2009 Annual Session UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board

27 Mai 2009
Author: UNFPA

Thank you, Ambassador Khazaee, for that kind introduction and for your leadership as President of the Executive Board. Good morning to you and to all members of the Bureau and the Board, distinguished delegates, colleagues and friends. I am happy to be with you again and I look forward to our discussions.

I want to salute a colleague and friend. On behalf of all of us in UNFPA, I would like to extend a warm welcome to Helen Clark, the new Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG).

Helen is dedicated to human development. She is just the right person to lead an organization during this time of deep change and renewal. My colleagues and I in UNFPA look forward to working with you, Helen, as you lead the UNDP and as you lead us in the UNDG.

I would like to thank Helen for committing UNDP to participating in promoting maternal health and ending violence against women within the context of UNDP Strategic Plan goals. We, at UNFPA, are delighted to hear the Administrator of UNDP highlighting these areas that had not been a priority until recently. And certainly, we will work with our colleagues in UNDP to ensure that they bring to the collective work on maternal health their special contribution.

And I would like to thank the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, for breaking the glass ceiling of UNDP and appointing a woman as Administrator. This post had been consistently occupied by distinguished men. Now, we have a distinguished woman to lead UNDP forward and we are thrilled to have the four funds and programmes led by women, who, I would humbly say, have proved their leadership in different ways.

Together, we are called to move forward as we face uncertain times and tremendous challenges. We are called to align our values, commitments and resources to build a sustainable future and reach common ground for action.

Today, more than ever before, our very survival requires greater cooperation and understanding among nations and among peoples. And no leader, or organization, or nation can meet these challenges alone. In our networked world, we have to work together. We strive to expand ways to complement each other utilizing our comparative advantage to contribute vigorously to human development, using our limited resources in a harmonized manner to reach the very extensive goals which you, Member States, have adopted to guide our support to your national efforts.

I believe that the major threats we face—whether it is poverty and poor health, food shortages, escalating conflicts, climate change or global recession—call on us to renew the spirit of international cooperation. To meet the challenges of the 21st century, we need a stronger spirit of service and solidarity based on our shared humanity, and a full understanding of global justice and mutual trust.

The multiple crises that we confront provide an opportunity to strengthen United Nations reform and to further harmonize the response by the United Nations system in support of national development. They also provide an opportunity to deepen and broaden support for international agreements and commitments. We have an opportunity to further strengthen the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and we have an opportunity to proactively support the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Fifteen years after its adoption, the Cairo agenda remains a guiding light to improve the well-being of current and future generations. I am always reminded how truly visionary, holistic and practical an agenda it is. It responds to the multicultural nature of our world and the diverse experiences of the lives of people.

In spite of various challenges, over the past 15 years much progress has been made.

The vast majority of countries have adopted national policies, laws and programmes to advance women’s health and rights, including reproductive health. Many countries have embraced the concept of reproductive health and are moving to reduce infant, child and maternal mortality and HIV infection, and protect health throughout the lifecycle. The majority of nations are using population data and analysis to inform their economic and social plans, policies and programmes.

But while a solid policy and legal foundation has been laid, the real challenge remains implementation. And in too many countries, mandates remain unfunded by both national budgets and international assistance and the gap is perceived by the people we serve.

When we see a 15-year old girl cast aside with fistula, or clinics and hospitals that lack the most rudimentary drugs and supplies staffed with a few dedicated health workers who do their best but lack the means to save lives—we must ask ourselves, why?

I have come to believe that the widespread discrimination and violence that persists against girls and women is not only a symptom but also a cause of the crises that confront us.

One way to support recovery and a sustainable future is to promote and protect the rights of all people, including half of the world’s population that continue to be degraded and devalued for no other reason than being born female.

Today, women represent 60 to 70 per cent of the world’s poor and they are suffering even more during this global recession. During the financial crisis, we must maintain the gains that have been made by continuing to invest in girls’ education and women’s rights, including the right to sexual and reproductive health.

We must make sure that stimulus packages invest in women and young people and expand access to health and social services. We must make sure that special measures are put in place to protect the most vulnerable. We must also invest in men and sensitizing men to the need to change gender constructs that are harmful to women and the fabric of society. Men are important partners in this process, and ‘male involvement’ is a must in a sound approach to correcting imbalances between the sexes in power and opportunities.

In this time of crisis, UNFPA is intensifying its pursuit of the effective and efficient use of resources and increased coherence among development partners. And we are placing special emphasis on the achievement of MDG5 to improve maternal health. Of all health indicators, maternal mortality shows the largest gap between rich and poor. Closing this gap will improve social justice and equity. It is a goal that together we must and can achieve.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

Since we last met in January, the United Nations Commission on Population and Development has completed its 42nd session. Everyone agreed that we will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger and improve health and education unless greater attention is paid to population dynamics, such as migration, ageing, urbanization and the largest youth generation in human history, and unless more progress is made to guarantee universal access to reproductive health by 2015.

It is important that these goals and principles continue to be taken forward through the active and committed support of Member States. It is important that population, gender equality and reproductive health are integrated in the outcomes of the upcoming ICPD at 15 regional meetings and the ECOSOC substantive session on global health.

Stocktaking of progress at ICPD at 15 shows that, while the resources mobilized have increased, the overall funding is significantly less than that required to meet current needs and costs, which have grown tremendously since the targets were agreed upon in 1994.

While we remain concerned about the continuous gap in funding for ICPD, I am pleased to report that last year, UNFPA exceeded the resource mobilization targets in the strategic plan. The total income to UNFPA in 2008 was $845 million, up from $752 million the year before.

Since we will hear more about funding commitments this afternoon, I would just like to express the hope that funding levels will continue to remain strong during this financial crisis. We at UNFPA are a little anxious, but still hopeful, that funding levels in 2010 will get near, if not match, amounts contributed this year and surpass the targets in our strategic plan.

I would like to thank members of the Board and all donors, regardless of the size of your contributions, for your continuing strong support for UNFPA and your dedication to the ICPD agenda. Investing in reproductive health and rights and gender equality and in using population data for development is a good way to untangle and tackle the root causes of poverty.

We know that poverty is not just about a lack of income anymore and we know the expansive and multi-dimensional nature of human poverty. It is also about the lack of choices and opportunities that millions of our fellow human beings face, and the lack of hope for a better future. It is about global justice as well as fair governance.

In response, UNFPA is committed to working with partners like you to make greater progress in our three priority areas:

  • First, in using population data and analyses to guide increased investments in human development so as to contribute to poverty reduction;
  • Second, in guaranteeing universal access to reproductive health and HIV prevention; and
  • Third, in advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls so they can exercise their reproductive rights, and live free of discrimination and violence.

Mr. President,

I would now like to highlight some of the progress that was made last year. I would like to introduce my report for 2008 on Progress in Implementing the Strategic Plan (DP/FPA/2009/2 (Part I), the Statistical and Financial Review, 2008 (DP/FPA/2009/2 (Part I, Add.1), and the Report of the Joint Inspection Unit (DP/FPA/2009/2 (Part II).

I am pleased to report that more national development plans now feature population dynamics, reproductive health and gender equality. This progress was possible due to the leadership of governments and the full participation of civil society.

We are making progress in supporting countries in the 2010 census round, in facilitating South-South and North-South cooperation and building national capacity. We are helping to leverage financial and technical assistance. To give you just one example, the lusophone countries of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau were able to benefit in preparing their censuses from the technical expertise of Brazil.

Last year, censuses were completed in places as complex and complicated as the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Sudan and preparations for census is underway in Iraq with technical assistance from Egypt. In 2008, Liberia completed its first national census in 24 years.

National databases are also improving, with data that is increasingly disaggregated by sex, income and age, so officials can target investments to reduce human poverty in all its dimensions.

Today, poverty is increasing and more than 200 million women have an unmet need for safe and effective family planning. While the use of contraceptives has been rising in some countries such as Angola, Benin, Burundi, Chad and Liberia, little or no change has been reported from others. In response, UNFPA is working with partners to reenergize and reposition voluntary family planning within the context of women’s reproductive health and decreasing maternal mortality.

To make greater progress, we remain committed to reproductive health commodity security. Our multidimensional work in this area underpins efforts to advance women’s empowerment, improve maternal health, prevent HIV infection and strengthen health systems. Our goal is to catalyse national action to prioritize reproductive health commodities in national health policies, programmes and budgets. Since 2007, when the global programme was launched, there has been visible and substantial progress.

In Burkina Faso, Nicaragua and other countries, governments are strengthening national systems and increasing their funding for contraceptives and other commodities to meet the needs of people. Overall, we are witnessing rising support for reproductive and maternal health and I thank all of you as Board members for your strong commitment, dedication and leadership.

Momentum is building. At the World Health Assembly in Geneva last week, the Secretary-General made an impassioned appeal for women’s health, calling maternal health the mother of all health challenges and urging all countries to make maternal health the priority it must be. In every region, strong advocacy and leadership is building to improve maternal health and achieve MDG5. Now, we need to capitalize on this momentum to work proactively together to achieve MDG5. Every step we take counts!

UNFPA is committed to making greater progress to improve the health of the world’s mothers and women. We are working with a wide range of partners, and there is good cooperation between UNFPA, UNICEF, the World Bank and the World Health Organization in countries, including work targeted at maternal health as well as adolescents and young people.

There is rising awareness that improving maternal health is vital to achieving other international development goals and is a key barometer of how a health system is functioning and how human security is achieved.

I do believe that forces are aligning to ensure that no woman dies giving life.

When I visited Tanzania earlier this year, I saw the government fully committed to reducing the death of women, mothers and children. And I know that Tanzania is joined by many other governments in Africa and South Asia, where rates of maternal mortality remain high.

Ministers of Health of Africa recently held a meeting convened by the African Union and agreed on three key areas of action for United Nations and development partners to help reduce maternal death and injury:

  • First, we need to harmonize and make available credible data;
  • Second, fully support national capacity development, especially in the health sector; and
  • Third, develop best practices to guide policies and programmes to improve maternal health.

They also called for continued support from United Nations agencies, especially, WHO, UNICEF AND UNFPA.

We commend the African leaders’ commitment to intensified efforts to reduce maternal death and injuries.

As I speak, progress is also being made in countries as diverse as Laos, Bolivia and Ethiopia to place health-care workers, including midwives, in communities to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted and every birth safe. I am pleased to report that partnerships are generating increased attention to sexual and reproductive health, including voluntary family planning, which on its own could reduce maternal mortality by 25 to 40 per cent.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

Let me now turn to UNFPA’s work in HIV prevention.

I am pleased to report that the scope, intensity and quality of UNFPA’s contribution to HIV prevention have undergone a significant positive shift in the past three years. Our enhanced contribution to HIV prevention spans the range of programme areas within our core mandate, notably sexual and reproductive health and condom programming. Our contribution focuses on services for young people, women and girls, and vulnerable populations.

We are increasingly investing in innovative approaches and technical and institutional support that harness our comparative advantage and add value to overall prevention efforts, namely strategic information, policy dialogue and development, partnerships and resource mobilization.

UNFPA is progressively exercising stronger leadership on HIV prevention and is doing so as part of a focussed joint United Nations effort. We are working with partners to integrate interventions for sexual and reproductive health and HIV and AIDS and, here, our collaboration with global health partnerships is generating results.

In Botswana and Malawi, there has been real progress in reaching HIV-positive pregnant women with treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission. But for most health systems, scaling up integrated services still remains a daunting challenge. In response, UNFPA conducted training last year in 66 countries to build capacity on linking sexual and reproductive health and HIV.

We salute the leadership of Peter Piot, the former Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), in making HIV and AIDS part of the political agenda of countries, as articulated in the special sessions of the General Assembly. And we welcome Executive Director Michel Sidibe, who is committed to universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and with whom we have an outstanding relationship.

Mr. President,

Given today’s crises, we are also moving forward to strengthen effective humanitarian response, transition and recovery.

Last year registered rising use of the minimum initial service package for reproductive health in crisis situations, an increase in emergency preparedness plans that incorporate young people’s sexual and reproductive health needs, and an increase in the number of countries enforcing policies and laws in line with United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.

I am also pleased to report that progress is being made to reduce the prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting. UNFPA has been collaborating with UNICEF on reducing FGM/C in 17 high prevalence countries. And a decrease in prevalence has been reported in Ethiopia and Mali. But prevalence still remains high and we will continue to work with partners to promote lasting change in communities.

We are also working with partners to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

As the co-chair of the inter-agency task force on violence against women, UNFPA is proud of our work to support increased national dialogue in 10 pilot countries. We know that breaking the silence is the first step to ending violence against women. The next steps are national policies, laws and action plans and their full implementation.

Last year, with UNFPA support, national policies to end violence against women were initiated in Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Manuals and guidelines to foster an effective health response were developed in countries as diverse as Albania, Botswana, China, Rwanda and Uganda. Training was provided to service providers in Côte d’Ivoire, Mongolia, Nepal, South Africa and Zambia. And a new model of integrated care for survivors of gender-based violence was implemented in 26 centres in Honduras.

My friends, this is real and tangible progress. But, as we all know, the violence to which women and girls are subjected remains one of the most widespread and unpunished human rights violations in the world. Together, we must mount a response that is commensurate to the scale and scope of the problem. I call on everyone to do more in line with the Secretary-General’s global campaign, UNITE to End Violence against Women.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

UNFPA continues to move forward guided by our powerful mission and Strategic Plan for 2008 through 2011.

At this point, I would like to request your support as Board members for a two-year extension, through 2013, of the UNFPA Strategic Plan, including the integrated resource framework and the global and regional programme. This would allow us to align our planning cycle with the quadrennial comprehensive policy review as requested by the General Assembly.

During the first year of the Strategic Plan implementation, we have worked hard to report on the progress made towards the indicators in the results framework. The availability of programme baseline data improved in 2008 and there was 100 per cent compliance in reporting. Now, we will focus on improving the quality and analysis of reports and sharpening the focus on development results, while also rationalizing the reporting load.

We are approaching this as part of national capacity development and efforts to improve the capacity of our own staff on results-based reporting. Shortly, we will be undertaking a lessons learned exercise within UNFPA that will take a hard look at the structure, process and substance of reports. Work is also ongoing with our partner United Nations organizations and the UNDG on further simplifying and harmonizing reporting requirements.

In response to a changing environment with increased exposure to risks, we continue to strengthen systems for results, oversight and accountability.

As many of you heard during the informal meeting, we are taking a phased approach to the roll-out of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) in line with other United Nations agencies. These new standards, to which we are committed, will change the way we record income and expenses and will improve standardization, transparency and accountability across the United Nations system. Our goal is to have UNFPA financial statements fully IPSAS-compliant by 31 December 2012.

To improve results-based management, we are strengthening evaluation. Together, we will discuss our evaluation policy this afternoon. Last year, we established new positions in regions for monitoring and evaluation, and country offices strengthened capacity. To solidify efforts, we are developing a comprehensive training this year on results-based management for UNFPA staff at the global, regional and country levels.

The combination of a new structure and an increasingly complex and volatile environment requires internal adjustments to address existing challenges and prevent greater vulnerability, and we are moving in that direction.

UNFPA will continue to focus on change management and business continuity inside the organization with even stronger management of results and risks, which includes strong internal controls and enterprise risk management in line with best standards. We are also strengthening human resources management, including succession planning in an organization ready to adjust itself to constant change and growth in the external environment in which it functions.

We will hear more about UNFPA progress and challenges tomorrow morning during the joint session when we take up the report on UNFPA Internal Audit and Oversight, including the report by the Audit Advisory Committee and the management response.

Recognizing that accountability involves integrity and ethical behaviour, UNFPA, like other organizations, established an Ethics Office, in January 2008. In this regard, I wish to make specific reference to the financial disclosure programme, which aims to preserve and protect the integrity of the organization and the staff who are required to submit disclosures, thereby maintaining and enhancing public trust in UNFPA. In 2008, the Ethics Office concluded two rounds of financial disclosures in respect of the 2006 and 2007 calendar years and I am pleased to report 100 per cent compliance.

UNFPA is committed to ensuring that staff members, irrespective of rank, treat each other with respect, work in environments free of any type of harassment or abuse of authority, observe the highest standards of integrity, and adopt sound and ethical business practices.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

As you know, UNFPA is going through a major change to respond to the changing environment. At this time last year, when we met in Geneva, we were in the midst of reorganization with the job matching exercise and job fair, screening thousands of applications and establishing systems and procedures to support stronger results and a field focus.

Today, the regional offices in Johannesburg, Bangkok and Panama City are functioning and those for Bratislava and Cairo are operating from New York while premises are being secured.

During the past few months, I have attended the full planning meetings in all five regions to focus on the consolidation of our new structure and the results we strive to achieve. It was a wonderful experience to meet with many colleagues from the country offices and get face-to-face articulations of their field perspectives on progress achieved and the challenges that we have in expanding and deepening ownership of the ICPD Programme of Action.

It was a great opportunity to agree on each region’s perspective for integrating programme and technical assistance as approved by the Executive Board, building networks of regional institutions, and facilitating harmonized business practices within One UN.

All in all, we were able to sharpen our vision of UNFPA as an organization committed to strengthening national capacity, expanding strategic partnerships, building a bridge between civil society and government, constantly learning and sharing knowledge, fully supporting UN reform and being a broker for nationally owned and led development.

I am pleased to report that we are on track and moving forward in spite of the heavy workload that drowned each and every member of UNFPA staff. In all regional meetings, we heard a common request. Together, we need to reduce transaction costs and improve effectiveness and accountability in order to have a greater impact at the country level. We also need to ensure less fragmentation in funding for development at all levels.

Together, we are working on simplifying requirements that are cumbersome and do not add value, and we are focusing on delivering results and scaling up programmes that allow people to own their development and bring about changes that will benefit them.

And we continue to network to increase understanding and support for the ICPD agenda. I invite you to join the new online ‘Conversations for a Better World’.

Mr. President,

As we look ahead and face the global recession, we know that hard-won gains are fragile and slipping away. Now more than ever before, stronger commitment and leadership is required to prioritize the dignity and well-being of people. As we face the financial crisis, let us devote our full energy to filling the fault lines with measures to protect those who are poor and vulnerable.

No woman should have to choose between sending her daughter to school or keeping her at home to take care of the household. No man should have to watch his wife die during childbirth because he lost his job and cannot afford to pay for transport to the hospital. No young woman should have to sell her body just so she can clothe and feed her children. And no family should have to break apart and then suffer again because the money they received from relatives working overseas is no longer forthcoming.

Together, we must do more to work with the governments to establish a social floor below which no one should live, and to strengthen longer-term social safety nets to protect people from falling through the cracks.

In closing, I thank all of my colleagues in UNFPA for their hard work and commitment. We are united by a common mission to reduce poverty in all its forms, to make sure that every pregnancy is wanted and every birth is safe, that every young person can remain HIV free and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

Today, 15 years after it was adopted by consensus, the ICPD Programme of Action remains more relevant than ever before because it is the agenda of women and men, old and young, migrants, refugees and the displaced. It is the agenda of every person in any community on this globe. If carried forward, its recommendations will foster sustainable development and contribute to the prevention of severe crises in the years ahead.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of you, as Board members, for your continuing support to UNFPA and the visionary ICPD agenda.

Thank you.

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