Annual session 2008 UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board

16 Jun 2008

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

Colleagues and Friends,

It is always a pleasure to address you as members of the Executive Board. It is particularly enjoyable when we meet here for the annual session in this beautiful city of Geneva.

My colleagues and I look forward to our discussions this week, and to working with all of you as Board members throughout the year.

In my statement today, I will report on our work over the past year and update you on new developments, UNFPA’s reorganization, finances and funding.

At the last Board session in January, a delegate thanked me for my 11-page, single-spaced speech. I think he was trying to tell me something. I have given it some thought and believe that part of the United Nations reform should be fewer and shorter speeches. Today, I will do my best to do my part, though I have not succeeded as I intended. There is so much that I want and need to share with you.

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

Since we last met, there have been two natural disasters that have caused much loss and suffering – the devastating earthquake in China and the destructive cyclone in Myanmar. On behalf of UNFPA, I extend heartfelt condolences to the people of both countries. UNFPA has contributed to relief efforts in China and Myanmar as part of a unified United Nations system response. I also extend heartfelt condolences to the people of the United States of America, who have faced natural disasters of different kinds.

On a global level, we are fully aware of trends and projections that point to increased risks due to climate change. In response, and as part of the United Nations system, we are taking steps to enhance efforts for mitigation, disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness, in coordination with partner agencies.

This is part of our work and vision to become a more field-focused and results- based organization. We strive to be an organization that is innovative and flexible, an organization that can respond effectively to opportunities and challenges as they arise. This of course requires the right policies, programmes and partnerships, and it also requires the right people. This is a most complex challenge to which we all have to respond.

Today, I am especially pleased to introduce several new senior UNFPA staff members to you. They were selected through an extensive, competitive process, including external assessments by a specialized institution as well as a review committee consisting of UNFPA senior staff, along with an independent consultant. Needless to say, this is a critical time for UNFPA as we restructure, and we count on their leadership as we move forward.

I have the pleasure to introduce Mr. Hafedh Chekir, the Regional Director for the Arab States. A national of Tunisia, he joined UNFPA in 1994. He has served a CST adviser in data collection and analysis as well as UNFPA Representative, and has extensive field experience and expertise.

I also have the pleasure to introduce Ms. Theodora Fierens, Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. A national of the Netherlands, she has served as a member of Parliament and as the General Director of the Netherlands Development Organization.

I would also like to introduce Mr. Werner Haug, Director of the Technical Division. A national of Switzerland, Mr. Haug began his career with the Swiss Red Cross Society and has served in high-level positions with the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. He participated often in the Commission on Population and Development as a member of the delegation from Switzerland.

I would also like to introduce Mr. Mabingue Ngom, Director of the UNFPA Programme Division. A national of Senegal, Mr. Ngom most recently served with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Prior to that, he was programme adviser for the International Planned Parenthood Federation as well as having served as an expert and official of the Government of Senegal.

Please join me in welcoming our colleagues, who will take up their new positions in July.

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

It is exciting to welcome these new senior executives to UNFPA. It is a sign of the changes you approved last September as we, together, strive to reach the next level.

UNFPA is restructuring to deal with larger challenges and to better respond to gaps in development. We are living in a rapidly changing world, vastly different from the one we had when UNFPA was founded. We need to respond to new challenges, such as the food crisis and climate change, and galvanize greater commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In this new environment, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) remains highly relevant and visionary, given the connection between population dynamics and sustainable development. We are working to ensure that this analysis is integrated into national plans and policies and acted upon to increase pro-poor investments.

The relevance of population and reproductive health and rights was recognized as vital to human security at the recently concluded Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, TICAD IV. I would like to thank the Government of Japan, and especially Prime Minister Fukuda, for ensuring that health in general and reproductive health, with maternal health in particular, was highlighted in the Yokohama Call to Action and the TICAD IV Action Plan. I also thank them for their commitment to ensuring that this critical sector features in the G8 Summit discussions. UNFPA is engaged in strong advocacy to ensure that the issues of population and reproductive health feature prominently in the outcomes of the upcoming G8 Summit and the high-level session on the Millennium Development Goals in the General Assembly this September. We count on your continued active support for this.

Mr. President,

Since our last meeting in January 2008, the UNFPA Executive Committee has identified four priority areas that require focused attention from the headquarters to the regional to the country level, especially in preparations for the forthcoming regionalization of the UNFPA geographical divisions. These are: national censuses, global health, national execution and change management. To enable UNFPA to lead in these four priority areas, which are time-bound, I have appointed four Executive Coordinators, three of whom are with us today. The goal is to ensure that UNFPA as a whole, in all its three levels, develops the same understanding and takes high-quality action in the four priority areas.

Leading the effort to ensure UNFPA leadership in the 2010 census round is Mr. Rogelio Fernandez-Castilla, former Director of the Technical Support Division. The major thrust of this post is to ensure that countries receive high-quality support across regions and that the capacity of statistical institutions are built through this critical exercise.

Promoting UNFPA leadership in global health initiatives and ensuring that reproductive health is central to strengthening the health sector is Dr. Hedia Belhadj, former Deputy Director of the Technical Support Division.

Leading efforts for improved accountability for and building national capacity in national execution is Mr. Sultan Aziz, former Director of the Asia and the Pacific Division.

And, finally, the fourth priority is business continuity and change management. This will ensure that as we regionalize, programme implementation continues and that the necessary adjustments are made to existing systems and to newly developed ones to respond to the changing environment in which UNFPA performs its functions. Heading this important undertaking is Mr. Brendan O’Brien, former Director of the Strategic Planning Office.

I value the professionalism and commitment to UNFPA of my four colleagues and I look forward to their leadership in these priority areas.

Mr. President,

Allow me now to turn to the highlights of UNFPA for 2007 and introduce document DP/FPA/2008/5, Report of the Executive Director for 2007. I would like to thank the Executive Board for its support and constructive engagement in helping us to reach the point where we are today. Over the past two years, we have had intensive discussions and deliberations to shape UNFPA’s future direction and structure. We have now begun to see the benefits of the changes put in place.

As you can see from the report before you, 2007 was marked by significant interventions in the three focus areas of population and development, reproductive health and rights, and gender equality. Today, I would like to highlight a few key achievements and some challenges. I would also like to point out that this year’s annual report provides baseline data for the 2008-2011 strategic plan.

Population and development

In the area of population and development, there were increased efforts to provide support to countries for the 2010 round of censuses. UNFPA mobilized resources for censuses in 63 countries and directly provided financial support in 47 countries. Our key role is to support national counterparts for coordination, capacity building and resource mobilization.

Population factors were integrated into an increasing number of national development plans and frameworks. Of 33 key national development plans completed in 2007, 76 per cent included population dynamics, 77 per cent included reproductive health/HIV, and 64 per cent included gender equality. The key challenges now include strengthening implementation and building capacity in areas such as migration, urbanization and ageing.

Reproductive health and rights

In 2007, UNFPA played a pivotal role in advancing reproductive health and rights. These investments are vital to reducing poverty and to building strong families, communities and nations. The new target in the MDG monitoring framework on universal access to reproductive health by 2015 and its corresponding indicators pave the way for faster progress. It is vital that all countries consistently and visibly use the new target and indicators in plans and programmes supported by budgets.

Scaling up reproductive health services remains an urgent challenge. This challenge is reinforced by the fact that the poorest women have the least access to these services. Therefore, there is a clear and pressing need to scale up sexual and reproductive health services and strengthen health systems to reach poor women and young people in their communities.

UNFPA is working to leverage greater resources for sexual and reproductive health at all levels, including through health-sector reform and sector-wide approaches. We are also engaging non-traditional ministries, such as those of finance and planning, to promote reproductive health, increase national allocations of resources for women’s health and HIV/AIDS prevention, and strengthen primary health-care services.

UNFPA is partnering in an informal network of health-related agencies to promote the strengthening of health systems so that we ensure that health systems deliver services at the primary health-care level where communities face serious health challenges. Working together to achieve this goal, through continuous communication and exchange of information, are: UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, The World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GAVI, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

We, at UNFPA, are very appreciative of the Secretary-General’s decision to make global health one of his three development agendas, along with climate change and food security. Having his support for reproductive health, within the overall global health agenda, lends greater support that is critical to our collective advocacy effort.

To achieve MDG 5 to improve maternal health, an estimated $6 billion is needed annually, plus an additional $1 billion for family planning.

In 2007, UNFPA established the thematic fund for maternal health to mobilize additional resources. Our goal is to raise a total of $500 million over four years, or $125 million a year, representing 2 per cent of the total global amount required.

We will have an opportunity to discuss MDG 5 and maternal health more fully at today’s special event.

I would like to take this opportunity to stress that maternal health cannot be achieved without placing it within an integrated programme of reproductive health and rights through the life-cycle approach.

While it is true that sexual and reproductive health has been politicized, and I believe wrongly so, the answer is not to turn away from this holistic and effective approach. It would only result in the death, illness and disability of more poor women and young people.

What is needed is stronger advocacy for the reproductive health and rights of women and young people so we can make greater progress. To succeed, it is absolutely necessary to involve husbands, young men and local leaders, whether religious or political. To gain their confidence and support is essential to improving the health of women and young people.

One of the areas of reproductive health that is showing unsteady progress is family planning. One of the major obstacles is the lack of access to affordable reproductive health commodities. For this reason, UNFPA and partners devote significant human, technical and financial resources to reproductive health commodity security. We are making solid and steady progress. Tomorrow afternoon, we will host an informal briefing on this theme to provide more information. I would like to stress that it is very important to ground this initiative within countries, and we are seeing this happening more and more. Certainly, your continued support in this effort will make an important difference.

This work is important as we strive to re-energize family planning, save women’s lives and prevent the devastating childbirth injury of obstetric fistula. Reproductive health commodity security is also essential in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Last year, five people were newly infected for every two receiving treatment. At this pace, we will never get ahead of the epidemic. Building on last week’s successful General Assembly high-level meeting on HIV and AIDS in New York, we are challenged to scale up interventions for HIV prevention, especially for women and youth, who are disproportionately affected. With just two years left, together with governments, civil society and the other co-sponsors of UNAIDS, we must intensify efforts to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010.

Gender equality

The UNFPA core mission in furthering sexual and reproductive health provides us with a comparative advantage in the area of advancing gender equality and development. We work systematically and strategically with United Nations partners and others to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality. We extend our welcome and support to the new Executive Director of UNIFEM, Ms. Ines Alberdi, and we commit ourselves to working together to further strengthen our cooperation.

I am pleased to announce that I am a proud champion torch bearer for MDG 3 to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality. The Danish Minister of Development Cooperation, Ms. Ulla Tornaes, has included UNFPA in this important initiative by handing me the torch last month in Copenhagen. UNFPA is committed to doing its part to improve women’s health and to advance women’s rights, and this must be a cross-cutting issue at the General Assembly high-level session on the MDGs in September. Certainly, MDG 1 on reducing poverty cannot be achieved without MDG 3 (gender) and MDG 5 (maternal health), to say the least.

Guiding our efforts is the strategic framework on gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment for 2008 through 2011, which outlines UNFPA's priority areas. The specific focus continues to be on two dimensions: promoting reproductive rights and addressing sexual and gender-based violence.

In 2007, 54 per cent of reporting UNFPA country offices stated that their host countries had laws that incorporated the reproductive rights of women and adolescent girls, including in emergency and post-emergency situations.

To move forward, UNFPA actively participates in efforts to raise awareness and implement Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Like the rest of the United Nations system, UNFPA promotes zero tolerance of all forms of violence against women. We are currently working with UNICEF to accelerate the abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting in countries where the practice is widespread.

In 2007, UNFPA continued to collaborate with many partners, including UNIFEM, and with networks of women's institutions, youth organizations, parliamentarians, human rights groups, the judicial system, faith-based and community organizations, and the private sector.

We are taking a culturally sensitive approach, based on cultural awareness and knowledge, to push the ICPD agenda forward. And to increase impact, we are reaching out to men and boys as partners in equality.

UNFPA is undertaking intensive work to consolidate interfaith networks for population and development. Regional forums are taking place and will culminate in a global forum in Istanbul this October. These forums allow us to build bridges among faith-based organizations with the secular development world on issues of gender and reproductive health that are common to the MDGs and the ICPD. And this year’s State of the World Population report will focus on culture and development.

The continuing challenge is to strengthen ownership of the ICPD agenda, particularly at regional, national and community levels. Our expectations for better performance are matched by the expectations of others. To move ahead, we are moving closer to the people we serve and promote changes from within.

UNFPA reorganization

Reorganization is proceeding according to the workplan. UNFPA expects to open three regional offices for Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as open and/or strengthen five subregional offices this year – in Fiji, Jamaica, Nepal, Senegal and South Africa. The remaining two regional offices, for the Arab States and for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and one subregional office in Kazakhstan, will open in 2009.

The reorganization process within UNFPA pays specific attention to the human dimension of change, maintaining business continuity and ensuring that reorganization costs are kept within budget. UNFPA has developed a sound human resources strategy that ensures that both the interest of staff members and that of the organization are taken into consideration. We have completed the first phase of staff placement - job matching - and we are happy to report that we received high praise from the UNDP/UNOPS/UNFPA Staff Council for the transparent and fair process that we put in place. Now we are engaged in a more complex phase – the job fair – and we hope that we will receive the same certification of excellence. This has been a learning exercise for all of us in UNFPA.

Business continuity plans identify solutions for the delivery of technical assistance, human resource issues and logistics and aim to keep disruptions to a minimum during the transition.

To ensure full alignment with other United Nations organizations, discussions on regional office locations are ongoing within the meetings of the Regional Directors’ Teams and the Deputy Executive Directors of the United Nations funds and programmes.

Alignment is critical to UNFPA's reorganization and to United Nations system-wide coherence. Also critical are simplification and harmonization. UNFPA continues to play a critical role in United Nations reform and system-wide coherence, including in the integration of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) within the Chief Executives’ Board.

As the chair of the High-level Committee on Management, I have steered the development of a plan to harmonize business practices for the United Nations system. We presented this plan last Friday to the General Assembly at an informal meeting, and we look forward to its funding and implementation.

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

I take special pride in introducing document DP/FPA/2008/5, addendum 1, which contains the annual financial and statistical review for 2007. Until last year, the statistical overview and the annual financial review were two separate documents, which were made available to you at two separate sessions. Starting this year, we have merged the two documents into one. This is a demonstration of the efficiencies which our Enterprise Resource Planning system has brought in making data available sooner, thus allowing you, distinguished members of our Executive Board, to have a more comprehensive picture of our financial reporting.

Total income in 2007 rose more than 24 per cent, to $752.2 million, continuing an upward trend for the last six years. While we thank you for this show of support, it should be mentioned that our core budget is in need of a steady and substantial increase in view of the increasing demand for the unique support that UNFPA provides to countries.

Total expenditure in 2007 was $629 million – an increase of $92.4 million over 2006. I am happy to point out that almost all of the increase in expenditure, or $92.1 million, is attributable to increased programme activities. Of the $370.1 million spent at the country level in 2007, 70 per cent was spent in category A countries – the countries most in need of support in achieving ICPD goals.

UNFPA ended the year in robust financial health. Cash and investments were $594.6 million.

Tomorrow morning, we will present the report on funding commitments to UNFPA, and there will be ample opportunity to ask specific questions. Let me highlight the fact that 182 countries supported UNFPA in 2007, which shows very strong support, for which all of us at UNFPA are truly appreciative.

We are still fortunate in the balance between core and non-core resources, receiving approximately 65 per cent core resources. This helps us to plan ahead and be predictable. What would help us even more would be multi-year pledges. This year, only two countries among our major donors have pledged for more than one year (Ireland and New Zealand).

Again, I would like to thank all 182 donor countries, including our top 10 donors last year. They are the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, Japan, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Spain and Canada.

As we look to the future, we look to the commemoration of ICPD at 15. Plans are under way in all regions and at the country level to take stock of progress and to chart the way forward. The anniversary provides an opportunity to further solidify the centrality of reproductive health and population issues for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

In closing, I would like to stress that the population trends and dynamics of today’s world – characterized by rapid population growth in the poorest nations, rapid urbanization, especially in Asia and Africa, with growing slums and shantytowns, and the largest youth generation in history – are trends that must be urgently addressed with sound economic policies and increased social investment based on a human-rights approach.

The very concept of reproductive health and rights, articulated at ICPD and endorsed by 179 nations, provides a solid platform for investment. When combined with initiatives to empower women and adolescent girls, these investments hold the potential to change the course of the world.

My colleagues and I are looking forward to your comments and guidance on document DP/FPA/2008/5 parts I and II: the report of the Executive Director for 2007; the statistical and financial review, 2007; and the joint report of UNDP and UNFPA on the recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit in 2007. 

I thank you.

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