Statement by the Executive Director to the Executive Board

10 June 2013
Author: UNFPA

Remarks of UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin at the Annual Session of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board 2013

Madame President,
Distinguished Members of the Executive Board,
Colleagues and friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be with you again. I look forward to our discussions on UNFPA’s progress and achievements over the past year, our challenges for the future, and our efforts to create a more impactful, more efficient, more transparent and more accountable organization. Let me start by thanking you at the outset for your support and guidance in helping us achieve the results that I will speak to you about today.

I’d like to address three areas in particular:

• The first is our focus on programme results
• The second is our work to build a more accountable organization and
• The third is our efforts to link results to resources.

But let me start by speaking briefly about some of the things that have happened since our last annual session.

For UNFPA, the last year has been momentous – a year where we have continued to use our convening power to pull together diverse stakeholders around issues central to our work for women and young people in particular.

UNFPA advocacy has helped reposition the family planning agenda at the forefront of the international stage. As you recall in July last year, UNFPA partnered with the United Kingdom, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others to host the London Family Planning Summit. This led to $2.6 billion in new commitments from donor nations – and more significant commitments from developing countries to increase their budgets. These commitments will make voluntary family planning available to an additional 120 million women and adolescent girls by 2020.

The FP 2020, as it is referred to, has a Reference Group that is chaired by UNFPA and the Gates Foundation and builds on the work that UNFPA has been doing as a global leader on family planning for more than 40 years.

It is driven by a simple truth: A woman’s ability to have children by choice, not chance, transforms lives, communities and countries.

We believe it is a basic human right.

It’s also a great investment, as we reported in last year’s State of World Population report.

And the human returns on investment are even more compelling if we can attain universal access to reproductive health services, especially family planning:

• 55 million unplanned pregnancies prevented
• 138 million abortions averted, and
• 118 000 maternal deaths avoided.

That’s why we are taking concrete steps to drive demand for family planning, improve supply and stock management of key contraceptives and to track our family planning expenditures and results – all part of UNFPA’s family planning strategy, Choices not Chance.

The Fund will promote and implement an integrated approach to make reproductive health and reproductive rights a reality by situating family planning in a rights-based agenda and in broader sexual and reproductive health strategies and services.

And we’re seeing real results:

Countries like Burkina Faso, Burundi, Lao, Ethiopia, Mali, Madagascar, Sierra Leone and Haiti, recovering from a devastating earthquake, have all increased their contraceptive prevalence, increased the numbers of service delivery points offering at least three methods of contraception and increased their budget allocations for reproductive health commodities.

That’s important because sustainability comes from there.

Let me turn now to other milestone achievements in 2012. This includes:

• the first International Day of the Girl Child, which focused on child marriage,

• the launch of our ageing report, which spoke to the concerns of older people, and

• the ICPD Bali Global Youth Forum, which gave voice to the hopes and dreams of young people.

And in 2013, it’s even proving to be more momentous for us:

From the high-level event on the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa at the AU summit in January…

…to the UN Commission on the Status of Women’s historic agreement on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls…

…to, more recently, the Commission on Population and Development session on migration, which emphasized the feminization of migration…

…to, even more recently, the first-ever International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, which was celebrated two weeks ago…

…to the Women Deliver conference in Malaysia, where we were able to show quite clearly the convening power of UNFPA.

And I just came back from the TICAD conference in Japan where, in fact, development, issues of population, and population and security were central to the conversation between Japan and Africa.

So, as you see, all these issues at the heart of UNFPA’s work are finding their way to the heart of the global development agenda.

Madame President,

You will recall that the Mid-Term Review of the Strategic Plan, conducted in 2010, was a major turnaround in the way UNFPA does business.

At the strategic and operational level, we are now more focused. We have stopped trying to do everything everywhere. This focus has enabled us to position ourselves better to promote the ICPD agenda in both the current and future global development frameworks.

And we have seen improvements in terms of our development results, although challenges remain.

Maternal mortality trends continued to move in the right direction, including in the countries covered by the Maternal Health Thematic Fund and the Global Programme to Enhance Reproductive Health Commodity Security.

We have noticed and recorded significant declines in maternal mortality in countries such as China, Cuba, Egypt, Jamaica, Malaysia, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Tunisia, as more women have gained access to family planning and skilled birth attendance with backup emergency obstetric care. Some of this is due to the work UNFPA has done in those countries. Many of these countries have halved their maternal deaths in the space of a decade.

I was very pleased at the Women Deliver Conference when the Prime Minister of Malaysia actually announced that they came from a maternal mortality rate of greater than 500 to now 29. And that for me was most welcome because we’ve been associated with that throughout.

But the decline in maternal mortality has been uneven: sub-Saharan Africa still accounts for about 56 per cent of the estimated maternal deaths worldwide.

The number of women of child-bearing age who want to delay pregnancy but do not have the means to do so has declined, but we still have as our 2012 estimate 222 million women. The gap is closing, but not fast enough.

Overall, progress on MDG5 (targets A and B) on improving maternal health and providing universal access to reproductive health services has moved, slower than we expected, but gradual and sure.

Clearly, more work remains to be done, and we are advocating for this work in the post-2015 development framework.

In terms of the development results directly attributable to the Fund, which are measured through the strategic plan outputs, we posted a respectable performance.

The 2012 targets were met for 90% of our strategic plan outputs (up from 50% in 2011). We are committed to further improvement, especially in the area of measuring our output results.

We have put in place initiatives to improve our operations and embraced innovations to keep up to speed with the changing global development landscape.

Our Programme Review Committee, for example, working with our regional offices, has shown quite clearly an improvement in the quality of Country Programme Documents.

Our country programmes are not only now more focused, but results-based and enhanced by available evidence, especially from our evaluations.

Our cluster approach, which we instituted, is breaking silos and providing more coherent support to the field.

We have reorganized the Programme Division and the Africa region to make these units more responsive to the support needs of the field.

Last year alone, our various service desks handled more than 8,500 requests from our country offices for support, and we are currently working to create an integrated service desk that will manage all field support requests within even shorter turnaround times.

We have also reviewed and revised our Humanitarian Response strategy and the Standard Operating Procedures, so we are able to respond to emergencies more efficiently and effectively.

We have improved communication, which was another challenge that we identified two years ago. We still have room for improvement, but results from surveys of staff and our partners in the field suggest that we are on the right track since the launch of our new communication strategy last year.

Financial management is another area where we have made significant progress since 2011.

We responded decisively to a qualified audit, especially through the Audit Management Committee, which I chair. Today the Fund has unqualified audits and has seen significant drops in negative national execution audits and overdue operating fund account advances.

So that’s where we’ve been.

Let me talk now about where we are going.

The process of developing the next Strategic Plan (2014-17) and the accompanying Integrated Budget is well advanced, and we will have a separate conversation about them at the informal this afternoon, so I will just touch on a few highlights now.

Let me begin by thanking all of you for your engagement in the process thus far. Your feedback has been critical and we look forward to continued dialogue.

At the heart of the new Strategic Plan is the bull's eye, which continues to be a clear rallying call for all our staff and a sound foundation for our partnerships with our UN partners and governments worldwide.

The bull's eye places women, adolescents and youth at the center of our work, and that enables us to deliver innovative, human rights-based programming so that by the end of the Strategic Plan period, we will have contributed measurably to improving their lives.

To this end, over the next four years we will work tirelessly to decrease the number of women whose needs for family planning and contraception are not being met today. We believe that by doing so we will also reduce maternal mortality and stop the transmission of HIV. We will work intensively for the sexual and reproductive health of young people so that their fuller potential may be more readily realized. And we will continue to promote quality maternal health care, champion the expansion of reproductive rights and play a leading role in efforts to reduce and seek to eliminate gender-based violence.

We will strive to build national capacities to deliver services better and ensure that the voices of the marginalized and vulnerable are taken into account in the formulation of national policies and the international agenda.

The new Strategic Plan reaffirms the bull's eye but it also emphasizes how we're going to deliver it, in the form of a new business model. We have to get smarter about how we work, and become better at engaging differently in the different settings in which we work.

For example, in upper middle income countries, our comparative advantage is in working through advocacy and policy dialogue, and supporting South-South cooperation.

In humanitarian settings we need to deliver a full range of reproductive health services.

I recently saw firsthand the outstanding work being done by our colleagues and partners in preventing and responding to gender-based violence and providing life-saving reproductive health services – even in the most challenging situations.

During my recent visit to the Great Lakes region of Africa with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, we visited the Heal Africa hospital in Goma, whose director, Dr Lusi, you see with us here.

With UNFPA support, the hospital treats victims of gender-based violence, and women and girls suffering from obstetric fistula. This 16-year-old you see in the photograph was one of such patients.

Our visit took place on the first International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. It was profoundly moving to spend the day with fistula patients. We must do all that we can to put an end to this health and human rights tragedy.

It’s interesting that in the Democratic Republic of Congo alone there are 40,000 young women with obstetric fistula, and they are seeking repairs and social integration.

In April, I visited the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey, where UNFPA is also working to ensure safe spaces for women and girls, and to protect their right to exercise control over their own bodies, including through family planning.

So these are some of the services that we are providing and will continue to provide in humanitarian settings.

The final piece of the puzzle in terms of the Strategic Plan is a revision to our funding arrangements. One key element is a revised Resource Allocation System based firmly on the bull's eye, and with it we will be able to allocate resources where we can have the most impact.

The integrated budget proposal significantly reduces our overhead costs, while absorbing mandatory cost-increases and investing in strategic organizational improvement initiatives.

We believe that this holistic approach will help us deliver enormous benefits to women and young people around the world.

I hope that you will join us at the informal session on the Strategic Plan and the Integrated Budget to hear more about this, and I continue to welcome your guidance and support in finalizing these documents.

Let me turn now to the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review. As you know, UNFPA remains strongly committed to implementing the QPCR resolution, which was approved by the General Assembly last December.

And I am glad to say that we have made progress so far:

UNFPA led UNDG coordination efforts to finalize the Standard Operating Procedures for countries wishing to adopt the Delivering as One Approach.

We at UNFPA are also actively engaged in the development of a UNDG work plan to implement the QCPR, and will continue to deliver inputs into UNDG and UN system-wide processes.

I was also pleased to see agreement reached on the revised cost recovery rates.

To monitor effective implementation of the QCPR mandate, UNFPA is developing its own internal action plan to ensure compliance at the country, regional and headquarters levels.

The strategic plan, which we are developing, will include QCPR-related outputs, will be a critical tool in doing this.

But more work is needed. To make real improvements in our operational activities, the procedures need to be rolled out effectively. Swift progress is also needed to simplify tools for programming, monitoring and evaluation and joint results-based reporting, supported by joint support services and harmonized business practices.

I look forward to your support in the upcoming policy dialogues to adopt these measures.

Madame President,

At the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994, the global community recognized and affirmed that sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights are foundational to sustainable development. Twenty years later, this still holds true.

UNFPA leads the ICPD review, which is also an opportunity to contribute to the future of population and development policies at national, regional and global levels.

As you know, a global survey was undertaken and preparations are under way for regional and thematic conferences, engaging Member States, United Nations organizations, civil society, and academia in discussing the progress to date and future directions which we will take.

For the first time, through UNFPA leadership, the United Nations system will jointly review the ICPD agenda at a special session of the General Assembly in 2014.

The global consultation launched by UNFPA aims not only to advance the ICPD agenda but to ensure its close integration into the post-2015 global development agenda.
At this juncture, let me welcome the report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, its attention to young people, and its recognition that gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights for all are essential ingredients for sustainable development.

It is our view that this Report is a significant contribution to the post-2015 debate as Member States continue their deliberations on a new development agenda.

Let me turn now to the question of accountability, which as you know has been a huge institutional priority since I arrived in 2011.

I am pleased to report that we are making progress in building a culture of accountability, increasing transparency and addressing outstanding audit recommendations.

You have before you UNFPA’s revised evaluation policy, which will ensure that the evaluation function is aligned with the strategic direction of UNFPA and with the norms and standards of the UN Evaluation Group. It creates an Independent Evaluation Office, which will serve as the custodian of corporate and programme-level evaluation.

UNFPA has placed stronger emphasis in the revised policy on strategic planning and quality assurance, on prioritizing evaluation as an integral part of UNFPA’s drive to ensure accountable, results-based management, and on ensuring that there are sufficient resources for it.

I would like to reiterate UNFPA’s strong commitment to continue to further improve its accountability at both the programmatic and operational levels.

We welcome the Division of Oversight Services’ acknowledgement of the organizational improvements resulting from management efforts, many stemming from the business plan implementation.

We also note the areas of risk identified in the DOS report and are committed to continuous improvement in mitigating these risks.

On the issue of the Global and Regional Programme (GRP), I’d like to update you on the progress we have made since I took office in January 2011 to address the challenges management had identified prior to the DOS performance audit.

I’d also like to acknowledge the challenges highlighted in the audit. At the outset, I should point out that the reported expenditures on GRP for the period 2008-2011 reflect an increase in non-core resources, specifically for thematic priorities under the Maternal Health Trust Fund and the Global Programme on Reproductive Health Commodity Security.

We have taken the opportunity to rethink UNFPA’s funding arrangements and revamp the GRP to institutionalize the reforms introduced during the development of the GRP 2012-2013.

As part of the development of the new Strategic Plan and Integrated Budget, I want to assure you of UNFPA's commitment to address the gaps and weaknesses in the GRP process, as already outlined in our management response to the audit report.

More specifically, we have strengthened our results framework following the mid-term review of the current Strategic Plan and have put in place measures to enhance programme planning and monitoring, to facilitate clearer links between the GRP and the SP results framework. This will also ensure a more rigorous approach to allocation of GRP resources among regional offices, and also between HQ units.

A Programme Review Committee-type approach will be used for the review of GRP proposals. Quarterly reviews by the Executive Committee will enable us to make sure that progress is being achieved against each target and any necessary corrective measures taken.

I look forward to reporting back to you at the next Executive Board session on the implementation of the GRP reform plan.

The work under way to improve thematic funds management, as well as to install a global programme system and strategic information system will further improve fund-wide reporting on programme results, including those of the GRP.

The new integrated budget, which we will discuss with you this afternoon, provides a more coherent and consistent delineation of funds for management, development effectiveness and programme.

I have already spoken about our progress related to audit, but would like to call your attention to the Audit Advisory Committee report that you have before you.

I also welcome the recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit.

I am pleased to report that by the end of 2012, UNFPA had implemented 94 per cent of the recommendations of relevance issued by the JIU in 2010 and 90 per cent of those issued in 2011.

UNFPA is committed to continuing its active contribution to JIU activities, as well as its active follow-up and implementation of recommendations.

As you will read in its report, our Ethics Office continues to build a culture of ethics in the UNFPA workplace through training sessions and other support.

And we continue to improve our transparency: by endorsing the International Aid Transparency Initiative, by implementing the International Public Sector Accounting Standards and by publicly disclosing internal audit reports, which are now available on the UNFPA website.

Finally, I’d like to speak to you about our resources: the fuel that drives the engine.

Let me address our financial situation, funding commitments and our efforts to ensure that our resources are linked to the results we are working towards.

In 2012 donor contributions to UNFPA continued to increase. Whilst regular resource contributions decreased by $13.2 million (2.9%) to $437.5 million, other resources contributions increased by $93.8 million (21.3%) to $533.6 million. Other resources contributions were 54.9% of total contributions, up from 38.2% in 2009.

Total expenses in 2012 were $810.7 million, of which $675.2 million (83.3%) was on programme activities. Gross institutional budget expenses of $134.5 million represented 16.6% of total expenses.

The implementation rate for regular resources was 93.8%.

UNFPA’s financial position remains strong and robust. But while we welcome the growth in total contributions, we would like to stress that regular resources are the bedrock of UNFPA’s operational activities and essential to carrying out its work.

We believe that the sharpened focus depicted in the strategic plan’s bull’s eye, and the resource allocation system that supports it, provide the necessary assurance that UNFPA regular resources are deployed in line with the vision and direction of the strategic plan.

We thank Member States for their continued support and encourage them to increase their core contributions. We also encourage programme countries to increase contributions to activities in their countries so that we can have co-financing and boost the work that we do in those countries.

As UNFPA, we continue to reach out to non-traditional donors in our quest for a stable, predictable, diversified resource base.

Our financial resources enable us to secure what is our most valuable resource: our people. Over the past 12 months we have invested significantly in the up-skilling of our staff in mission-critical areas, including in the competencies essential for leading change, and making sure that we have people that focus on delivery.

We have strengthened and sharpened the role of the Executive Committee, which I chair and which brings together my deputies and all divisional and regional heads.

At our Global Meeting with all country representatives – held in February this year - we galvanized Fund-wide commitment to detailed implementation of our corporate priorities and affirmed that we are all responsible for accelerating our delivery to women, adolescent girls and young people.

I want to register my deep appreciation for the hard work, drive and commitment of my colleagues around the world over the past 12 months. We would not have been able to do this without them.

We have accomplished a lot, but are still faced with challenges. With your increased commitment and the strengthened resolve of us all, these challenges can become opportunities.

With greater accountability and emphasis on results we can deliver a leaner, more efficient organization that delivers more in the countries that we serve.

We can deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

At its root, our work is about people – it’s personal.

It’s about protecting a 10-year-old girl from forced marriage and early childbirth.

It’s about providing safe spaces and dignity for women and girls, even in the most difficult circumstances.

It’s about ensuring that women and girls have the choice to decide whether or when to have children – a basic human right.

It’s about education and equity.

It’s about opportunity and optimism about the future.

With your support we have repositioned UNFPA to be more focused, more flexible and more forward looking.

We have the bull’s eye, but only because we also have faces, billions of them, reminding us every day why we’re here and why this work is so important.

I thank you for your support and look forward to fruitful discussions.

I’d like to take the privilege of speaking. I want to acknowledge a former President of the Board of UNFPA, Ambassador Carsten Staur, Permanent Representative of Denmark who is attending this meeting.

I want thank him for his support and encouragement and the diligence with which he has pursued the issue of reproductive rights.

I thank you.

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