2010 Annual Session UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board

21 June 2010
Author: UNFPA

Thank you, Ambassador Atoki Ileka, for that kind introduction and for your leadership in the Executive Board. And thanks to colleagues who produced the presentation on achievements of UNFPA in 2009.

Good morning to members of the Bureau and the Board, distinguished delegates, colleagues and friends.

This is my tenth and last time that I will address the annual session of the Board and I am happy to be with you and look forward to our discussions.

Mr. President,

This year UNFPA is building on the momentum of the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development and reaffirmation of the ICPD Programme of Action.

Tackling today’s global challenges of climate change, financial instability, and food insecurity require unprecedented solidarity and international cooperation. The ICPD Programme of Action points us in the right direction. It puts people and human rights at the centre of our collective efforts, and clearly articulates the connections between development, women’s empowerment, reproductive health, population dynamics, and protection of the environment. Given today’s unprecedented demographic challenges of growing slums, rapidly ageing populations lacking social safety nets, rising migration, high levels of unemployment, and the world’s largest youth population, the Cairo consensus remains more relevant than ever.

This is an important year for decision-making by world leaders. And together with partners, UNFPA is advocating universal access to reproductive health to be taken forward at the upcoming G8/G20 Summit, AU Summit on Maternal Health, International AIDS Conference, and Global Youth Summit, all leading up to the MDG10 Summit at the United Nations in September. We would like to thank Canada as host of the G8 Summit for making maternal and child health a development priority. We also congratulate the African Union for making maternal health its theme for deliberations in its forthcoming Summit.

Over the past few months I have visited China, Morocco, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And I have witnessed the challenges but also the commitment of our Country Offices as they work with governments and civil society to make a difference for the women, girls, men and boys they are there to serve. I had the opportunity to speak with religious leaders at the UNAIDS Summit in the Netherlands, with political leaders at a meeting on gender equality and MDG3 in Copenhagen, and with African women leaders at the Spain – Africa Forum in Valencia. And everywhere I went I felt that the momentum for the rights of women and girls to live in dignity, free from fear and violence is growing.

Just last week I had the privilege of meeting with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the first time in 9 years to meet with such a high level official of the U.S. Government. It is wonderful to know that the U.S. continues the support to UNFPA and the Programme of Action that the US Government adopted with other delegations in 1994 at the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development. It is also an honour for me and my colleagues to meet with Secretary Clinton because of her own commitment and passion for women’s rights.

UNFPA is committed to working with partners, at the global, regional and especially country level, to make greater progress in our three priority areas:

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

UNFPA was a proud sponsor of the recent Women Deliver Conference. The wide range of partners that were there—from within the UN system, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to Ministers, midwives and fistula survivors from communities of many countries, to advocates from civil society organizations of women rights, family planning and HIV and AIDS, members of parliaments, young people and celebrities—testify to the vibrant and expanding movement worldwide, from the global, to the regional and to the country levels, championing the health and rights of girls and women.

We are proud of the Midwifery Symposium, co-sponsored by UNFPA and seven other organizations that preceded the Women Deliver Conference. We will take the Call to Action forward by working with the other partners, to ensure that midwives are an essential component of our work to strengthen the health workforce, in training of midwives and expanding their presence in the communities where they are needed, and in building an evidence base. We all agreed that the World Needs Midwives Now More Than Ever to save the lives of women and babies.

In all regions, UNFPA is working with national partners to improve maternal health and achieve the two targets of MDG5, reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health. This is a priority for UNFPA.

UNFPA welcomes the growing momentum to integrate efforts to achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals, 4, 5 and 6 to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat AIDS, TB and malaria. And the three health related goals have a common theme—without universal access to prevention and treatment as well as care and support, the goals will not be achieved. We also know that our collective success requires a focus on MDG3 promoting women’s empowerment and championing gender equality because women and girls are central to these three goals. Gender equality cannot be achieved unless we guarantee the right to sexual and reproductive health.

To achieve these health related goals, we need to strengthen health systems. A functioning health system is a system that can deliver for women from birth through childhood and adolescence, to pregnancy and delivery and throughout their entire life cycle. A functioning health system is tested by its capacity to ensure that women are healthy so they can deliver on both their reproductive and productive roles in society.

The very concept of reproductive health is comprehensive in nature for it includes maternal health, family planning, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and action to address violence against women. Together we need to make sure that this holistic approach is fully understood, embraced and championed as the most effective way forward. I stress this point because it is more than a matter of words and semantics; it is a matter of policy coherence and effectiveness as we strive to get more money for health and more health for the money, and achieve the MDGs.

I am proud of the progress that we are making together in the H4 with UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank and UNFPA along with UNAIDS in 25 priority countries to improve the health of women and newborns. And I extend a warm welcome to Anthony Lake, the new Executive Director of UNICEF and reiterate our pledge to make our partnership mutually reinforcing of our mandates. I am also proud of our progress and harmonization within the larger H8, which also includes, in addition to the H4 and UNAIDS, the Gates Foundation, the GAVI Alliance, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to accelerate the achievement of the health MDGs and contribute to poverty reduction.

Together we are moving forward. UNFPA has joined partners to scale up the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV plus in 22 high priority countries. It is not sufficient to save only the child. We will also emphasize the health of women in their own right. We will work together to prevent HIV infection in women and their partners in the first place; to prevent unintended pregnancies in women with HIV; to expand treatment; and to ensure care during pregnancy, delivery and post-delivery, as well as the health and survival of the baby.

Together with UN partners, UNFPA is actively engaged in taking forward the UN Secretary-General’s Joint Action Plan for Women’s and Children’s Health. This leadership initiative seeks to support existing global, regional and national strategies, commitments and plans; it aims to expand advocacy for delivery of results.

As you have heard from this introduction of global work, it is meaningless without being grounded in what happens in countries and communities. Global work provides direction and support to national leaders so that plans are implemented and resources are mobilized. What matters in the end is the quality of life of people in their own families, communities and countries and this is where results can be seen, felt and clearly measured.

A shining example of this national ownership and political will is the progress that is being made in countries. As we approach the July African Union Summit on Maternal and Child Health, I would like to make a special mention of the Campaign to Accelerate the Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa, known as CARMMA, which UNFPA launched jointly with the African Union last year and which builds on the African Union Maputo Plan of Action for Sexual and Reproductive Health. Soon 15 African countries will have launched their national campaigns, which emphasize engaging communities and key stakeholders, reducing newborn and maternal deaths, generating and providing key data, and building on best practices.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

I would now like to introduce my annual report for 2009.

The reforms that we have initiated in UNFPA over the past several years for results-based management and accountability, reorganization, and becoming a learning organization contribute to the results that we have achieved.

We are making progress as communities in Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea and Senegal abandon the harmful practice of female genital mutilation and cutting. Social norms are changing towards protecting the rights of women and girls. Key to this success is community dialogue, cultural knowledge and sensitivity, and working with a wide range of partners, including traditional and religious leaders.

UNFPA is increasingly supporting South-South and triangular cooperation. In 2009, UNFPA offices reported more than 400 initiatives for South-South collaboration.

We are also reaching out to the private sector. One new partnership is with the international clothing company, H&M. The company has mobilized $750,000 for Y-PEER, the dynamic youth network and their activities for HIV prevention in Bahrain, Egypt, Oman and Turkey.

The UNFPA-led Campaign to End Fistula has grown dramatically since its inception in 2003. Not only has the number of countries increased from 12 to 47, but the scale of programming within countries has significantly expanded.

I would also like to highlight our work to re-energize family planning within the context of promoting reproductive health and rights. Family planning improves the quality of life and broadens opportunities for women. If women cannot determine the number and spacing of their children, then they cannot plan the rest of their lives. UNFPA is supporting national strategies and positioning family planning within national health and development plans. One example is Uganda, where the Government now includes contraceptive prevalence as a performance indicator for their health sector.

Providing reproductive health supplies is an integral part of health system strengthening and protecting the right to health. The UNFPA global programme for reproductive health commodities continues to expand. A total of 73 countries received support in 2009, up from 54 in 2008, and spending on reproductive health supplies more than doubled from $34 million in 2008 to $70 million in 2009.

Countries report significant results in mainstreaming reproductive health supplies within national health plans; improving donor coordination for strategic in-country support; strengthening management of national commodity supplies and upgrading skills of service providers. In the near future, a new innovative mechanism called AccessRH will be launched to further strengthen national capacity for reproductive health supplies and facilitate a well planned procurement process.

Now let me turn to HIV/AIDS. UNFPA is strongly committed to the UNAIDS Outcome Framework and to a world of zero discrimination, zero new HIV infections, and zero AIDS-related deaths. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS, for his strong commitment to ensure there is clear conceptual and operational linkage between universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support (MDG 6) and universal access to reproductive health (MDG 5). Our colleagues of both organizations work closely together and often the cooperation is seamless.

Together, we are working to prioritize gender and sexual and reproductive in the response to HIV and AIDS. This work is guided by the UNAIDS Action Framework on Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV, and also the UNAIDS Agenda for Accelerated Country Action for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV.

Tomorrow UNFPA will participate in the thematic session of the UNAIDS Programme Coordination Board on Linking Sexual and Reproductive Health Services with HIV/AIDS interventions. I am pleased to report that UNFPA together with key partners is engaged in efforts to integrate SRH and HIV in five regions and 17 countries.

Another strategic priority for UNFPA is working to empower young people to protect themselves from HIV infection. We are doing this by providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive information, skills, services and commodities tailored to the specific country and epidemic.

In all we do, UNFPA continues to champion women’s rights, including the right to sexual and reproductive health. We work with parliamentarians, Governments and advocates to adopt laws, policies and programmes to end violence against women and protect rights in line with international standards. We are firm believers that women’s rights are human rights.

In March we signed a joint statement together with UNICEF, ILO, UNESCO, UNIFEM, and WHO to intensify support to countries to advance the rights of adolescent girls. We know that investing in adolescent girls is a sure way to improve the well-being of current and future generations.

We are also placing a special emphasis on women and youth in UNFPA efforts for humanitarian response and recovery. We believe that responding to the needs of these groups is one of the best ways to safeguard their right to health, security and well-being of the individuals themselves, their families and communities affected by crisis.

I am pleased to report that the UNFPA Humanitarian Response Strategy has been evaluated and we are now working to address gaps and strengthen the approach to mainstreaming emergency preparedness and humanitarian response into programming. This will provide an opportunity for UNFPA to play a stronger role in addressing sexual and reproductive health, gender and data in emergencies. Reproductive health, including maternal health, is a reality that takes place under all conditions. It is artificial to divide it between development and humanitarian, even though resources come from different pockets to support these interventions. We are working hard to ground this simple fact of life in all the work we do. By mainstreaming emergency preparedness and humanitarian response into programming, our partner countries would have the opportunity to respond to this continuum from development to emergency and vice versa.

I would also like to briefly update you on our work to support the 2010 round of censuses. In 2009, UNFPA supported 77 governments’ national population and housing censuses and paved the way for other censuses in 2010. Here I would like to thank Rogelio Fernandez Castilla, the UNFPA Executive Coordinator for Censuses who will be retiring at the end of this month, for his hard work to ensure governments are receiving the right kind of technical support to implement the censuses. Through his tenure with UNFPA, Rogelio assumed many responsibilities, as representative, director of technical Country Support Team for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Director of the Technical Support Division. We wish him a fulfilling new life.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

Now I will turn to the management of UNFPA. Last year at this time, the Board approved the new evaluation policy without allocating additional resources, and since then UNFPA has re-adjusted its available resources to initiate some action towards strengthening evaluation throughout the organization. To us at UNFPA, the evaluation policy adopted by the Board last year is the benchmark by which our progress for implementation is to be measured.

Since then, more monitoring and evaluation staff have been recruited at the regional and country levels, new guidelines and tools have been issued, new evaluation quality control procedures have been established, and managers are being held accountable for implementing evaluations in compliance with the new evaluation policy.

Several initiatives were put in place in 2009 to strengthen the quality of UNFPA programming. UNFPA established an external technical advisory panel to solicit feedback and guidance on the relevance and coherence of our global and regional programme. Regional external advisory boards were also established in some regions.

However, despite these efforts, we know that we still have a long way to go, and we are engaged in ongoing efforts to become more effective and efficient, in spite of our limited resources.

Developing our capacity in this particular area will take time and resources but what is important is that we are taking necessary steps toward responding to the decision of the Board when it approved the evaluation policy. We are confident that the measures being taken will gradually improve UNFPA evaluation and lead to a much more positive assessment in the next biennial report.

UNFPA wishes to reaffirm its full commitment to further its business practices through strengthened oversight and accountability. We have come a long way and we continue to work very hard to address some pressing concerns, which have been brought to our attention by the United Nations Board of Auditors, regarding national execution.

National execution is clearly a challenge for both UNFPA and our programme countries. We at UNFPA believe in national execution led by our national partners, be they governments or civil society organizations, and we have made this issue a priority. However, we know that there are weaknesses in our own programming approach and we are addressing this. We also know that there are weaknesses in our own country offices and we have been working to develop their capacity to monitor and document programme implementation as well as to provide support to our national partners.

We also know that there are weaknesses in the national institutions that execute the programmes, and we are committed to working with them to strengthen their capacity in monitoring, documentation and reporting, especially financial reporting, and we appreciate their cooperation. We also know that we have to function in an environment where audit approaches remain unchanged and not adapted to the new aid environment in which country level systems and collective attribution of results are to be valued. We at UNFPA have been respectful of the new environment but it might be time to discuss how we can work in a situation where the audit system has not caught up with the new dynamics, placing us in a situation of conflicting demands.

I believe that we need real leadership to make the shift in using national systems as a development and accountability priority so that we invest together in national capacity and system strengthening, in a coherent and coordinated manner. I am just not sure that we all know or agree on how to go about it. I put this on the table now for us to think about it and discuss and I hope to be able to speak more about it in my last address in September to you, distinguished Executive Board members.

Now I would like to turn to the Report on UNFPA Internal Audit and Oversight Activities in 2009, which highlights eleven key management issues. As will be discussed on Friday at the joint segment on internal audit and oversight, UNFPA has already made significant progress on these issues – taking significant steps to ensure staff compliance with operational guidelines, build stronger capacity on programme management and evaluation, and ensure that procurement–related issues are addressed and that systems fully support sound management practices.

A revised Internal Control Framework adhering to the best business practices has been recently implemented at UNFPA. This will greatly help in ensuring full internal controls and adherence to the established policies and procedures. Also, the International Public Sector Accounting Standards, IPSAS project, remains on target with full adoption effective from 1 January 2012.

Together with our partner agencies, we continue to enhance our Enterprise Resource Planning system ATLAS focusing on the alignment of our emerging business needs and continuous improvements in the technology platform.

All of these developments, adjustments and improvements are both time and labour intensive but what is important is that we are taking the necessary steps to move forward within the constraints of both human and financial resources of a small organization like UNFPA.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

I will now give you an update on our progress with reorganisation. There are a number of outstanding challenges that I will complete this year and ensure that the regionalization project is closed by 31 December 2010. I am pleased to report that I have decided to place our Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office in Istanbul because it offers exceptional access within the region and, in these times of deep and long-term financial concerns, Istanbul offers the most cost-effective location. It is also a programme country thus making it consistent with the other regional offices locations.

In making this selection, we followed a fully transparent process using the same criteria as we have for locating the other regional offices. I have outlined the criteria used in making this decision in the comparison chart that I circulated to all Board members last week. In addition to Turkey, we had excellent offers from Austria, Denmark and Switzerland. UNFPA is very grateful for their interest and support.

We have regrettably encountered another challenge in relocating the Arab States Regional Office. We have already started informal contacts with another location since we were not able to finalize the agreement with the government of Egypt. I am optimistic that we can finalise this process rapidly. And I will inform the Board as soon as I make a decision as I am keen to complete the establishment of this remaining regional office by the end of 2010.

Mr. President,

Now let me say a word about UN reform and system wide coherence, to which UNFPA is fully committed.

Last week the Government of Vietnam hosted the High-level Tripartite Conference on “Delivering as One,” and I understand that a “Statement of Outcome and Way Forward” was adopted with full consensus.

The resounding message was that we are on track and must continue and that much has been achieved and much more needs to be done. The old way of doing business is no longer an option. What is needed now is urgency to deliver on results and what is sure is that a form of the United Nations at the country level, working together as one, is the initiative of choice for almost half of the countries who will be going through the UN Development Assistance Framework process in 2010 to 2012.

At UNFPA, we believe that having UN integrated country programmes that build on national development plans and their priorities provides a great opportunity to integrate the ICPD mandate in all country development frameworks and budgets to achieve the internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs and those of ICPD. We see examples of this at work. In Syria, the State of Population Report prepared by the UNFPA country office has not only become a major resource for Syria`s next five year development plan, with its recommendations championed by the President, but the United Nations country team has decided to use it as one of the key documents for Syria`s upcoming UN Development Assistance Framework.

Now let me say a few words about the UNFPA mid-term review of the Strategic Plan, which is tied to the issue of reporting on results. The mid-term review will revisit the results frameworks and provide updated targets for the indicators for tracking progress from the baseline data during the six-year period, 2008-2013.

The mid-term review will also update the integrated financial resources framework and provide an opportunity for strategic re-positioning of the Fund and further consolidation of our comparative advantage.

While we have made some efforts – which you hopefully appreciate – in this year’s Annual Report, both in terms of more in-depth analysis and concrete reporting on results, we recognize that we still need to improve further in this area.

Solid evidence and data are the basis for results-based programming, management and advocacy. There is a need to strengthen national statistical capacity and analysis and to this UNFPA is committed. The dynamics of development cooperation continue to evolve rapidly and together we need to find ways to adjust to the changes and to streamline and harmonize reporting efforts in support of nationally owned and led development.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates

Last year UNFPA exceeded the resource mobilization targets in our strategic plan and UNFPA resources surpassed the $700 million mark for the third consecutive year. Contributions to regular resources rose to a high of $469 million in 2009 and we closed the year in strong financial health with the largest donor base in the UN system. We are, however, worried about the impact of exchange rates on the actual value of contributions in dollars especially in this year. To allow UNFPA to plan properly its financial management, I once again call on donors to pay their pledges as early as possible in the calendar year.

We will hear more about funding commitments tomorrow morning, but I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation for your continuing support under challenging circumstances. I would like to thank members of the Board and all donors, regardless of the size of contribution, for your continuing strong support for UNFPA and dedication to the visionary ICPD agenda.

I would also like to express the hope that funding levels will continue to remain strong in 2010 and beyond. In comparison to spending in other sectors, these sums are small and the impact that they have is substantial. I thank those donors that increased their contributions this year—namely, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Finland and Italy. I would also like to thank our top ten donors in 2009. They are the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, the United States, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Japan, Finland, Germany and Spain.

Mr. President and friends,

As a final word, I would like to stress that the global financial crisis has hit the most vulnerable – not least women and girls - disproportionably hard. The pressure on social services has increased all over the world and we continue to see that women make the longest lines of poverty in time of peace and they only make these lines longer in times of crisis.

Together we must do more. The ICPD agenda remains politically vulnerable, while progress and momentum is building in countries around the world. We need to remain vigilant and stand strong to safeguard and expand the gains we have achieved so far.

We can no longer afford to allow women to be last in line. To achieve our goals, we need increased political will. An additional $12 billion in financing for reproductive health—specifically in family planning and pregnancy related care—would prevent 70 per cent of maternal deaths and reduce newborn deaths by nearly half.

Throughout history, women have delivered for their families, communities and nations. Now it is time for the world to deliver for women.

Thank you.

Population : 8.7 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 87%
Girls 84%

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