Statement of Acting Executive Director to Second Regular Session of Executive Board 2017

7 September 2017

Before I begin my formal remarks, I would like to express, on behalf of all of us in UNFPA, our sympathies to all those affected by Hurricane Irma. Our thoughts are with the countries and people of the Caribbean and all those caught in Irma’s path. Please know that UNFPA is committed to ensuring that our support to the Caribbean reflects the special circumstances of the region and its vulnerability to natural disasters. UNFPA stands with you in this time of need, and you can count on our support.


Mr. President,
Distinguished Delegates,
Colleagues and friends,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning! It is a pleasure to be here with you all for this Second Regular Session of the Executive Board. Today, you have before you the UNFPA roadmap for bringing transformative change to the women, adolescent girls and young people we serve – the UNFPA Strategic Plan and Integrated Budget for the period 2018-2021.

On behalf of all of us at UNFPA, let me thank you, the Members of the Executive Board, once again for your active engagement and guidance over the past year as we developed and refined these documents.

As you know, the new Strategic Plan was developed in a highly consultative and transparent process and reflects not only the feedback and input of Member States, but also the broadest possible cross-section of UNFPA partners, as well as UNFPA staff from all levels of the organization. We are very proud that it is a homegrown plan.

The first of three strategic plans paving the way to 2030, it also reflects and fully embraces the bold vision set forth in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

It is a bold vision that is going to require bold action, greater and more effective collaboration, and out-of-the-box thinking about how the UN system and its partners can deliver more effectively together. The common chapter contained in our Strategic Plan, which is shared with UN-WOMEN, UNICEF and UNDP, is a step forward in this vision.

Meeting the ambitious pledge to leave no one behind calls for greater coherence, integration, inclusive partnerships, and innovation.

It calls for a UN system capable of responding holistically and effectively to the needs of people and governments, building on in-country capacity and leveraging partnerships for greater impact on the lives of the poorest and the most excluded.

This also means mobilizing greater resources, marshaling greater political support, and broadening partnerships – and the agility and flexibility to do so in a complex, challenging and constantly changing environment.

UNFPA is committed to rising to this challenge – indeed, we are already doing so. Because it is clear that if we want to protect the gains we have made to date and advance real change – and we do – business as usual will not do.

Our new Strategic Plan builds on UNFPA strengths and comparative advantage in sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, gender equality and women's empowerment, adolescents and youth, and population data for development.

Our focus will be on leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first through consolidation of gains, innovation to deepen and broaden our reach, and through strategic partnerships, which we depend on to achieve collective outcomes for humanity.

The plan introduces a series of changes that consolidate our efforts and will strengthen the coherence, effectiveness and efficiency of UNFPA’s work; and the roll-out and implementation will take place as part of a broader change process within the organization. 

We have three transformative, people-centred results – zero unmet need for family planning, zero preventable maternal deaths and zero harmful practices and gender-based violence – to ensure that we have a rallying cry for advocacy, communication, partnerships and resource mobilization. 

As the custodian of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action, and in the face of increasing pushback on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and women’s rights more broadly, UNFPA must continue to support and promote the progress achieved together over the past two decades through this rights-based approach.

This forward momentum is ensuring that more and more women have access to voluntary family planning and are able to decide whether or when to have children, that more and more women and newborns survive childbirth and thrive, that more girls are able to go to and stay in school and to live free from harmful practices, that more and more of the world’s 1.8 billion adolescents and young people have access to sexual and reproductive health services and information.

We have made enormous progress, with the support and guidance of the Board, and at the urging of our programme countries, and we will not go back.

The reaffirmed Bull’s Eye at the centre of our Strategic Plan lays out the overarching goal to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health, to realize reproductive rights, to reduce maternal mortality, and to accelerate progress on the ICPD agenda.

This includes a focus on strengthening health systems, together with Member States and other UN and development partners, including our H6 partnership, with an emphasis on quality of care, equity in access, and social protection.

The Strategic Plan also focuses on supporting country efforts to strengthen data collection, analysis and use, and to identify and track inequalities through censuses – to ensure targeted investments, and achieve national development goals.

Addressing poverty and inequality is the red thread running through all of these efforts.

With eyes on the 2030 horizon, and a focus on systems, on solutions, on innovation and on impact, this Strategic Plan represents the next step towards a new era for UNFPA and for women and young people around the world.

As we work to reach adolescent girls and women with sexual and reproductive health services, we are innovating to ensure no one is left behind. We are collaborating to compound our collective impact. And we are advocating to give voice to the voiceless.

Indeed, our online photo feature “16 girls, 16 stories of resistance”, about a group of courageous girls in Niger standing up against child marriage, was recognized with a prestigious Webby Award, and the Webby People's Voice Award, for Best Use of Photography. Just one example of our innovation in communication.

We are innovating in Afghanistan, where a UNFPA-supported midwifery hotline provides around-the-clock support and guidance to health workers across the country.

We are innovating in Mongolia, where an award-winning Telemedicine project enables specialists in the capital to give teleconsultations to provincial doctors and patients hundreds of miles away and to share medical data for analysis.

Since its launch, the project has reached at least 60 per cent of all pregnant women in the country. And we think the best measure of its success is that fact that Mongolia is one of only nine countries to have achieved the Millennium Development Goal on reducing maternal deaths.

In a multi-country effort, country offices in Moldova, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan are innovating with the private sector to provide accurate and real-time information to young people on access to national services and information.

In the Eastern and Southern Africa region, our Innovation Accelerator programme is providing mentoring and seed funding to help young entrepreneurs like Solomon Kahuma turn innovative ideas into successful ventures that provide homegrown solutions to country-specific sexual and reproductive health challenges. 

Solomon’s decision support system, Drug Dash, enables health centres and drug distributors in Uganda to capture real time data on health supplies and consumption to address the persistent problem of under- and overstocking of medicines.

Another Ugandan start-up, Eco Smart Pads, is making low-cost sanitary napkins from sugarcane. This not only improves menstrual hygiene, but keeps girls in school.

In Malawi and Swaziland, the mobile site “Tune me” allows young people to ask questions about relationships, family planning options, and information on HIV/AIDS and other sexual and reproductive health issues. This is just one of many similar initiatives around the world using mobile technology to put sexual and reproductive health information at young people’s fingertips.

In Mozambique, UNFPA and the Government have launched a real-time monitoring tool to collect disaggregated data on interventions to improve the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and young people. The new tool, called InfoBiz, helps the Government monitor clinic activities, better understand young people’s needs, and monitor progress.

At UNFPA, we see innovation as an indispensable engine for accelerating progress towards delivering on our mandate and achieving the ICPD and 2030 agendas, which are so intertwined. UNFPA has embraced innovation as a corporate priority. The Innovation Fund, supported generously by Denmark and Finland, has been a catalyst for increased organization-wide innovation, regardless of the funding source.

In a time of resource constraints and rapid change, it is time to think boldly about how to identify and scale up solutions. But we must do it based on the evidence of what works for whom and in what circumstances.

That is why we decided to conduct a formative evaluation of our Innovation Initiative. It provided real-time feedback and learning to managers on implementing the first phase of the Innovation Initiative; it is helping us improve programme design, processes and systems; and to inform this next Strategic Plan. I would like to add that this evaluation is itself an innovation, and the first of its kind in the UN system.

As part of this evaluation exercise, UNFPA commissioned a comparative analysis of innovation across the UN system, collecting and comparing data from 11 UN agencies and offices. By taking stock of our collective experiences to date, we hope this study will foster mutual learning, facilitate strengthened collaboration, and provide inspiration for the path ahead as we work together to support countries in making real the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals.

And I would like to invite all of you to join us just after this morning’s session for a side event on innovation at UNFPA.

While I am on the subject of evaluation and how central it is to the Fund, let me welcome Mr. Marco Segone, who recently joined UNFPA as Director of the Evaluation Office, after a more than 20-year career with UN Women and UNICEF. Marco has also served as vice-chair and chair of the United Nations Evaluation Group, and we look forward to working with and learning from him.

I am also pleased to inform you that Mr. Björn Andersson has assumed his duties this week as Regional Director of the UNFPA Asia Pacific Regional Office. I would like to thank Björn for his support to the late Executive Director and to the organization over the past four years, as advisor and as Chief of Staff, and during his previous years with the Fund. We wish him well in his new post in Bangkok.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank Ms. Yoriko Yasukawa for her leadership of the Asia Pacific region over the past two years and, on behalf of all of us, wish her well in her future endeavors.

Finally, I would like to recognize and thank Mr. Stephan Flaetgen, who represented with distinction the staff of UNDP, UNFPA, UNOPS and UN Women in various interagency fora since joining the staff council in 2000 until his retirement last month.


Mr. President,

Fully in keeping with the 2030 vision and the Secretary-General’s UN reform efforts, we are working to better align our efforts with sister agencies to protect and empower women and young people, particularly adolescent girls. Because we know that when we do, they and we together can build the better future we all want.

In Mozambique, UNFPA, in partnership with UNESCO, UNICEF and UN Women, is supporting a Government-led mentoring programme – Rapariga biz or “Busy Girl”, which aims to reach 1 million girls with crucial information about their bodies and their rights and also teach them the life skills they need to protect and empower themselves.

So far the results are encouraging, with rates of pregnancy and early marriage among participating girls far below the national average.

UNFPA will continue to partner with UNICEF and UN Women to put an end to gender-based violence and harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.

And we do have some good news on that front: the incidence of FGM has declined by around 30 percent over the last three decades. Yet, that progress is not universal.

UNFPA and UNICEF together lead the largest global programme to accelerate the abandonment of this injurious practice – working in partnership with governments, health workers, local communities, religious leaders and youth activists, like the Y-Peer youth network in Somalia.

Changing entrenched social norms and practices is slow, difficult work that requires patience, persistence and persuasion to change minds and drive action on the ground in community after community. Yet, we believe we that have cause for optimism. We are seeing young people, including young men, speak out against female genital mutilation. We are seeing older people, and even some religious and traditional leaders, who do not want their daughters and partners to be cut. The tide is turning, but we need to rev up and we need to push harder, we need to enlist more communities and families in abandoning the practice, and we need to support and empower more girls to make their voices heard. 

Adolescent pregnancy is another global challenge. In fact, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are now the leading cause of death among adolescent girls, and debilitating morbidities such as the obstetric fistula are a consequence of too early pregnancy. I want to challenge all of us in this room to redouble our efforts to end the scourge of fistula, which should have no place in today’s world. Fistula has been virtually eliminated in the world's wealthier countries, so we know that it can be eliminated in every country. It is achievable if we put our minds and efforts into it, and UNFPA is fully committed to ramping up this effort, together with our partners in the Campaign to End Fistula, as a matter of urgency. 

In the Philippines, a new campaign Babaenihan, spearheaded by UNFPA in collaboration with Vice President Leni Robredo, engages adolescent girls throughout the country to find solutions to challenges such as teenage pregnancy and calls for greater investment in their education, health and economic opportunities. Most importantly, it gives young women, like 16-year-old Shaina Macmac who dreams of being a doctor, a chance to voice their opinions, explain their challenges and aspirations, and tell us what they need.

UNFPA is also working with the government and local partners in El Salvador to increase awareness of factors contributing to teen pregnancy. We are training students, teachers and parents, and organizing workshops for public officials on human rights, gender equality and the protection needs of sexual violence survivors.

UNFPA will continue to consolidate and build on our long experience and strengths in delivering in both humanitarian and development contexts. By working to bridge the humanitarian-development divide, we strengthen the resilience of individuals, institutions and societies to contribute to positive outcomes over the long term.

In Peru, where over a million people were affected by flooding earlier this year, UNFPA deployed mobile brigades of gynaecologists, obstetricians, psychologists and social workers, and we reached over 10,000 women and girls with life-saving reproductive health services and information on how to identify and prevent dengue, Zika and Chikungunya infections, and protect themselves from GBV.

In Nepal, where recent devastating floods have put vulnerable women and girls at serious risk, UNFPA and our partners are distributing prepositioned dignity kits, conducting reproductive health camps in affected districts, offering antenatal check-ups and other life-saving services.

Turning to Nigeria, where violence has destroyed health facilities and resulted in an alarming shortage of skilled health personnel, UNFPA has been entrusted with providing supplies for safe deliveries, family planning, and equipment to respond to sexual and gender-based violence. 

We are also training health personnel in the Minimum Initial Service Package, which is a series of actions required to meet reproductive health needs in any crisis setting.

In conflict-torn Kasai in the Democratic Republic of Congo, UNFPA mobile clinics are reaching women cut off from health centres with antenatal care, life-saving emergency obstetric interventions, and services to support survivors of gender-based violence.

And turning to Syria, so far this year, UNFPA has helped more than 24,000 women with routine deliveries and over 29,000 women with C-sections.

UNFPA-supported mobile and static clinics, like the one seen here, have provided tens of thousands of women with reproductive health and GBV services in Aleppo, where the crisis has devastated the health infrastructure.

And with support from national partners, UNFPA has been able to deliver hygiene kits and multi-sectoral assistance to beneficiaries throughout Syria, providing the dignity and support women and girls need and deserve.

This includes empowering women to help them generate much needed income to support their families, reduce their vulnerability, build resilience and contribute to long-term recovery and sustainable development.


Mr. President,

Evidence shows that advancing sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights has multiplier effects that benefit individuals, communities and nations.

It shows that when development works for women and young people, especially adolescent girls, it works for everyone.

The 2030 horizon gives us an exciting, strategic opportunity to proactively shape and influence our future, together.   

UNFPA is engaging to implement change management in a holistic manner to help us hone and achieve strategic goals and institutional effectiveness in line with UN organizational reform and the recommendations of an independent evaluation of our current Strategic Plan.

In the new development and funding landscape, UNFPA needs to ensure that we have the right people, with the right skills, deployed in the right places, in position to do the right things at the right cost.

As I mentioned during our informal session last week, we are putting in place a governance mechanism led by our Deputy Executive Director of Management, Laura Londén, to ensure the substantive and operational coherence of the various change management initiatives and processes already under way at UNFPA, namely: the Comprehensive Resources Review, the Information and Communication Technologies Strategic Plan, the actual Strategic Plan revised business model implementation, and the UN Reform.

Our goal is to ensure that the organizational structure, staffing and budget allocations are all fully aligned to enable optimal implementation of the new Strategic Plan.

Currently, the focus is centered on headquarters structures. The next phases will be informed by the specifics of the Secretary-General’s reform process, for which more information should be available by December 2017, and of course, the assumption of duties by the incoming Executive Director of the Fund.

The Comprehensive Resources Review is, above all, an internal effort to improve the programmatic capacity of UNFPA, to take into account available resources, and to deliver better. And we will keep the Executive Board apprised of progress in this regard.

The 2017 Report on Contributions to UNFPA pointed to a 14% decrease in core and non-core resources between 2015 and 2016, and it projects a further 17% decrease for 2017.

This is due largely to exchange rate volatility; to a narrowing funding base for core resources; and to unprecedented reductions from some key traditional donors.

And while we have not yet closed the funding gap for this year, we would like to acknowledge several Member States who have committed to doing more for women and girls and have increased core contributions for 2017 – countries including Belgium, Israel, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. And we anticipate that many more will respond to UNFPA’s 150 Core Donor Campaign. A few donors, including Belgium and Denmark, have also committed new core funds for next year and beyond. In addition, Canada has just committed a welcome around $32 million in new support for UNFPA’s humanitarian response. For all of this we are immensely grateful, as we are to the 18 programme countries who have increased their contributions in 2017 – for a total of $72.2 million, as of 1 August 2017, compared to $23.0 million in 2016.

In the current development financing context in which ODA constitutes only a fraction of resource flows to meet the 2030 Agenda requirements, UNFPA is vigorously exploring opportunities, partnerships and new platforms that facilitate programmatic innovation and also financing innovation, including the option of blended financing leveraging different types of international and domestic financing streams. 

Efforts to engage non-traditional donors and partners led to the mobilization of $13.7 million in 2016 – which was a 24% increase over 2015. Initial results for the first half of this year are already showing $8.5 million in contributions from corporations and foundations.

Given the current funding situation, however, we have based the Strategic Plan and the Integrated Budget upon conservative income projections. While the needs remain great, the budget is prudent. Our funding targets will remain ambitious, and UNFPA will continue to actively explore and go after opportunities to mobilize further resources beyond these stated targets in order to achieve the ambition of the 2030 Agenda and ensure delivery on our three transformative results.

The majority of the resources – 75% – are proposed to be allocated to programmes, in support of the achievement of the Strategic Plan outcomes and outputs.  The decrease in the resources allocated to programmes is primarily due to the lower overall income the organization is projecting to receive.  And any additional resources that we do mobilize will be dedicated to the improved delivery of country programmes.

In response to the reduced income, the institutional budget includes a large volume of savings and efficiencies, and absorbs all of the statutory cost increases for the next four years.

While the institutional budget does increase, the underlying factors are very distinct, and predominantly driven by Executive Board decisions and/or audit recommendations.

I’d like to point out that the institutional budget, being the foundation of the organization, supports activities at all UNFPA locations – headquarters, regional and country offices.  This is the part of the budget that enables the organization to maintain our universal presence in delivery of our mandate, with more than half of the total institutional budget being spent in the field.

Following extensive consultations with and advice from Member States, UNFPA proposes now to defer the establishment of the Premises Capital Plan, which is requested by the Board of Auditors, and at this point we will bring it back for consideration at the next budget revision.  This will reduce the proposed institutional budget to USD 708.4 million, or 19.8 percent, and increase the funds available for programmes by USD 14 million. 

Our clear assurance is that UNFPA will continue the dialogue and keep the Executive Board fully informed as to how this balance in delivery at the country level is going to be vigorously pursued during the course of the Strategic Plan and, of course, in concert with and under the direction of the incoming Executive Director, once named.

We are proposing to brief the Executive Board in the first part of next year on the progress of work being undertaken in relation to the Comprehensive Resources Review and to respond to any issues, which are being raised by Member States following informal briefings which we will set up in the early part of 2018.

Subject to the decision of the new Executive Director on the results of the Comprehensive Resources Review, we will submit a report to the Annual Session 2019, and have a timeline that ensures that the Board's mid-term review of the Strategic Plan can take into account further changes, following the adoption of the Strategic Plan and Institutional Budget at this Second Regular Session, if so done.


Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

This new UNFPA Strategic Plan is a source of pride for all of us in UNFPA.  Why? Because it is a wellspring of promises we shall keep in promoting the wellbeing of the women and girls we champion together. We hope it is a source of pride for you as well because, indeed, it is as much your plan as it is ours.

Together, we have developed a solid, forward-looking Plan based on evidence, lessons learned and vision, and we very much look forward to its adoption.

We have come a long way together, and I believe that we have strengthened our relationship on a strong foundation of trust, goodwill, mutual respect and collaboration.

With your support we weathered two great storms this year: our defunding by a key donor, which was followed by the untimely loss of our Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

We have worked with you and we have heard your concerns. And we know that UNFPA must change – change with the times. And we know that we have proceeded on that path and that we are already doing a lot. UNFPA staff are on the front line – in many cases putting their lives are on the line to defend the health and rights of women and young people. And we are defending the poorest and the most marginalized, those continuously left behind – women and adolescent girls facing child birth in conflict zones or on the move; girls at risk of child marriage, female genital mutilation or any form of sexual or gender-based violence.

In some of the most inhospitable environments on earth, UNFPA staff face head-on the opposition we see to our mandate at the global level, and yet they persist in delivering life-saving services.

This, too, is an enormous bedrock for us.

The multifaceted change management process we are currently undertaking is going to require bold innovation; it’s going to require consolidation of our efforts; we are going to need to improve efficiency, collaborate more effectively, and expand UNFPA’s reach so that we can do more and do it better, and we can deliver on our promise to the world’s women, girls and young people.

We are very excited about the work that is under way, just as we are about our new strategic vision.

And in rolling out the Strategic Plan, we will model the change we want to see – consolidation, innovation, collaboration in teams across all levels of the organization, and communicating about the change process to all audiences, both internal and external, and doing so in a spirit of accountability, openness and transparency.

We occupy a difficult space at a particularly challenging time. We are being pushed and pulled in different directions – by, on the one hand, those who would seek to reverse the progress we have made – who seek to curtail reproductive rights and women’s domain over their own bodies and lives, and those pushing us to do more and do it better and to go further. Now more than ever we will need your political and financial support and your networks to continue to advance together towards our central goal, which remains universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.

Together, we need to build on the momentum generated by movements like She Decides, like the African Union Demographic Dividend theme this year, and like the London Family Planning summit, which galvanized and gathered attention and political will to show the resources necessary to bring real and lasting change to women, adolescent girls and young people.


Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

In these trying times when the UNFPA mandate is under threat, as Acting Executive Director, I can assure you that myself and my team in every corner of the world are constantly working hard to extend the reach of UNFPA to mobilize the financial and the moral wherewithal to vigorously defend the fundamental rights of women and girls to their sexual and reproductive health.

We of UNFPA must be vocal, visible and vigilant in defending the Member States’ approved focus on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, including family planning, as well as on the demographic dividend and youth empowerment. In the new sustainable development era, UNFPA must use the power of data and evidence to convince the skeptics and rally people of good will to our side.

We feel this is fully in keeping with Secretary-General’s reforms and the recommendations of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review, and we must engage skillfully, efficiently and cost-effectively with countries to ensure maximum coverage with value for money.

These are worthy ideals to which I myself and all of us in UNFPA are devoted as a mission and as a life's passion.

Because no one should be left behind.

We want to partner for equality.

We want to promote safety and dignity for every woman and girl – and to lead with a purpose.

Our mission and mandate, enshrined in the ICPD Programme of Action and reaffirmed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, where every childbirth is safe and where every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

By 2030 we aspire to: zero unmet need for family planning; zero maternal deaths; and zero violence against women, including harmful practices.

Our actions will help ensure the sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights of every woman and girl!

Because the future indeed belongs to the 10-year-old girl! Let us prepare her and empower her, and boys too, to help us all build a more just, equitable, sustainable future – a future of health and well-being and prosperity for all.

Thank you.