26 June 2012

Executive Director Statement to the Executive Board

Mr. President,

Excellencies and Distinguished Members of the Executive Board

Colleagues and friends

Ladies and Gentlemen:

               I am delighted to be here with you and I am looking forward to another open and collegial discussion on the work of UNFPA, our progress and achievements over the course of one year, the global policy environment that impact our programmes, the challenges before us, how the organization is responding to them, and how we can go forward together.

              Let me begin by introducing some people who are already providing new inspiration and energy to the organization, and who will help me shape UNFPA’s future – Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, Deputy Executive Director for Management, and Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director for Programme. You will remember them from our Board informals, but since this is their first Executive Board session, it is only fitting that I ask you to join me in bidding them welcome. Let me also acknowledge Fabienne Lambert, our new Director of the Division for Oversight Services, and Michael Emery, the new Director of the Division for Human Resources. They are members of my Executive Committee, the body that implements your decisions and oversees our day-to-day programmes and operations. Let me also take this opportunity to acknowledge and sincerely thank Safiye Cagar, Director of the Information and External Relations Division, under whose leadership we organize these Board meetings, this one being her last Executive Board session. Finally, let me congratulate Kwabena Osei-Danquah, whom you all know from many Board sessions as the Chief of our External Relations and Executive Board Branch–and welcome him in his new role as Executive Coordinator of the Secretariat for ICPD Beyond 2014. On a sadder note, I also want to mention a colleague we have recently lost in South Africa, Claire Greboval, a dynamic programme officer who passed away in her sleep at the young age of 36.

Let me now turn to the broader policy environment within which we operate.

Sustainable Development Goals

              Like the UNDP Administrator Ms. Helen Clark, I come here straight from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, in Rio de Janeiro. Along with thousands of participants from every part of the globe, UNFPA went to Rio with a clear message on the importance of the social dimension to achieving sustainable development and ensuring balance in the planet’s resources. UNFPA has been engaged for many years in discussions with Member States and civil society on the critical linkages between population dynamics and sustainable development; the urgency of realizing the rights of women and girls; the importance of universal access to sexual and reproductive health, especially family planning, and the need to invest in young people’s education and health – including sexual and reproductive health services and sexuality education – as strategic ways for nations to build human capital, lift themselves out of poverty and ensure social stability. In Rio, we advocated for a people-centered development approach as the key to safeguarding our fragile ecosystem. Member States went to great lengths to ensure that their consensus acknowledged these key linkages, and I am most grateful for your strong commitment and support in ensuring that they are reflected in the outcome document. Let me also commend the Government of Brazil for its wise guidance towards an outcome that will enable the world to move forward in achieving sustainable development.

ICPD Beyond 2014

        The Rio outcome opens up many opportunities for UNFPA to support Member States, for example, in setting up institutional arrangements that support the green economy and build national capacity to manage change processes. More specifically for UNFPA, we see a close interlink between the Rio outcome, the UN development agenda post 2015, and the goals of ICPD. The Operational Review of the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action is the central element of the ICPD Beyond 2014 review process which aims to produce the most authoritative account of the state of population and development in 2014, and produce an outcome report that would serve as the major reference for the formulation of population and development policies and programmes beyond 2014. Our current efforts also include expanding the ICPD community, reaching out to young people, and demonstrating the relevance of the agenda to the wider global society, in an effort to generate political support for the full implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.

             In this light, we also recently concluded a very successful event in Istanbul with Parliamentarians around the globe which came out with a strong statement reaffirming support for population and development, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and meeting the needs of adolescents and youth. This is part of our ongoing active engagement with decision makers who can make a difference in terms of national policies, programmes and budgets.

            As we approach the 20th anniversary of ICPD and the debate on a successor framework to the MDGs, UNFPA will continue working with Member States to advance the vision that has guided the Fund since its establishment; a vision based on the understanding that population considerations are essential for development planning. Together, we can support partner countries to achieve more sustainable means of consumption and production, strengthen human rights and freedoms, and invest in people-centered development, the essence of the ICPD Programme of Action. Sustainable development is about the well-being of current and future generations, so we must help countries to plan in advance for changing population dynamics.


               While we begin the process towards sustainable development goals and the post-2015 development agenda, we must stay resolute in our commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs have proved to be effective in drawing investments to critical areas that help societies lift themselves out of poverty. Countries are making progress, especially those with faster economic growth. For example, the latest maternal mortality estimates show a remarkable 47% decline since 1990 in the number of women dying in childbirth. Yet, there is still much work to do in the two and half years that remain.

            Efforts to develop sustainable development goals should complement and reinforce the review of the MDGs. A challenge with the MDGs is that they set targets based on past baselines, rather than looking forward. For example, some of the poorest countries are on track to halve the proportion of people who live in extreme poverty, but the number of extremely poor people in these countries is rising because poverty reduction did not keep pace with population growth. To ensure real progress, as well as sustainability, sustainable development goals should take account of current and projected population trends, and different possible scenarios of population change. Development strategies must equally take population dynamics into account, calling for systematic use of available population data and projections.

             Population dynamics, such as urbanization and youth bulges, can become positive drivers of economic, social and environmental development – if countries plan for them and pursue appropriate human rights-based policies. UNFPA will be particularly interested in proactive planning to address the needs of rapidly increasing numbers of young people, primarily in the least developed countries. Development frameworks must ensure young people’s access to crucial services, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights, including family planning; quality education beyond the primary level, especially for girls, and skills development to empower the young to choose the future they want and enable them to access future labour markets.

Tackling Inequalities

             The post-2015 development agenda must also tackle the challenge of inequalities. While there has been progress in many of the MDGs, closing on the remaining targets requires investment in the most vulnerable, including women and young people. Adopting human rights-based policies to expand the opportunities and choices of individuals, and especially the most vulnerable, is critical.

             Many of the most vulnerable are young girls. This is the rationale for the fact that in November last year, the Third Committee of the General Assembly agreed to designate 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child, beginning in 2012 in order to raise awareness of the situation of girls around the world.

               To commemorate the inaugural event this year, UNFPA, in partnership with other UN agencies, particularly UNICEF and UN-Women, has decided to highlight child marriage. Despite minimum ages for marriage set by law, in some countries, half of the girls are married before they turn 18. In several countries, 60-70 per cent of women aged 20-24 were married before they were 18. Child marriage is a human rights violation that robs millions of girls of their childhood, education, health and future. Child marriage entrenches poverty in families and holds back development. Child marriage predominantly affects the poorest, least educated, and rural girls, with the fewest opportunities. Child marriage has devastating sexual and reproductive health consequences, including maternal deaths and disabilities such as fistula as a result of early pregnancy and childbearing and increased risk of HIV infection.

           UNFPA is committed to address these issues and to continue to support innovative and successful programmes tackling child marriage and other issues affecting young girls, and to address other youth issues in the context of our efforts to develop a comprehensive adolescent and youth strategy. Our annual report for 2011, which is before you, reflects the potential for investing in young people, especially young women, for rapid and sustainable development.

                  Let me now address the issue of how we work within the UN family.


              With the quadrennial comprehensive policy review approaching, let me say that UNFPA remains committed to a coherent and effective UN. National governments must take the lead towards development. UN operational activities support and enable the process by providing sound analysis and advice, building capacities and helping innovation. We can only work effectively if we draw on the assets of the entire system.

             The Delivering as One initiative will enable a more coherent, efficient and effective UN. The QCPR will enable its further development, so that member countries can take full advantage of lessons learned.

            UN agencies must learn to appreciate the One UN model as an inclusive, participatory scheme under which each agency will maintain its identity, independence and comparative advantage. Commitment to One UN demands a rigorous and methodical change-management process on the part of UN agencies, reducing gaps and overlaps, harmonizing business practices, and decentralizing decision-making at the country level.

            UNFPA is committed to this process. On Friday I will attend the DaO Conference in Tirana. Both my deputies are leading UNDG efforts on simplification of programming and business processes, as well as solving some of the challenges related to measuring results and horizontal accountability.


           This session marks our third formal meeting. I stress the word “formal” because we have held no fewer than 10 informal consultations, as well as numerous bilaterals and group discussions over the 18 months since I became Executive Director. From what I hear, you have welcomed these small group discussions. When I first addressed you, I promised openness and transparency in my administration. These consultations are one way of making good on my promise.

           But today is the occasion for a synoptic view of the Fund and its work in 2011. UNFPA is a stronger, healthier organization than it was 18 months ago. I am pleased to say that the exit meeting with our external auditors gave clear signals that UNFPA will have a clean audit report for the 2010-2011 biennium. Of course you are entitled to a clean audit, and we will exert all our efforts to ensure that you will have it in future on an annual basis. I have set up an audit monitoring committee to ensure a prompt and proactive institutional response to audit observations and recommendations. I am also happy to be able to report that we are compliant with the IPSAS, thanks to the efforts of UNFPA management services team to orient, train and guide all our offices.

        As I have mentioned to you in my previous reports to the Board, I have put in place an internal business plan that responds to the midterm review of the strategic plan, and also addresses audit findings and recommendations. As many of you have been engaged in the review, you are well aware that the revised strategic plan has refined our development results framework and management action areas according to clearly defined priorities which are described in greater detail in the Annual Report.

       To give you a sense of how we are transforming UNFPA’s management and operations, let me now briefly discuss how we are implementing the plan.

Our first priority is to:

• Focus programmes in countries so these programmes yield greater results, make the most of donor resources and avoid duplication of efforts by other United Nations organizations.

• Country programmes developed since the adoption of the revised strategic plan show clearly that UNFPA is concentrating its resources where it can be most effective. We are no longer trying to do everything, everywhere. The latest country programme documents (CPDs) have at most four or five outcomes, and a large number is focused tightly on three outcome areas. This is a major shift in the use of UNFPA’s resources. We hope to do even better as time goes on.

Second, we have

• Placed greater emphasis on country programmes and the work of regional offices.

• I have put in place a revitalized Programme Review Committee that provides quality assurance to the country programme development process. As a result, we have seen a considerable improvement in the quality of country programme documents, with 90% of CPDs meeting the standards set under the development results framework. Without the PRC we would have been about the 50% baseline of June 2011. Between January and June this year, five CPDs have moved from “unsatisfactory” to “satisfactory”. I would like to commend the UNFPA team – field offices, regional offices and headquarters – for delivering on this corporate priority.

• We have put in place a light and robust framework for results-based management that will ease countries’ burden of reporting, illustrate programme strengths and weaknesses, and permit prompt and effective responses. It will make UNFPA more readily accountable to our partners, and enable us to document our achievements.

Third, we are working to:

• Improve communications within the organization and with external stakeholders.
One of the least visible but most important changes that we have begun in UNFPA is in our corporate culture. It is a truism that we live in an information society. At its simplest level, that means that we talk to one another. At times, we have not taken enough notice of the need to talk to the outside world.

We have begun to change that. We have put in place a corporate communications strategy to make sure that each UNFPA staff member knows who we are and what we do; and that we are better known beyond our borders. We have developed a master narrative that describes our work, how we do it, and why.

The Fund will speak with one voice, in New York, in the regional offices, and in our partner countries.

Our new culture encourages and rewards communication. I have told everyone in UNFPA that he or she is an ambassador for the Fund. Each one of us is not only empowered but also enjoined to speak on behalf of UNFPA. And communicating within UNFPA is as important as talking to the outside world. We will be better able to communicate UNFPA’s message to our partners.

The fourth item on our business plan is to:

• Invest in staff training and performance management. In all areas, we are training and evaluating our staff more rigorously, to empower them, strengthen their skills and increase their accountability, rewards innovation and results and appropriately addresses poor performance. We are actively seeking young talent to bring new ideas to the organization.

• We are also reviewing the implementation of our performance appraisal and development system.

Fifth, we are acting to:

• Streamline budgeting and reporting. New financial rules and regulations; tighter oversight on our programme implementation and operations, and enhancements embedded in the strategic plan and the business plan are helping address these action areas.

• There is also an ongoing discussion in our executive committee on what can be done to make these management tools simpler and stronger, as regards not only UNFPA’s processes but our interactions with other parts of the UN system. Further simplification would benefit both programme countries and donors, as well as UNFPA and our sister agencies.

Our sixth priority is to:

• Foster collaboration within UNFPA headquarters divisions and with regional and country offices.

• I have established an interdivisional group to ensure coherent field support to our offices. I have set up operational clusters in two areas: women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and young people. The clusters bring together all the different specialists, with the common purpose of improving the Fund's ability to respond to country needs. This single initiative will do much to break down the self-contained silos that tend to grow up around staff members and their units, and to make UNFPA a coherent whole with a common purpose.

• We are putting in place an organizational culture that takes individual staff and their units out of their silos.

The final item in the business plan is to:

• Increase accountability, especially among senior management. My senior colleagues will tell you that I am constantly challenging them to hold themselves accountable for the success of the strategic plan and business plan, and to demonstrate results. Towards the end of this week, the entire Executive Committee will undergo a leadership and capacity-building programme in collaboration with Cranfield University. Similar programmes for managers have also started in the Asia and the Pacific and the Latin America regions.

           The new business plan amounts to a transformation in UNFPA’s way of doing business. There are inevitably some cost implications. But a great deal can be done with no cost. For example, as part of our communications strategy we are recruiting a network of communication champions within the Fund; we are encouraging supervisors to become role models for communication; we are emailing or retailing in person the decisions of the executive committee; most important, we are acting less like repositories of information than communicators of information. My message to all of our staff is that information is useless unless we share it and use it.

             Let me now turn to other areas of critical importance to our operations.


         In the area of humanitarian response, we have developed a second-generation strategy based on lessons learned from the first iteration. UNFPA has put in place a fast-track procedure, in addition to an emergency procurement system, to ensure swift delivery of life-saving measures in emergency situations. This new strategy is quite innovative and completely aligned with the IASC transformative agenda. UNFPA in fact launched key reforms in this area before the IASC transformative agenda, to make our response more strategic, and more scalable. The new strategy is also moving the mainstreaming agenda and puts emphasis on preparedness, gender-based violence and data in emergency. Funding remains a challenge, especially given the increased number of emergencies and the relatively slower growth of dedicated resources. Nevertheless, UNFPA provided humanitarian services in 15 countries last year, and increased its humanitarian response capacity by training 872 staff and representatives of partner organizations.

             I saw the UN system at work in an emergency when I visited Cayagan de Oro in the Republic of the Philippines. The area was hard hit by a typhoon last year, and the international community came together quickly to respond. I was impressed at the way UNFPA was leading the response, in very close collaboration with OCHA, WFP, UNICEF, WHO, UNHCR, IOM, among others, as well as with national and local authorities and civil society groups to be able to help some 15,700 women, nearly 2,000 of whom were pregnant or lactating, with services like pre- and post-natal care, dignity kits, safe spaces, and counselling on gender-based violence.

             I was most impressed by the way international organizations including UNFPA collaborated with government, NGOs and the Church to meet women’s varied sexual and reproductive health needs. They established clusters and sub-clusters in the different operational areas, through which each organization worked to its strengths and kept in touch with the bigger picture. I hope each of us in UNFPA can bring the same sense of urgency and comradeship to our work.


          The security situation continues to be volatile in many parts of the world bringing with it complex security challenges. A total of 34 security incidents have affected UNFPA personnel this year alone, including the death of a UNFPA staff member due to a criminal act in May 2012.

          Despite the complex security challenges, I am pleased to report that UNFPA is addressing security in a systematic and holistic manner. Mandatory security activities are now included in the Office Management Plan (OMP) for all Regional and Country Offices to improve individual and collective security accountability. These activities include the submission of personnel list on a bimonthly basis, the review of security accountability policy and implementation of security measures and allocation of resources. We have made significant progress in the implementation of Minimum Operating Security Standards (MOSS), with majority of our offices fully compliant with the mandatory requirements.

        UNFPA is committed to maintain security and safety of our personnel and dependents as our highest priority to fulfil our mandate. Without them, we cannot deliver on our mandate and provide support to the people we serve.


     UNFPA welcomes the 2012 Biennial report on evaluation by the Director of the Division for Oversight Services. We are pleased at the improvement in coverage of decentralized evaluation from 35% in 2010 to 100% in 2011 among countries with programmes ending in 2011, and recognize the many efforts to improve capacity in this area. We also note the challenges that remain, including better utilization of evaluation results; the need for more national capacity to deal with evaluation issues, and weaknesses in our results-oriented monitoring system.

      UNFPA has improved and strengthened results-based programming and monitoring in the last 18 months, including the development of country programme design assessment tools. As I mentioned earlier, the reinstated Programme Review Committee will help quality assurance.

        As many of you are aware, UNFPA has requested the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) for a review to determine the organizational relevance and adequacy of our evaluation policy. OIOS proposes as the first step to map UNFPA’s overall evaluation framework, illustrating the type, purpose, frequency, use and follow-up of all evaluations. UNFPA looks forward to the final report and will ensure that we keep you, our Board members, updated. I am optimistic that the OIOS report will enable UNFPA to address critical gaps in our current evaluation policy.


      UNFPA undertook a comprehensive review and update of its financial regulations and rules to ensure full greater compliance for IPSAS. Policies and procedures are now being reviewed to ensure that they are current and reflect best practices. We are updating the Programme Policy Manual to ensure that all offices are guided by the latest harmonized practices. We have made a comprehensive update of procurement procedures to ensure their robustness and applicability in a fast-changing business environment and for greater UN harmonization.

     We are also working on a new strategic plan, effective from 2014. UNFPA is working closely with UNICEF and UNDP to develop an integrated budget which will fully link with the strategic plan. In addition, we are jointly developing a revised methodology for indirect cost recovery. Board members are fully engaged in the process by providing regular guidance and feedback in these important areas.

       As I mentioned earlier, UNFPA expects to receive a clean audit opinion from the UN Board of Auditors. This is largely due to the turnaround in the areas of national execution (NEX) and associated areas of NEX audits and operating fund advances. While this is a welcome development, UNFPA has to remain vigilant that new guidelines, methods, procedures and policies are not compromised, and that situations which gave rise to the audit qualification will never recur. In this respect, I must thank every programme country for their support and guidance to country offices. UNFPA will work closely with implementing partners to address their needs as required.


           Since 1994, countries and communities have transformed the way they view and act on questions of population and development. They have saved the lives and protected the health of millions of women; and they have opened the way for millions of young women and men to make their marks in the world.

      These are not small achievements, and we should not underplay them. But equally, we should not underestimate the tasks and challenges that still face us. Last week UNFPA and the Alan Guttmacher Institute jointly published the third edition of Adding it Up, a review of the strengths and weaknesses of family planning worldwide.

         The report shows that more than 222 million women who wish to postpone or avoid pregnancy remain without access to modern means of contraception, only slightly less than in 2008. In the 69 poorest countries, with nearly three-quarters of the unmet need, the number of women without services has actually increased, from 153 to 162 million. Family planning programmes are falling behind demand. And despite their demonstrated health benefits and the cost effectiveness, funding for family planning is not rising but falling worldwide, both as a share of national expenditure and as a share of external assistance.

        This amounts to a crisis, both for development and for human rights. As part of UNFPA’s response, I can say that we will increase the share of UNFPA resources going to family planning, from 25 per cent now to 40 per cent in future. I can also say that the institutional changes I have put in place and reform commitments I have made are all directed to making certain that UNFPA delivers the highest possible quality of service to our partner countries, including the 69 with the greatest unmet need for family planning.

        I shall carry this message next month when I go to London with our partners to take an active part in the new international initiative on family planning which is the brainchild of the UK Government and Gates Foundation, and has the enthusiastic personal support of UK Secretary of State, Mr. Andrew Mitchell, and Ms. Melinda Gates. For this Summit, UNFPA has been asked by both UK/DFID and Gates Foundation to chair the stakeholders group, and we have mobilized our programme and donor countries, as well as civil society groups, to provide support for the Summit and beyond. We will bring to the table our track record in procurement and logistics, as well as our presence on the ground in all 69 countries with the greatest unmet need for family planning. We will also bring our understanding that contraception and family planning cannot be disconnected from the broader context of rights-based quality sexual and reproductive health services, attuned to individual needs.

        I am confident that this will mean a substantial uptick in private resources going towards reproductive health and reproductive rights. I hope it will spur more attention to the 69 countries with the greatest unmet need as well as in UNFPA-supported programmes in other countries.

        But I hope it will mean more than that. I hope it will be the start of a renewed global effort and commitment, not only towards improved sexual and reproductive health generally, but towards development in its fullest sense, including women’s empowerment and gender equality.

        This is also the reason why I believe the two clusters we have started to operationalize in UNFPA – one on women’s and reproductive health, including family planning, and the other cluster on adolescents and youth – are helping us focus our energies and resources where we can make the biggest contribution and added value. On the latter issue of youth, I must reiterate my sincere gratitude to all of you for your excellent support to the recently concluded Commission on Population and Development which resulted in a historic outcome document that recognizes strongly the rights of adolescents and youth, including to sexual and reproductive health. I am also very confident in saying that all these efforts are all linked to the Secretary General’s initiatives, mainly the Every Woman and Every Child, and his five-year development agenda which focuses greatly on young people.


         Before I close, I have to place on record my gratitude for your continuing support. We are of course constantly aware of the pressures and demands on Member States’ resources for international development. But I am concerned about trends in UNFPA’s financing patterns, towards more co-financing and fewer multi-year contributions to regular resources. We appreciate co-financing; but only a sufficient and consistent flow of regular resources will allow us to meet countries’ long-term needs, give us confidence in planning, and ensure accountability. Only 15 donors supply nearly all of UNFPA’s regular resources. We are working hard to widen our support, including from emerging donors and the private sector, both to increase burden-sharing among donors and reduce programme countries’ vulnerability. I am pleased to say that I have undertaken resource mobilization efforts to several of our major traditional donors and in addition have gone to visit emerging donors like South Korea, South Africa, China, India, Brazil and Turkey, and I am grateful for the support you have so kindly expressed and demonstrated.

        So far, UNFPA has been able to maintain a relatively healthy ratio of regular resources to earmarked resources, 51:49 percent in 2011. We thank our supporters who believe in predictability and continuity, and urge others to do the same. In 2011, UNFPA revenue for regular and co-financing resources was $932.7 million, an increase of 7.6 per cent over 2010. The breakdown of the total revenue is $484.0 million in regular resources (inclusive of interest and other revenue) and $448.7 million in co-financing resources (inclusive of interest and other revenue).

        We have also developed a private sector strategy that would enable us to further reach out to new prospective partners, expand our donor base and support more innovative programmes, as we showed last year when we launched successfully the 7 Billion Campaign initiative with the great support of new partners, including from the private sector, and social media companies.


        It goes without saying that we work in a volatile and complex international environment. Internally, whole societies are undergoing tectonic changes. The ground beneath their feet is shifting, shaking the foundations of their political, economic and social structures. The places where the immediate stresses are greatest are the places where our mandate is of gravest and most immediate relevance, where operational conditions are at their most challenging, where our staff is thinly stretched, and where even their personal security may be under threat.

     We are also aware of longer-term forces at work, including the rapid growth of cities, and growing demand for food, energy and basic resources, the most important of which is water. But whether the challenges are the result of typhoons or political upheaval, urbanization or rural decay, UNFPA is there: relevant, responsive, effective.

       I am personally committed, as I have been for a long time, to maintaining and improving both UNFPA’s response in an emergency and its leadership in the longer term.

      I also wish to reiterate UNFPA’s and my own commitment to institutional and personal ethics as the cornerstone of accountability. To be accountable as an organization, we have to be first accountable as individuals. The activities of the Ethics Office are a part of the management development framework of our strategic plan and an integral part of the business plan.

     All UNFPA staff have a personal responsibility for ethical behaviour in conformity with staff regulations and rules and the standards of conduct of the international civil service. Managers and supervisors, and my executive team in particular, have an additional responsibility – to demonstrate ethical leadership. We need to lead by example and be seen to take action when allegations of unethical behaviour are brought to our attention. UNFPA practices zero tolerance of unethical conduct, of whatever kind. Transgressions will be addressed without regard to rank or position.

     As the leader of UNFPA for the last 18 months, I can assure you that all my colleagues share my commitment. I also offer you my assurance that we at UNFPA will be as open and transparent in all our dealings with you, our friends, as we have been since I took office.

       I ask of you that you hold me and my staff accountable for these assurances. We will need all your support, and a considerable amount of patience on your part – but we will succeed. I look forward to our continued conversation and engagement, so together we can build the world that we aspire for.

Thank you.