Statement

12 June 2007

Statement at the 2007 Annual Session of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA

Message of Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director, UNFPA

Mr. President,
Distinguished Members of the Executive Board,

Colleagues and Friends,

It is always a pleasure to address you as members of the Executive Board. My colleagues and I look forward to our discussions.

We have a busy session ahead of us. But before I go into further details, I would like to update you on some new developments.

First of all, I would like to extend a warm welcome to our new Deputy Executive Director for Programme, Ms. Purnima Mane. She joined us a few weeks ago and we are very pleased to have her on board.

Ms. Mane has devoted her career to advocating for population and development issues and the right to sexual and reproductive health. She pioneered work on gender and AIDS, long before feminization of HIV/AIDS became apparent. She brings to the organization a broad range of experience from UNAIDS; the Population Council; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and her home country of India. UNFPA and our partners will benefit substantially from her leadership and guidance.

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to Ms. Marcela Suazo, the new Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Division. Prior to joining UNFPA, Marcela served as Secretary of State of the National Institute of Women’s Affairs in Honduras.

Throughout her administration, she resolutely defended and implemented international agreements, including the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development. Marcela comes to UNFPA with an academic background in education, and skills in advocacy, policy dialogue, partnerships and management. We are pleased to have Marcela as part of our senior management team.

Please join me in welcoming our new colleagues and extending our support.

Mr. President,
Distinguished Delegates,

As I always say, UNFPA is focused on the field and results. But most importantly, we are focused on people, particularly women and youth, so they can live in freedom from fear and want. It is in countries and communities where the difference is made. This week offers an opportunity to further discuss how UNFPA can best support countries over the next four years.

Since we last met in January, we have made significant progress in further refining our new Strategic Plan for 2008 to 2011, and the supporting Global and Regional Programmes, organizational structure and resource allocation system. We are also looking forward to your decision on the proposal for result-based budgeting. UNFPA has closely collaborated with United Nations partner agencies, especially UNDP and UNICEF, in developing these initiatives.

Many of you have been involved in these discussions and I would like to thank you for your invaluable insight and advice. Each time we met during the series of informal consultations, including those held most recently on 16 and 17 May, we went back to the documents to integrate your comments, refine the documents further and make them more and more ICPD focused.

I would also like to acknowledge the new report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACAB) on the UNFPA organizational structure. My colleagues and I appreciate the Committee’s support for the overall goal and strategy of UNFPA to strengthen support to countries. And we look forward to addressing the issues raised by the ACABQ, some of which are especially relevant to the biennial support budget for 2008 - 2009.

We will further discuss the Strategic Plan and related matters tomorrow morning so I will touch now on a few highlights.

The new Strategic Plan for 2008 to 2011 focuses on nationally owned and led development, national capacity development, South-South cooperation and strengthening partnerships. It provides the overall framework for UNFPA to focus on results towards the attainment of the recommendations of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Millennium Development Goals.

As in the previous cycle, UNFPA proposes to focus on three core areas, namely:

integrating population analysis into development planning, policymaking and programming; advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality; and working to ensure universal access to reproductive health.

The Strategic Plan is implemented through the Global and Regional Programmes, which in turn support country programming. The primary objective is to maximize UNFPA’s ability and optimize its limited human resources to provide integrated technical, programmatic and management support to countries to enhance their capacities to lead, manage, achieve and report on their national development priorities.

UNFPA is developing regional programmes for each region with specific outputs, all of which are aimed at facilitating new support systems for countries. The main strategies seek to do three things: 

  1. Strengthen regional inter-governmental institutions to integrate ICPD in their regional programmes, and expand and systemize networks of technical institutions and experts to provide ICPD-related technical assistance to countries;
  2. Enhance South-South cooperation within and among regions; and

  3. Utilize United Nations reform to maximize the resources available through the UN system, especially at the regional level, to build national capacity and improve coherence and consistency of technical assistance.

The Strategic Plan and Global and Regional Programmes build on lessons learned from the multi-year funding framework (MYFF) since 2004, other evaluations and the experiences of UNFPA country offices, Country Support Teams and headquarters units.

The MYFF review report, which is before the Board, shows significant progress in taking our strategic direction forward. Reproductive health, population dynamics and gender issues are increasingly included in national development frameworks such as sector-wide programmes, poverty reduction strategies, and MDG reports.

Programmes to prevent HIV infection, improve maternal health, and meet unmet need for family planning have increased access to sexual and reproductive health. There is also an increase in civil society involvement in policy making and programming.

However, the progress in implementation is uneven. A wide variation exists in national action with respect to the intensity of measures adopted, the scale and reach of interventions and the amount of resources allocated for ICPD goals.

The bottom line is that the progress made is substantial. But it is not at the scale and scope needed to reach our goals for 2015. Together with partners, we must do more.

Population, poverty and development

Many of the critical development issues affecting developing countries have clear intersections with population dynamics. Unplanned and not-managed urban growth, changing age structures, international migration, and rapid population growth all affect development.

Yet the MYFF review finds there is insufficient support to the incorporation of population dynamics, gender equality and HIV prevention into policy and expenditure frameworks.

To address this shortcoming, UNFPA will engage expertise on expenditure frameworks, costing and budgeting and strengthen national capacity for integrating population factors into national development processes. UNFPA will also enhance efforts to incorporate into programming such emerging population issues as migration and ageing.

While progress has been made in developing national sex-disaggregated population-related databases, more needs to be done to develop national capacity so that officials can use this information to meet the needs of the poor and marginalized populations.

UNFPA will continue to support countries in developing capacity for disaggregated data collection and utilization to plan, implement and monitor the achievement of development goals.

Humanitarian response, recovery and transition

And we will continue to play a key role in humanitarian response, recovery and transition. As the MYFF review highlights, UNFPA has become a key partner in humanitarian response, leading the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action, and working to mainstream gender, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and addressing sexual violence into planning and operations. But despite progress in establishing norms and standards and integrating them into the cluster arrangement of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, these issues are still not routinely addressed and the challenge is to ensure that they are fully integrated into emergency preparedness plans, humanitarian responses and recovery planning. UNFPA will continue to work within the IASC for humanitarian response, which brings together the UN system and the main NGOs and Red Cross movement to make greater progress.

Reproductive health

The target on universal access to reproductive health under MDG 5 to improve maternal health paves the way for further progress. While the MYFF review shows that access to reproductive health has expanded, progress has not been consistent, and constraints due to lack of funding, weak health systems, shortages of health workers and supplies, and limited allocations for implementation in national budgets remain critical concerns.

Progress has also been hampered by vertical disease specific approaches.

Today the two MDGs most closely related to sexual and reproductive health, to reduce maternal mortality and prevent HIV infection, show the least progress.

Thus, the focus for UNFPA and partners will continue to be accelerating progress and bringing reproductive health efforts to scale to reach poor and marginalized groups, who remain dramatically underserved.

Of particular concern are poor women, adolescents and young people.

The challenge is to ensure that increased resources are leveraged for reproductive health through global advocacy, policy dialogue and resource mobilization. The appropriate mix of evidence-based strategies must achieve sufficient national coverage, intensity, and duration to have a public health impact.

With progress lagging in improving maternal health, commitment and action must be intensified. Greater action is needed to meet unmet need for family planning, ensure skilled attendance at birth, provide emergency obstetric care and address unsafe abortion, in line with paragraph 8.25 of the ICPD Programme of Action.

UNFPA welcomes the Global Business Plan put forward by Norway and other nations to accelerate progress to achieve the intertwined MDGs 4 and 5 to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.

We continue to be an active partner in the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. And we are committed to strengthening action at the national level to reduce the needless death and suffering of women, newborn babies and children.

UNFPA, together with partners, is working to strengthen UN joint programming and country level coordination so that efforts to achieve MDGs 4 and 5 reinforce each other, develop national capacity and benefit more women and children.

I have invited the Director-General of WHO and the Executive Director of UNICEF to further discuss how jointly we can better support countries to deliver on MDGs 4 and 5, and we will be meeting shortly. Within UN Country Teams, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO have different comparative advantages and we must build on these to provide the comprehensive support needed by governments to scale up quality health services to reach people in need.

Momentum will be strengthened at the upcoming Women Deliver conference in London in October. The conference will focus on reducing maternal and newborn deaths around the world and bring together more than 2000 global leaders. UNFPA is very pleased to be a member of the core group along with UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank, five governments — Norway, Sweden, the UK, the Netherlands, and the United States—and four international non-governmental organizations, with Family Care International as the organizing partner, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Our theme is Invest in Women because it pays back many dividends. It is meant to put MDG 5 on the media screen so that it is not forgotten again!

Mr. President,

UNFPA is working to further integrate efforts for sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. We welcome the G8 Summit declaration issued last Friday. G8 leaders promised to take concrete steps to improve the link between HIV/AIDS activities and sexual and reproductive health and voluntary family planning programmes by adopting a multisectoral approach and by fostering community involvement and participation.

An effective response to HIV/AIDS requires far greater attention to HIV prevention. Today, AIDS treatment is outpacing prevention. For every person who receives anti-retroviral therapy, six people are newly infected.

UNFPA’s role as lead technical agency within UNAIDS for HIV prevention among women, HIV prevention for young people outside schools and condom programming will continue to be central to UNFPA’s responsibility and accountability for the coming four years. To address the increasing feminization of the epidemic, UNFPA will continue to focus on HIV prevention in women and girls.

I am pleased to report that the independent review of UNAIDS co-sponsor follow-up to the Global Task Team recommendations found that UNFPA had successfully applied the GTT recommendations in strengthening country level capacity by adding more than 100 country and sub- regional staff, which have all been trained in the division of labour and support to countries in developing and implementing quality Global Fund grants. The posts were funded by the UNAIDS unified budget. More details about this will be discussed during the joint UNDP and UNFPA discussions on Thursday.

Mr. President,
Distinguished Delegates,

If we are to achieve universal access to reproductive health and the health-related Millennium Development Goals we must strengthen health systems and the workforces that staff them.

We must ensure that health systems can deliver, in support of comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services, a steady and reliable supply of condoms, contraceptives, drugs for safe motherhood and other reproductive health supplies.

I am pleased to report that we are making steady progress with the Global Programme to enchance reproductive health commodity security. The programme, which is designed to facilitate national leadership and ownership, develop national capacity and ensure a complete system of preparedness and implementation, is now in fast track.

Intensive work is underway in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Nicaragua. And other countries such as Ghana, Mongolia and Timor-Leste are preparing for focused support.

The Global Programme calls for $150 million per year for the next five years to provide focused and committed support in 15 selected countries and specific support in other low and middle-income countries. Today I call on governments to provide resources to this important initiative.

Women’s empowerment and gender equality

Central to the success of economic and social development is the empowerment and full participation of women and the promotion and protection of their human rights. Of critical importance is the right to sexual and reproductive health and to make decisions regarding reproduction free of violence, coercion and discrimination.

As the MYFF review report highlights, UNFPA has played an important role in increasing attention to gender-based violence, gender equality and women’s empowerment issues. UNFPA has actively promoted the adoption of policies and establishing mechanisms to monitor and reduce gender-based violence and promote gender equality.

UNFPA also continues to play an important role, along with United Nations partner agencies, in advocating and building national capacity for implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on women, war and peace.

Strengthening the role of civil society in promoting women’s empowerment and reproductive rights will continue to be a priority for UNFPA. When women and girls are empowered, communities are empowered to claim their rights.

UNFPA is working with UN partner agencies to make sure there is greater clarity about our respective comparative advantages and specific roles in the area of women’s empowerment and gender equality.

To further gender equality, human rights concerns must be mainstreamed into programming, with a focus on the most vulnerable groups. Of particular concern are indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and refugees and the internally displaced. We support communities to bring about the change from within. Therefore, a culturally sensitive approach uses the positive values and resources within a culture to more effectively promote human rights. And let me stress that a cultural sensitive approach does not imply turning a blind eye to abuses or imposing external solutions. Rather, it implies listening and facilitating change from within. I firmly believe that cultural knowledge, awareness and engagement of local communities are vital to aid effectiveness and to sustainability of change; it is about ownership at all levels.

Mr. President,
Distinguished Delegates,

UNFPA has been and continues to be firmly committed to South-South cooperation, which constitutes one of the pillars of the Strategic Plan and the Global and Regional programmes for the period 2008-2011.

UNFPA recognizes the wealth of expertise and knowledge across regions and especially in the South, but this capacity is not evenly spread across countries and among regions. South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation constitute an important approach for making the knowledge and experience gained by some countries more accessible to others.

It allows countries to establish a pool of technical knowledge and expertise to support and develop the capacity of national institutions to lead their development planning and implementation.

UNFPA welcomes the high-level UN conference on South-South cooperation to be held within the coming two years. And we will facilitate greater South-South and triangular cooperation in the years to come.

UN Reform

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

Allow me now to turn to the matter of United Nations reform. UNFPA is committed to reform that brings about improvements in the lives of people we are mandated to serve. We are committed to reform that accelerates the achievement of ICPD and Millennium Development Goals. We believe in reform that supports the Paris Declaration principles of national leadership and ownership, using national systems and human resources, promoting national capacity development, harmonization and mutual accountability.

All over the world, the key to success for UN Country Teams in working together is trust and professionalism. Fundamental changes in the way of working are required and there is a need for change management to ensure a new culture based on mutual respect and trust and on innovation is well established.

Right now, UN Country Teams are working very hard, in line with the recommendations of the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review, to make the eight One UN pilots a success and they deserve credit for this. We need to acknowledge that these pilots are very labour intensive, as the government and the UNCT try to develop a suitable response to meet country priorities.

UNFPA welcomes the invitation by UNDP to make suggestions on the firewall between UNDP and the Resident Coordinators. The success of the reform hinges in a significant way on getting this right. I salute my colleague, Kemal Dervis, as the Administrator of UNDP and Chair of UNDG, for his courage and commitment to find the right solution to this critical issue.

We are encouraged by the recent discussions in the General Assembly indicating that there should be no artificial deadlines for UN reform and UN system-wide coherence. It is better to take the time to do things right. This is particularly important in relation to evaluating the impact of the eight One UN pilots. Evaluation of the pilots within this first year can only be limited to indicators such as the nature of the process and the quality of the programme formulation and design.

Overall, there is a need to ensure the delivery of assured and predictable core funding. The increasing tendency to earmark and channel funds via new mechanisms poses further challenges to notions of harmonization.

There are also continuing challenges at the national level for all partners to be able to participate in these processes, including line ministries. And real tension exists between implementing current programmes and dedicating the time it takes to participate in the reform and pilot efforts. The processes are demanding in substance and also on the time and number of staff who require new competencies to perform the new functions. With UNFPA’s size, we are working to find solutions to provide the necessary support to the countries, including through reorganizing our support from the regional level.

Despite the challenges, UNFPA continues to play a central role at the national and global level. We continue to play a role in the greater reform of the UN coordination mechanisms, both in terms of moving the reform in the area of business practices forward through the High Level Committee on Management, which I chair, and also in exploring how to implement the Chief Executives Board decision to include UNDG under the CEB structure.

Above all, I would like to underscore the point that UN reform provides unprecedented opportunities to integrate ICPD recommendations on population, reproductive health and gender into national plans and UN system support to countries. But for this opportunity to be realized, UNFPA must increase its capacity to support countries and our own country offices better.

The proposals the Board is reviewing and approving this year in terms of country office strengthening, organizational structure, the Global and Regional Programmes, and the Strategic Plan respond to this challenge.

UNFPA financial situation

Mr. President,

Allow me now to turn to the important subject of resource mobilization. First, the good news. Based on pledges, indications and estimates, we have a good chance to achieve the $400 million benchmark set for core resources this year. It is very gratifying for me personally to see UNFPA situated so close to this benchmark and I call upon the assistance of the Board to help us achieve this goal.

Fundraising is a shared responsibility between the Executive Board and UNFPA, and I am very happy and grateful that the recent trend has been upward, thanks to your help. Not only has the number of countries that support UNFPA increased substantially over the past seven years, but there has also been an increase in the number of multi-year pledges received.

For example, out of the 125 pledges received for 2007, almost half of them are multi-year pledges. Another positive development is the increasing number of major donors contributing over $1 million to core resources.

For 2007, the number of major donors is 17 and Austria is the latest member of this club. I would like to thank our top ten donors in 2007: The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, United Kingdom, Japan, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Canada and Switzerland.

Furthermore, I must underline the importance of the consistency and steadfastness of our number one donor, the Netherlands. We just received the 2007 core contribution in the amount of $79 million. This contribution inspires us to focus on results and will hopefully serve as an example to be followed by other donors.

Mr. President, in spite of the good news, I need to put our income estimate of $400 million into historical perspective.

In 1999, UNFPA received $312 million for core resources. Since 1995, the reproductive health needs that UNFPA should address have increased very dramatically, whereas, in contrast, our financial resources have not.

UNFPA is heavily involved in upscaling HIV prevention and downscaling maternal mortality. We need resources to accomplish this and I would like to use this opportunity to ask Board Members and other Member States that had a higher core contribution amount in the past than today, to return to and surpass the former higher funding levels.

While recent years have seen greater commitments of official development assistance to programme countries, these commitments are still far short of what is needed. Funding for family planning has decreased dramatically over the past decade, in both the actual dollar amount and its proportion within overall population funding. This has contributed to maternal death and morbidity remaining virtually unchanged in many poor regions of the world.

The challenge is to ensure that the increased resources are leveraged for reproductive health services and supplies.

Accountability

Mr. President,

Accountability remains an organizational priority.

The report before the Board on UNFPA Internal Audit and Oversight Activities in 2006 details significant progress in the areas of accountability, assurance, risk management, internal controls, and fraud prevention. Many of these terms were neither mentioned nor debated two years ago. However, in a very short period of time, they have received increased attention from the management of the Fund; they have transformed the role of the oversight function; and will continue to shape the work of UNFPA in the years to come.

The MYFF review report and external assessment demonstrate the strong emphasis UNFPA has placed on accountability and managing for results, though more work is required in this area.

Over the past several years, UNFPA has put in place all the necessary tools and has strengthened staff learning and training. The introduction of Atlas provides for more systematic programme monitoring and better links with financial performance. The new Balanced Scorecard provides a major opportunity for results-based performance management. And the Performance Appraisal and Development system (PAD) implemented in 2004 has proven useful in holding managers and staff accountable for results.

The challenge now is to fully institutionalize managing for results and knowledge sharing in a systematic manner.

UNFPA is committed to national ownership and capacity development, including through national execution. In light of this, in 2006, UNFPA established a Task Team led at the Deputy Executive Director level to take the organization forward in accordance with the 2006 Executive Board guidance. Consequently, an action plan was developed and is being implemented.

But reporting on accountability alone is not sufficient. The reliability of UNFPA reports on performance and the Executive Board’s confidence in these reports are critical. To ensure reliability and confidence, we have developed a system of assurance over the past two years. The first level of assurance is provided by our internal audit, the second by our external auditors, and the third by our Audit Advisory Committee. The Audit Advisory Committee started working last October and is tabling its first report at this annual session. I would suggest that the Executive Board guide us on the modalities of reporting by the Audit Advisory Committee during this session so its role can be institutionalized. We are very serious about our accountability and we look forward for continuous guidance from our Board members.

Closing

In closing, I would like to stress that UNFPA is fully committed to supporting national capacity, systems and leadership. We are committed to staff development, partnerships and long-term efforts, which, stay on course, move step by step and build sustainable development results.

We know that this kind of work is not often visible. But it is how meaningful improvements and positive changes take place within families, communities and nations. And it is just the kind of work to which my colleagues and I are committed to ensure that every birth is wanted, every pregnancy is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect. Thank you.