UNFPA in the UN System

UNFPA is a subsidiary organ of the United Nations General Assembly. It plays a unique role within the United Nations system: to address population and development issues, with an emphasis on reproductive health and gender equality, within the context of the ICPD Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals.

UNFPA receives overall policy guidance from the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It reports to its governing body, the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board, on administrative, financial and programme matters.

The Fund works in close collaboration with many other development and humanitarian agencies (particularly WHO, UNICEF, UNDP and UNAIDS) in the field.

Intergovernmental and interagency processes

In order to be an effective development partner, UNFPA needs to stay informed about challenges countries face in improving the lives of their people as well as United Nations responses. To accomplish this, the Fund contributes to the debates of some 150 agenda items of the General Assembly, participates in the functional and regional intergovernmental commissions of ECOSOC, and works closely with other entities, such as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Human Rights Council.

It also provides technical inputs to the General Assembly as it formulates polices related to the UNFPA mandate.

UNFPA is one of four founding members of the UN Development Group (UNDG), which was created by the Secretary General in 1997 to improve coherence of UN development at the country level.

UNFPA also participates in interagency collaboration and processes. For instance, it is a member the UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), which brings together the executive heads of all UN organizations to enhance coordination and cooperation on substantive and management issues facing the UN system. In 2007 UNDG was placed under the umbrella of the CEB.

The Fund is not supported by the UN regular budget, but by voluntary contributions of some 180 governments. It also receives contributions from private sector groups. foundations and individuals.

UNFPA and UN reform

A number of reform packages have been approved by the General Assembly. The most recent one, approved after the 2005 World Summit, aims to achieve greater coherence and efficacy at the country level. UNFPA is fully on board with this goal, and is committed to a more effective, efficient and relevant United Nations that ‘delivers as one’.

As part of the reform, UNFPA and its sister agencies in the field (which together comprise the UN Country Teams) are instructed collaborate on programmes and their implementation. The collaboration starts with preparation of a Common Country Assessments (CCA), designed to pinpoint critical concerns and challenges facing programme countries. The CCA, in turn, serves as a stepping stone towards a common UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), which seeks to harmonize the programme cycles and activities of relevant UN agencies and maximize their effectiveness by focusing on the comparative advantages of each.

Another aspect of UNFPA’s active participation in UN Reform is its participation in “Delivering as One” pilot initiatives currently underway in eight countries. In these countries, key UN agencies work together on a single unified programme as Country Teams, under unified leadership. They are experimenting with joint offices and fundraising and management initiatives.  

Milestones in the history of UNFPA

When the UN Fund for Population Activities was introduced as a trust fund on 11 July 1967 (it actually began operations in 1969), its administration was entrusted to UNDP.  

In 1971, the General Assembly acknowledged that UNFPA should play a leading role within the UN system in promoting population programmes.

In 1972, in recognition of the growth in its resources and scope of operations, UNFPA was placed under the General Assembly's authority and the UNDP Governing Council was named as its governing body, subject to ECOSOC's overall policy guidance.

In 1979, the General Assembly affirmed that UNFPA was one of its subsidiary organs.  In 1980, it became part of the executive coordinating body, now called Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB).

In 1987, the name of UNFPA was changed to the United Nations Population Fund, but its official abbreviation, UNFPA, remained the same.

In 1993, the General Assembly transformed the governing councils of UNICEF and UNDP/UNFPA into executive boards, subject to the authority of ECOSOC. ECOSOC provides policy guidance and ensures that the policies of the General Assembly are implemented.

After the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994, the Secretary-General designated UNFPA as the lead United Nations organization for the follow-up and implementation of the conference's Programme of Action.

In 1996, UNFPA became a founding co-sponsor of UNAIDS, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS.

In accordance with a General Assembly decision in December 2003, the United Nations Secretary-General delegated formal authority regarding UNFPA personnel matters to the UNFPA Executive Director.