UNFPA: The Way Forward

06 Jun 2011

(Check against delivery)

Madam President,
Distinguished Delegates,
Colleagues and Friends,

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Africa with the United Nations Secretary-General to see on the ground what countries are doing to keep their commitments to improve the health of every woman and every child.

We traveled to my home country of Nigeria and also to Ethiopia on a tour for the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.

I came back inspired to do more to achieve universal access to reproductive health, including, and most importantly, family planning.

Since we last met, I also visited Istanbul to participate in the Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries. I stressed that countries need to address population dynamics and invest in young people, gender equality and reproductive health to accelerate economic and social development.

In Istanbul I was happy to join the Turkish Foreign Minister for the official opening of the UNFPA regional office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

In Istanbul, I met with government representatives from the region and UNFPA staff and listened to their specific concerns about population dynamics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

I have met with other regional groups, including representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean. I have listened and learned about the population issues facing different and diverse countries and regions.

Under my leadership, UNFPA will support countries to address their unique population dynamics and advance the ICPD Programme of Action.

As long as girls continue to be married off as child brides and get pregnant before their minds and bodies are ready,

As long as women and couples cannot plan and space their births as they desire,

As long as women suffer from fistula or die from complications during pregnancy and delivery,

As long as young people remain at high risk and lack appropriate health information and services,

As long as people continue to be newly infected with HIV,

We at UNFPA will continue to be champions for the right of every individual to sexual and reproductive health. We will promote universal access to reproductive health by 2015.

We will support countries in collecting, analyzing and using population data to guide policies, programmes and budgets.

As our world approaches a population of 7 billion, with nearly 2 billion adolescents and youth, the agenda of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) remains more relevant now than ever.

I would like to express appreciation to you, as Member States of our Board, for your support to national efforts to guarantee the right to sexual and reproductive health, and reduce poverty.

I am pleased to introduce the annual report of the Executive Director for 2010 (DP/FPA/2011/3).

This report highlights progress and challenges in implementing the Strategic Plan during the three-year period from 2008 through 2010.

Today, based on the annual report and other reviews, I will share with you what I believe our organization needs to focus on to achieve the greatest possible impact.

I also want to use this opportunity to obtain your feedback and perspectives and set the stage for ongoing dialogue.

The mid-term review of the Strategic Plan and other internal and external reviews are informing the direction, strategic priorities, budget and resource allocation of the organization.

All of these efforts will help us create a more dynamic, effective and accountable UNFPA.
UNFPA has contributed immensely to the ICPD agenda, but we have much work to do.

Findings from the mid-term review and other internal and external reviews have concluded that while UNFPA has much to be proud of, the full potential of the organization is still to be realized.

In particular, there are specific areas noted in these reviews where UNFPA could improve as an organization.
Like all organizations and development partners, UNFPA is facing a challenging external landscape.

Evolving population dynamics—such as ageing in developed and middle income countries, large youth populations in developing nations, migration and urbanization affect sustainable development for all.

As the United Nations strives for improved system-wide coherence, there are related and sometimes overlapping mandates, and UN agencies competing for relevance.

At the same time, we are being asked to do more with less. Rising expectations for stronger impact and accountability are coupled with constraints on financial resources.

Progress in implementing ICPD recommendations and the UNFPA Strategic Plan is uneven and inconsistent across countries and regions.

There is ongoing unmet need for sexual and reproductive health information and services, including family planning. I have said it many times and I will say it again: 215 million women want and need family planning and they are not getting it.

The upcoming milestone on October 31st of a world of 7 billion presents a great opportunity and a great challenge.

The future depends on the choices that we make now.

This is especially important for the world’s young people, who are seeking services, opportunities and meaningful participation.

Issues concerning population dynamics, gender equality, and reproductive health and rights will become even more important.

Madam President,

The ICPD Programme of Action remains critical to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Yet more than 40 percent of countries are not on target to reach MDG 5 to improve maternal health. Achieving target 5b--universal access to reproductive health is still a challenge in many countries.

MDG5 is lagging behind compared to the other MDGs, and there is an urgent need for accelerated collective action. MDG 5 is the mother of all MDGs because the achievement of all goals depends on healthy women and mothers.

This reality gave birth to the Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, to which UNFPA is deeply committed.

And we know that to meet development goals, we need to pay greater attention to adolescents and youth.

Today, nearly 90 per cent of the world’s young people live in developing countries.

Information and services for sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights are needed by the parents of the next generation.

Madam President,

At this stage, I want to take time to speak in more detail about the progress made towards the ICPD agenda.
Since 2007, there has been:

  • A rise in the percentage of countries that have completed their national censuses;
  • An increase in the proportion of humanitarian crisis and post-conflict situations providing sexual and reproductive health services;
  • An increase in the proportion of countries that address young people's needs in their national development plans and strategies;
  • An increase in the proportion of countries incorporating reproductive rights into their national human rights protection systems; and
  • A rise in the proportion of countries that include gender-based violence in training for health service providers.

I am also pleased to report that 2011 targets of the UNFPA Strategic Plan were exceeded in key areas:

  • One is the increase in countries with secondary school curricula with education for sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention.
  • There is also an increase in countries that have mechanisms in place to monitor and reduce gender-based violence.

We are seeing concrete achievement in many areas, including in reproductive health commodity security, participation in UN reform and coordination, condom programming, ending female genital mutilation/cutting, our campaign to end fistula in 42 countries, support to national censuses, and partnership with the H4+ to improve maternal health.

We are also making significant progress in management.

Overall UNFPA is perceived by partners to be strong in its support of national plans, and based on my previous life, as Minister of Health in Nigeria, I can testify to that.

UNFPA has met and surpassed our Strategic Plan target for funding.

We continue to place special emphasis on strengthening accountability, improving evaluation and addressing audit recommendations.

Although, the full effect of these measures is yet to unfold, there are encouraging signs of progress.

For example, the percentage of country programme evaluations conducted in time to inform the development of a new country programme rose from 8% in 2008 to 80% in 2010.

Madam President,

To make further progress, we will take advantage of the existing strengths of the organization to build a more focused and nimble team.

We have a passionate and dedicated staff committed to making an impact.

We have a staff with deep expertise that can influence policy.

We have a strong country presence and deep understanding of country context.

And we are leaders in the UN at working well with other UN partners to Deliver as One.

Madam President,

I would now like to speak to our funding.

While UNFPA’s income has grown in recent years, the future continues to be uncertain.

In 2010, UNFPA regular resources surpassed the $500 million mark for the seventh year in row, and total contribution income reached 851 million US dollars.

However, many countries are being forced to cut spending at home and exercise austerity measures. There is a rising pressure on development assistance across the board.

In this context, I would like to thank Member States for your continuing support for UNFPA, and take this opportunity to encourage contributions to our core resources, which are the bedrock of the Fund’s operations.

On our part, at UNFPA, we are committed to using the resources wisely and demonstrating stronger impact.

Madam President,

I would also like to thank Board members and your respective governments for your ongoing contributions to the mid-term review of the UNFPA Strategic Plan.

As you know, the review has 4 main objectives:

  1. To report on the Fund’s 3-year progress (2008-2010) – and identify challenges;
  2. To sharpen the Fund’s strategic direction;
  3. To fine-tune the metrics and build better ways of measuring our success; and
  4. To update results and resource frameworks.
  5. The mid-term review shows that progress has been made but is lagging in some areas.

Overall trends are positive but it is clear that additional efforts are needed. We are not on track to achieve many of our Strategic Plan targets.

In response, we have identified 5 key challenges:

  1. Need for clarified vision and role and strengthened communications;
  2. Need for more focused set of programmes and partners and strengthened monitoring and evaluation;
  3. Need to retain and recruit talent and strengthen culture of performance;
  4. Need for clearer decision-making processes and roles; and
  5. Need for strong financial accountability and transparency, and streamlined systems and processes.

Madam President,

In consultation with the Board, we have come up with a suggestion for the way forward.
This builds on two pillars.

  1. To refine UNFPA strategic focus and vision so we can make a bigger impact and strengthen evidence-based programming, and
  2. To reinforce a culture of operational excellence by strengthening staff, decision-making, systems and accountability.

Given this analysis, I would like to present to you what we think should be the preliminary vision.

Our goal is to promote sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, reduce maternal mortality, and accelerate progress on the ICPD agenda and MDG 5…

In order to empower and improve the lives of underserved populations, especially women, youth and adolescents…

Enabled by our understanding of population dynamics, human rights and gender equality and …

Driven by country needs and tailored to country context.

Madam President,

UNFPA will continue to champion UN reform and system-wide coherence and define our role amongst other development partners.

We know that achieving our goals will require clear roles and strong communication at all levels of UNFPA.

Our strategy will be grounded in the ICPD agenda, responding to the specific needs and priorities of the countries that we serve.

UNFPA remains committed to nationally led and owned development and the strengthening of national systems.

Our headquarters and regional offices will support our country office needs, while creating coherence and accountability.

As I have repeatedly mentioned I have made accountability a priority for UNFPA and we will go into further detail on this tomorrow during the session on the internal audit and oversight.

To achieve stronger results and impact, UNFPA will strengthen partnerships with stakeholders.

UNFPA can accomplish so much more in partnership than we can alone.

Madam President,

Distinguished Delegates,

I would like to express my thanks to each and every staff member in UNFPA for their dedication and tireless work in support of our mission.

I would also like to express my gratitude to you as Board members and your Governments for your ongoing support and guidance as we move forward.

My friends,

Population is about people, supporting rights and human dignity and creating conditions for each one of us to live on a healthy planet and reach our full potential.

In a world of 7 billion people, we need to count on each other.

I thank you and look forward to our discussions.

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