withhold any resources from the UNFPA Operational Reserve this year, as expected, to partially fund the reorganization’s one-time costs. Our income for 2007 has exceeded our forecast and we were able to fund the entire $11 million. Hence, we will resume funding the Operational Reserve in 2008.

Allow me now to address the reclassification of Representative posts, which was raised in the report of the ACABQ and during informal consultations.

To strengthen country offices, the budget estimates include the downgrading of 5 UNFPA Representative posts and the upgrading of 16 to the D-1 level.

This reclassification of posts is fully in line with the standards of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC). The reclassification is based on a technical evaluation that UNFPA conducted in 2006 with the same company that devised the new ICSC classification system.

This request is based on three key factors that distinguish a D-1 Representative post from a P-5 post, according to ICSC standards. The first is the complexity of the operating environment. Things have changed considerably since 1995. We have moved from a project approach to capacity-building to support national development. We are now working in a more comprehensive manner, dealing with poverty reduction strategies, sector-wide approaches and national MDG plans.

Furthermore, we are dealing with an increase in volume in operations. Since 1995, UNFPA programme expenditure has increased by nearly 80 per cent. If we look at just one country, in this case Sudan, we see that programme expenditure tripled in the past decade. All these aspects are included in the ICSC standards review.

The second factor is multiple representation, where the Representative is responsible for programme delivery in several countries. Since UNFPA remains relatively small compared to other ExCom agencies, some of our Representatives manage two or more countries. This is the case, for instance, in Brazil, Nicaragua and Madagascar, where the Representatives cover three countries and also in Senegal and India, where the Representatives cover two countries each.

And the third factor is increased engagement in programme and political partnerships, which requires a higher level of skills and expertise. This point was reinforced in the new triennial comprehensive policy review (TCPR) resolution, which called on United Nations development agencies to take all necessary measures to ensure that United Nations staff members at the country level have the skills and expertise required for effective management, policy advice and other capacity development work to support national development.

Mr. President,

Distinguished members of the Board,

The bottom line is that UNFPA, like everyone else, needs the best leaders it can get to achieve stronger development results and advance the ICPD agenda. The upgrading of posts will allow UNFPA to recruit and retain Representatives of a high caliber who can liaise effectively with government officials and other development partners and provide top-notch leadership, support and advice.

For the past few years, we have been in discussions with you about the need to strengthen our capacity in countries so we can be more effective. This upgrading of posts is a core element of our strategy to do so. It will cost $800,000 over the course of the biennium, $400,000 per year and is a modest proposal. We are confident that the benefits far outweigh the costs and believe that the upgrading of posts is long overdue.

Mr. President,

This proposed support budget represents the final piece of the puzzle. It is the missing piece of our overall plan to become a more field-focused and results-based organization.

Today, I am asking you to support this budget, which is a further step towards strengthening UNFPA’s accountability framework.

We have also submitted a report on UNFPA’s oversight policy. The policy seeks to strengthen UNFPA’s accountability, risk management and assurance processes. We have made progress over the past several years in these areas and will soon be adding an Ethics Officer who will report to the Executive Director.

I would also like to direct your attention to the report on follow-up to external audit findings. UNFPA is working to ensure that all recommendations made by the United Nations Board of Auditors are implemented in a systematic and timely manner. Of the 42 recommendations made by the Board of Auditors covering the 2004-2005 biennium, action has been completed on 33. UNFPA expects to implement 8 more recommendations by the end of June 2008, while the last recommendation will be completed with the implementation of IPSAS by January 2010.


Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

In closing, I would like to stress that UNFPA is committed to intensified action to support the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. We are committed to building a more effective and cohesive United Nations system. Together with my colleagues, I welcome your support and guidance. And I look forward to working with you throughout the year as we strive to make sure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is healthy, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS and every woman and girl is treated with dignity and respect.

Thank you.