Statement by the Executive Director to the Executive Board

25 Jun 2014

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin's remarks at the Annual Session of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board 2014

Remarks as prepared for delivery

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

It is a pleasure to be here with you again in the beautiful city of Geneva. Let me start by thanking you for your continued support and feedback, which is essential to ensuring many of the results that I will speak to you about today and which facilitates our efforts to create an organization fit for purpose and ready to address current and future challenges efficiently and effectively.

We remain committed to results and improving our accountability to our Member States, and most importantly, to those we serve.

As you know, this is a crucial year. Member States, supported by UNFPA, are concluding the ICPD@20 review process, which will culminate with the Special Session of the UN General Assembly in September. They are also working together to define future Sustainable Development Goals, which we hope will reflect many of the lessons learned and recommendations from the global ICPD beyond 2014 review.

The findings of the ICPD review, which we shared with the Board earlier this year, revealed tremendous progress over the two decades since Cairo, progress that points to the criticality of the Programme of Action to broader efforts to achieve sustainable development.

Maternal mortality has fallen by nearly 50 percent. Women’s access to family planning and antenatal care has also improved. More women have access to education, work and political participation. More girls are going to school.

But we still have a long way to go. The belief in, commitment to and support for human rights, gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights are far from universal.

Each day’s news brings home this reality in vivid detail. Another girl hanging from a tree, another woman dead from an utterly honourless killing, another adolescent life lost to an unsafe abortion or to AIDS, another school empty….

One out of every three women in the world, in every country and from every background, will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime.

They are not safe at school, not safe fetching water, not safe on a university campus, not even on the steps of a courthouse or in their own homes.

Discrimination and harmful traditions such as child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting persist, and the perpetrators operate with impunity, even in the face of laws against such practices.

Is there a tipping point? When will we finally say ‘enough’ to violence and discrimination against women and girls?

When will we finally bring back our girls – all our girls and women – to their schools, to the workforce, to their rightful place alongside men and boys at the table where decisions are made, and away from child marriage, away from early pregnancy, away from HIV infection, away from violence and harmful practices that strip them of their dignity and in the worst cases deprive them of their lives?

Only then will we be able to build the future we all want.

Women continue to die giving life – at least one somewhere in the world since I began speaking and another 20 more before I’m through – many of them adolescent girls.

Right now as I speak to you, a girl, perhaps no more than 10 years old, poor, most likely living in a remote rural area, is being forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She is frightened, confused and above all powerless to stop the transaction taking place – her marriage to a much older man. Today is the day that her childhood ends, and along with it, her education, her aspirations and any chance of reaching her full potential – a brutal violation of her human rights.

Every two seconds a girl under the age of 18 is married.

Yet despite these statistics, discriminatory laws, practices and attitudes continue to keep women and young people, particularly adolescent girls, from accessing sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception, and realizing their reproductive rights.

More than 200 million women in low and middle income countries today do not have access to modern contraception. Tens of millions of our young people do not have access to good quality comprehensive sexuality education.

And the consequences in loss of health, empowerment, education and opportunities for work are profound – for individuals, but also for their communities and societies.

This is our great unfinished business.

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the ICPD and work together to forge a sustainable development agenda for the future, it is crucial that we address the persistent discrimination and inequalities hitting the poorest and most marginalized among us. And it is vital that we uphold the rights of women, girls and all young people – for their own dignity and well-being, but also because doing so is the key to meeting any future development goals.

Resilient societies are built by resilient individuals, and building individual resilience requires meeting individuals’ needs but also protecting and advancing their human rights.

As head of UNFPA, it’s clear to me that human rights mean different things to different countries. So if we are going to make progress, we must work towards a common understanding of the universality of human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The UN has a critical role to play in making this happen.
Human rights are not a luxury to be enjoyed only after development has occurred. They are the very foundation of development.

There can be no development without human rights. Our predecessors in Cairo understood that, and we all must continue to drive home that message in the coming months and during the UN General Assembly Special Session on ICPD beyond 2014, and ensure that it is the cornerstone of the next development agenda.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me turn now to the annual report of the Executive Director for 2013 (DP/FPA/2014/5), which focuses on the progress achieved on the reforms that UNFPA adopted following the midterm review of the strategic plan, 2008-2013. The reforms aimed to make UNFPA more responsive to the changing global development environment and to improve the positioning and implementation of the ICPD agenda.

As the report shows, UNFPA has made progress in improving both its strategic focus on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and its programmatic and operational effectiveness and efficiency.

You will recall that upon my assumption of office, I developed a Business Plan to support and accelerate the implementation of the outcome of the midterm review of UNFPA's Strategic Plan. The seven-point plan was aimed at refocusing the organization's efforts on the bull's eye, making country programmes a top priority, investing in strategic communications to ensure that we speak with One Voice, addressing human resource challenges, strengthening management and operations, breaking down silos, addressing performance issues and holding senior management accountable.

Today, I am happy to report that we have done incredibly well in moving this agenda forward, even though work remains to be done in certain areas to consolidate our efforts. We have credible evidence to support improved staff performance, for instance, which is also closely linked with the fact that staff are working in concert rather than in silos.

Let me share with you now some of the programmatic and operational results achieved in 2013.

Maternal Health

In the area of maternal health, UNFPA focused on accelerating progress towards achievement of the MDG5 targets. The Fund supported 38 countries’ efforts to strengthen emergency obstetric care and 43 countries’ efforts to strengthen midwifery so that more women survive childbirth and deliver healthy babies. Since the launch of UNFPA’s Maternal Health Thematic Fund five years ago, training has been provided to more than 10,000 midwives, who assist 1.75 million births annually.

Over 10,000 fistula repair surgeries were performed with UNFPA support in 2013, nearly a 30 per cent increase over 2012.

Family Planning

2013 saw the roll-out of UNFPA’s new family planning strategy, “Choices not chance”, which will guide our efforts to increase access to voluntary family planning information, services and supplies, so that individuals and couples can decide whether to have children, and if they choose to do so, when and how many.

UNFPA committed 40 per cent of its programme resources to family planning in 2013, which enabled us to help 95 countries improve the availability and choice of contraceptives. The newly established Steering Committee for the Global Programme to Enhance Reproductive Health Commodity Security, chaired by me and comprising key donors and partners, is ensuring oversight and guidance of financial and technical support to countries through the GPRHCS, which has mobilized about $565 million since 2007.

Promotion of increased domestic funding resulted in a number of countries increasing their family planning budgets, including the Philippines, which became self-sufficient, procuring enough modern contraceptives to ensure a constant supply. The country also passed a landmark reproductive health law that expands access to information and services, including family planning and sexuality education.

Several African countries also increased their financial commitments, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

With UNFPA support, a number of countries have seen significant increases in their contraceptive prevalence rates in recent years, including Burundi, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Madagascar and Niger, among others. For example, in Burundi, CPR rose from just 1.2 per cent in 1987 to nearly 18 per cent in 2011, and was estimated at 27 per cent in 2013. Another example is Liberia where CPR rose from 10.3 per cent in 2003 to an estimated 19.1 per cent in 2013. I can mention many other countries that have made similar progress.

UNFPA remains actively engaged in the FP2020 platform, and we continue to strengthen our partnerships. In 2013, for example, UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation launched an effort to increase access to family planning by youth, including vulnerable adolescents, in sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2013, UNFPA remained the largest supplier of female condoms, providing 20 million. We also supplied an unprecedented 1 billion male condoms. The CONDOMIZE! Campaign continues to raise awareness among youth of condoms’ triple protection against HIV, STIs and unintended pregnancies.

Integrated Service Delivery

UNFPA continues to provide leadership and document good practices in bringing together action that jointly and positively affects sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention and treatment outcomes. Integrated HIV and sexual and reproductive health services, including in antenatal care to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, are reported in about 70 percent of countries.

Universal access means leaving no one behind. UNFPA worked in partnership with the World Health Organization, the Network of Sex Work Projects, the World Bank, and the UNAIDS secretariat to create a tool for implementing comprehensive HIV and sexually transmitted infection programmes with sex workers. Tools focused on key populations under development this year will help us move towards the end of AIDS.

Adolescents and Youth

We continued to strengthen our focus on young people, with development of an adolescent and youth strategy and a separate youth focus in the strategic plan. In 2013, 71 percent of country programmes formulated that year included a separate output on youth, as compared to 7 percent of those formulated in 2011.

While continuing to advocate for youth issues in international fora, UNFPA supported platforms for youth participation in 82 countries.

Young people were actively engaged in the regional conferences to review progress in implementing the ICPD Programme of Action, making their voices heard on a range of issues affecting them, their countries and the planet.

102 countries received support to design and implement comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education programmes for young people.

In East and Southern Africa, UNFPA teamed up with UNESCO, UNAIDS and other partners to support governments’ efforts to expand access to comprehensive sexuality education and develop curricula.

The UNFPA-supported Y-PEER youth network reached more than 1.5 million young people in the Arab States in 2013 with theatre-based programmes that provide information about sexual and reproductive health. Y-PEER also helped raise awareness among refugees and displaced persons in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan and Syria.

Gender Equality

I mentioned earlier that there can be no development without human rights. And now I’d like to be more specific: There can be no development without women’s rights.

In 2013, we supported 123 countries in adopting international agreements and national laws and policies advancing gender equality and strengthened capacity in 86 countries for elimination of gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation.

In 2013, over 4,000 communities declared abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting compared to 1677 in 2011.

UNFPA and UNICEF continued our joint work in 15 countries to accelerate the abandonment of FGM/C, and the recent evaluation of this programme shows it is making an impact in increasing momentum for change.

The next phase of the programme will focus greater attention on other harmful practices that result from adverse gender norms, particularly child marriage.

We have found that programmes that work with communities, but also invest directly in girls, are not only successful in delaying the age of marriage and reducing FGM/C, but also improve other indicators.

That is why UNFPA is scaling up our programmatic focus on adolescent girls. Our Action for Adolescent Girls initiative is supporting national governments and local partners in 12 countries with targeted investments aimed at reaching the most marginalized girls in the poorest communities.

In Niger, which has the highest rates of child marriage in the world, out-of school girls between the ages of 10 and 19 in 40 communities are participating in an 8-month programme that includes a health check-up, literacy training, and a birth certificate or national identity card. Other activities include community dialogue sessions, and national level advocacy against child marriage.

UNFPA is also partnering with the World Bank to enable Niger and other countries in the Sahel to reap the demographic dividend through a package of interventions aimed at keeping girls in school and delaying marriage and childbearing. The Bank has committed $100 million to UNFPA as part of this initiative, which includes investments in education and skills development, sexual and reproductive health information and services, including contraception, and engaging local communities, particularly boys and men, in changing harmful social norms that hold girls and women back.

I’d like to add that we are enhancing our internal capacity to work more proactively with the Bank and capitalize on synergies.

UNFPA also supported civil society organizations in 19 countries in West and Central Africa that engage men and boys in efforts to promote gender equality, eliminate discriminatory gender norms and protect women’s reproductive rights.

Population Policies and Data

Efforts to build countries’ capacity for generating population data and using the information to guide policymaking continued in 2013. With UNFPA support, over 100 countries strengthened their capacity in production, analysis and dissemination of census data and 92 countries in integrating population dynamics in national development strategies and policies.

Humanitarian response

By the end of 2013, UNFPA and the international community were responding to three large-scale disasters concurrently, and though the challenges were and still remain significant, UNFPA succeeded in improving its response mechanisms to ensure more effective humanitarian action in affected countries. In 2012, UNFPA implemented 70 life-saving programmes in 39 countries, and in 2013, implementation increased by over 50 per cent through 105 programmes globally.

Capacity building activities laid the foundation for these programmes: nearly 9,500 service providers from over 37 conflict or disaster prone countries were trained on the set of priority interventions to be implemented at the onset of a disaster - the Minimum Initial Service Package for reproductive health in emergencies.

In 2013, the Gender-based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS) Global Team supported GBV service providers in 27 countries. Internally, in 2013, over 150 UNFPA country and regional staff were trained on the foundations of humanitarian programming and four regional offices now have full time Humanitarian Coordinators and two regional offices have humanitarian focal points.

The Second Generation humanitarian strategy was approved in 2012, and the Fund is fully committed to continuing to improve its humanitarian response capacity, based on the experience from Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, the Philippines and now Iraq. Furthermore, the strategy and the new strategic plan prioritize mainstreaming humanitarian preparedness and response.

A surge roster of 44 staff was established in 2012 and supported deployments to all level three emergencies as well as to other countries responding to disasters, for example in the Sahel.

Internally, funding to support the scale-up and expansion of UNFPA's humanitarian action has been increased: fragility and risk for humanitarian crisis have been factored into the new Resource Allocation System and the HQ Emergency Fund has been increased from $3 to 5 million. From external sources, 31 countries and territories benefitted from co-financing contributions of approximately $40.2 million, which is a 48 percent increase over 2012.

In 2014 we will continue to integrate preparedness and disaster risk reduction in our development results framework to ensure a more predictable, effective and measurable response and to achieve sustainable resilience in high risk countries.

Results-based management

UNFPA continued to strengthen programme and results planning and monitoring and improved the quality of our country programme documents.

The Strategic Plan 2014-2017 that you approved in September 2013 has a much more robust and field-informed results framework compared to previous strategic plans. Compared to the period prior to the Midterm review in 2011, today UNFPA country programmes are more focused and tailored to local development priorities and needs as well as the ability to pay for those needs. Country programmes are aligned with the strategic plan and have stopped the practice of doing everything everywhere. And for all planned results, we specify indicators, with baselines and targets.

Programme evaluation improved with the adoption of a revised UNFPA evaluation policy and the creation of an independent Evaluation Office. This reflects efforts over the past two years to strengthen evaluation capacity throughout the Fund. In this regard, I would like to call your attention to the Report of the Director of the Evaluation Office as well as the management response.

Mr. President, Ladies and gentlemen,

As you may recall, the Board approved, at the second regular session in 2013, the resources for financing the global and regional interventions, which were then called the global and regional programme. At the same time, it requested us to develop a strategic framework for the global and regional interventions, aligning the framework with the new strategic plan, 2014-2017, and to present it to the Board for approval at this annual session.

We have done as requested. A draft of this strategic framework was presented to the Board in January this year, and we have since taken the comments received into consideration in the final draft. Your comments included a strong desire for us to capture the different aspects of the global and regional interventions, including those that had earlier been described in various documents, in one single document.

The strategic framework we present to you today, contained in document (DP/FPA/2014/8), describes the purpose of and the holistic vision for the global and regional interventions; the process of developing and reviewing the associated action plans; the resource allocation mechanism utilized; the content of the planned interventions; and details on implementation, including monitoring, reporting and evaluation.

We are also presenting an addendum (DP/FPA/2014/8/Add.1), which lays out two separate results and resources frameworks, one for global and one for regional interventions. The indicative total in resources for the period 2014-2017 is $110 million for global interventions and $165 million for regional interventions, for a grand total of $275 million.

As you will see, this is now a revamped mechanism with a clearer strategic focus, stronger results chains and greater accountability.

We look forward to your comments on the new strategic framework in the discussion that follows.

Funding/Resource mobilization

In 2013, total UNFPA revenue was $976.7 million, including $495.6 million in regular resources. Total revenue decreased by $11.6 million (or 1.2 per cent) in 2013, due to a decrease in other resource revenue.

Regular resource contribution revenue increased by $22.5 million, or 5.1 per cent, from 2012 to 2013.

Total expenses in 2013 amounted to $913.2 million, of which around 84 per cent was spent on programme activities.

We thank Member States for their continued support, particularly their core contributions. Predictable regular resources are critical to enable UNFPA to implement its strategic plan and help countries implement the ICPD agenda.

We continue to work to diversify our resource base and mobilize new donors.

As part of the broader discussions on UN fitness-for-purpose and QCPR implementation, UNFPA has engaged in a series of discussions with Executive Board members and our partner UN agencies on funding of our respective strategic plans for 2014-2017.

For UNFPA, the initial stage culminated in an informal session with Executive Board members in June, which confirmed our strong partnership and laid the foundation for the next steps, including formal Executive Board discussion and dialogue with Member States on improving predictability and flexibility of funding and expanding the donor base.

Human resources

While financial resources are crucial to our work, they would be useless without our most valuable asset, our people. In 2013, UNFPA developed a new human resources strategy to align human resources management with the UNFPA strategic plan, 2014-2017, and the associated business model. The Human Resources Strategy focus is on building a world class fit-for-purpose workforce, creating an enabling environment in the organization and fostering a culture of inspiring leadership at all levels of UNFPA.

In the past year alone the Division for Human Resources has led country office change management programmes in more than 20 countries and has itself undergone a comprehensive transformation process resulting in a more logical, decentralized structure with the creation of HR Strategic Partners in all Regional Offices.

We have also developed and implemented a leadership pool concept, which has helped to build UNFPA “bench strength” for critical leadership positions and will, over the coming years, lead to a much reduced vacancy rate for leadership positions and provided tailored learning for rotational staff in country offices. The Leadership Pool is also complimented by other initiatives including a leadership development programme, or LEAD, facilitated in conjunction with Cranfield University, the LEAP programme aimed at developing support staff and a sabbatical programme to help staff remain at the 'cutting edge' of their profession.

We have focused on maintaining adequate staffing levels and on strengthening a culture of accountability by addressing under-performance. UNFPA’s performance management system and, more importantly, performance culture is widely recognized within the UN system.

All staff members have an important role to play in driving organizational results and in improving UNFPA performance, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank UNFPA staff for their valuable contributions to our work.

Mr. President, Ladies and gentlemen,

We have ample evidence, including from the ICPD beyond 2014 review, showing that development gains made in the two decades since Cairo have not improved the lives of all. Discrimination and inequalities persist, and perceptions of and commitment to human rights, particularly reproductive rights, and gender equality are not universal.

But we are making progress. We at UNFPA are encouraged by the positive support we see and hear from many Member States who are eager to speed up delivery on the ICPD agenda, particularly related to universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning.

Many Member States and civil society groups are advocating for renewed efforts to address future challenges in relation to population and development. This was seen in the feedback provided by Member States in the ICPD operational review, including the regional conference outcomes, and in many national statements made at the recent Commission on Population and Development and at the International Parliamentarians Conference on ICPD, held in Stockholm in April.

When Member States adopted the forward-looking Cairo agenda 20 years ago, they understood that there was a compelling case for placing human rights – including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights – at the heart of development. Only by ensuring individual dignity and wellbeing, including and especially among the poorest, most marginalized and excluded, can we achieve sustainable development.

If we can ensure that the girl I mentioned earlier and others like her are able to enjoy their right to education and stay in school, are protected from violence, early marriage and other harmful practices, have access to the information and means to avoid unwanted pregnancy and HIV, are equipped with choices and opportunities, they, along with their brothers, will become powerful agents for social change and will shape a better future for all of us.

We at UNFPA believe that a coherent, comprehensive focus on this generation of adolescents, particularly girls, is one of the best investments we can make and will ensure a more equitable, just and sustainable future.

Too often in development discussions and policies, the links between the micro and macro levels are severed – between the individual, like our 10-year-old girl, on the one hand, and collective environmental sustainability, macroeconomic growth, and poverty eradication, on the other.

But current efforts to define a new sustainable development agenda beyond 2015 offer a unique opportunity to repair these linkages and reaffirm the core message of Cairo – that collective sustainability rests on a foundation of individual dignity and rights.

The first step is to ensure that gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and the rights and needs of adolescents and youth, which will determine the world’s ability to achieve the post-2015 agenda and sustainable development, are as prominent and integrated as possible in the future Sustainable Development Goals.

This is something that must be addressed by many stakeholders. But I would like to call on Member States as you define and refine the future Sustainable Development Goals, and as we meet in New York in September for both the UN General Assembly Special Session on ICPD beyond 2014 and the Climate Summit, to keep both the micro and macro perspectives in mind. Because the truth is, sustainable development is as much about our 10-year-old girl as it is about GDP or degrees Celsius.

Thank you.

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