Statement by the Executive Director to the Executive Board
31 Jan 2013
31 Jan 2013
Partners in civil society,
Colleagues and friends,
It is my pleasure to address the Executive Board on its first regular session in 2013. My colleagues and I congratulate you, Ambassador Olhaye, on your election as the President of the Executive Board. We also congratulate the other members of the Bureau on their election: Mr. Boyan Belev (Bulgaria), Mr. Eduardo Porretti (Argentina), and Ms. Merete Dyrud (Norway).
Mr. President, many in UNFPA have been privileged to work with you when you held the Presidency of this Board ten years ago. We look forward to engaging with you and all members of the Executive Board and the Bureau again this year.
I would also like to thank His Excellency Mr. Marten Grunditz of Sweden and the other members of the outgoing Bureau for their leadership and support in 2012 – Ambassador Yusra Khan of Indonesia, Mr. Tarik Iziraren of Morocco, Mr. Eduardo Porretti of Argentina, and Ms. Candida Hornakova of the Czech Republic.
Before starting the statement, let me express my deep sadness about the news of the tragic accident that took place in the city of Santa Maria in Brazil. On behalf of UNFPA and myself, I would like to offer our sincere condolences and sympathies to the government and the people of Brazil.
I have just returned from the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, where UNFPA, the African Union and the African Development Bank hosted a high-level event on the Campaign for the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa, or CARMMA. It was gratifying to see so many African Heads of State, 51 of 54 African countries were represented. I also thank UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon for spending the afternoon with us at the event. CARMMA is a concrete platform to follow up on the Every Woman Every Child initiative. The power of true partnership, including South-South cooperation, bodes well for the year ahead and affirms the strategic direction of UNFPA.
At our session last September, I shared some of our achievements and challenges with you. I will now provide updates on our progress in implementing many of the initiatives I described to you then. We have many commitments to deliver in the months ahead, and I am confident that with your support and guidance, we can achieve our goals of improving the lives of women and young people in our programme countries.
I am pleased to report to you that overall, as reflected in annual reports from our country offices, that UNFPA has contributed significantly to capacity building on the incorporation of population dynamics and their interlinkages with reproductive health and development. At the global level, we have contributed to policy dialogues that have influenced national development agendas that incorporate issues that UNFPA represents, among them sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, family planning, young people, education, and gender equality.
Similarly, UNFPA has positioned adolescent and youth issues in the broader development framework, in addition to building capacity of youth-led organizations and networks to lead the planning, implementation and evaluation of youth strategies and plans. At the national level, UNFPA continues to support policies and expand institutional mechanisms to facilitate partnerships between governments, civil society, young people and other stakeholders.
UNFPA has supported innovative efforts in many places to generate knowledge on how to undertake youth-led participatory research and develop advocacy strategies that use demographic and health information to make the case nationally to invest in young people. And we have seen remarkable results. UNFPA continues supporting countries in the development of national health policies and plans with integrated sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights services.
The review of the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, ICPD, and preparations for follow-up beyond 2014 is a priority for UNFPA and for the General Assembly.
In December last year, we organized a Global Youth Forum as part of the review process. The event was hosted by the Government of Indonesia and included more than hundreds of young people and representatives of Governments, non-governmental organizations, United Nations entities and the private sector from 180 countries. What was so unique about this event was that youth from around the world planned and executed this meeting and made recommendations on health, education, employment, families, youth rights and civic participation. Beyond this, several global and regional events are also planned for this year. We are in the midst of preparing for consultations on human rights in The Hague. In addition, there will be regional conferences as part of the preparations for the 2014 General Assembly meeting on the ICPD.
With regards to the post 2015 agenda, UNFPA is engaged in the national country consultations on the post-2015 sustainable development framework and continues to lead thematic consultations on population dynamics, with support of the Government of Switzerland. We are also part of the consultations on health and equity. UNFPA’s position for the post-2015 agenda is clear: The empowerment of women, adolescents and young people to exercise their reproductive rights; universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, within a framework of human rights and gender equality; and, an understanding of the implications of population dynamics, are at the core of sustainable development. And we believe that the future of global development agenda will succeed only if women, adolescents and youth are at its center. These matters should feature prominently in the post-2015 development agenda, and we seek your support in ensuring that this happens.
Talking about gender equality and putting women in the center – I would like to share a quote by Ms. Dlamini-Zuma, the recently elected Chairperson of the African Union Commission, who said: “We, women, are half of the world and we give birth to the other half.” I believe this is a powerful way of describing the importance of gender equality.
The process of preparing the UNFPA 2014-2017 Strategic Plan is well under way. Based on the guidance that the Executive Board provided us, we have developed a rigorously evidence-based and highly inclusive process. There were some issues which we could not fully address in the mid-term review of the current Plan and are planning to tackle them in the new Plan:
• First, we are having a close look at our business model to ensure that we are set up to deliver impact in advancing the ICPD agenda in the 21st century.
• Second, we want to make sure that our funding arrangements and resource allocation system support our work optimally.
• Third, we are working very hard in refining our results framework in response to the focus and recommendations of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review.
Over the course of 2012, we have emphasized the need for analytical studies and reviewed the external environment as we reconsider our business model, results frameworks, and resource-allocation systems and funding architecture.
Through the mid-term review, the analytic work, and inclusive consultative process, we have observed a strong endorsement of our current strategic direction. We are looking forward to the Friday’s informal during which we will provide details on our progress and seek your guidance for moving forward.
At a joint segment later this week, we will discuss the integrated budget and a new methodology and rate for cost recovery from earmarked, or non-core, resources.
Issues of cost recovery have been high on the agenda for all of us for a while, and we have had many discussions on this topic over the past few months. We are looking forward to reaching an agreement on this important matter soon. We are proposing, together with our sister agencies, a harmonized cost-recovery rate of 8 per cent. The new methodology also envisions direct charging of eligible costs to projects thus offering further measures towards full cost recovery, as called for in the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review. Once approved, the new rates would be applicable in the beginning of 2014. The organizations will also prepare their next integrated budget proposals for 2014-2017 based on the newly approved rate.
Allow me now to update you on our thematic priorities, starting with family planning. Last year we have been very strategic in Family Planning. At the Family Planning Summit in London last July, pledges exceeded expectations, with $2.6 billion in additional donor support and – in my opinion even more important - significant commitments from developing countries themselves towards the target of $4.3billion. The new commitments reflect the global recognition of family planning being crucial for sustainable development and integral to universal access to reproductive health and reproductive rights.
We are strengthening our partnerships, including those with the private sector, to reinforce the commitment voiced at the Family Planning Summit to meet the unmet need for voluntary family planning in the next years. If this objective is met, each year, 200,000 fewer women will die in pregnancy and childbirth, there will be 110 million fewer unintended pregnancies and 50 million fewer abortions; and nearly 3 million fewer babies will die in their first year of life.
UNFPA is investing more than ever in actions to achieve universal access to family planning, and we intend to increase our funding for this purpose this year. As chair of the stakeholders group, UNFPA is also providing guidance on country engagement, market shaping, supply management and demand creation, and civil society partnerships in support of family planning. Making Family planning accessible for all women is also one pillar of CARMMA and all African countries at the high level event last week in Addis embraced this widely.
Our first corporate-wide Family Planning Strategy ensures that our interventions are effective, coherent, replicable and sustainable, and in support of 15 organizational reforms we have initiated to improve oversight and accountability in our work in family planning.
In order to reinforce our message, our 2012 State of World Population Report also focused on voluntary family planning as a human right.
I have spoken to the Campaign for the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa intensively, but I would like to mention a few more points about this, as it might be useful for you. According to data released in 2012, Africa has been able to reduce maternal deaths by 41 per cent between 1990 and 2010 and some of this has been achieved due to the work we have been doing in the Region. But Africa lags behind others in the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 5, to improve maternal health. In sub-Saharan Africa, the life-time risk of maternal death for women is still too high but we believe that if we continue working on this we can improve that.
As you know, adolescents and youth are core to our mandate and Strategic Plan. We have finalized our comprehensive Adolescent and Youth Strategy, which will strengthen and revitalize our work in this essential area.
I am pleased to note the Government of India has asked UNFPA to assist in with its national youth strategy to address the needs of some 350 million young people. The Government of Brazil has sought our collaboration to address rising adolescent pregnancy.
As part of a broader partnership-building strategy, we are also revitalizing the UNFPA youth advisory panel and non-governmental organization advisory panel to ensure that we can better engage with civil society organizations in support of our programme priorities. We have also accepted the co-chairmanship in 2013 of the Inter-Agency Network for Youth and Development, comprising some 25 partner organizations within the United Nations and civil society.
I want to make a special point about the celebration of the first ever International Day of the Girl Child in October 2012 as it was an event which touched my heart most deeply, and spoke to the UNFPA mandate so closely. For that inaugural day, UNFPA chose to focus the world’s attention on child marriage, an issue that presents great threats to the lives and health of young girls. As I travel around the world, both the global north and the global south, the issue of teenage pregnancy continues to confront us everywhere. Teenage pregnancy speaks to all of the issues we deal with at UNFPA, including the status of women, including access to services, including education of girls and the liberation of potentials for girls around the world. It also has great relevance to the issue of violence against women. And I strongly believe that we have to change this and liberate young girls, setting them on the course so that they can achieve their total potential in life. As a direct follow up to that event, we have started to provide more dedicated support to several priority countries where the issue of child marriage is highly prevalent.
On the other end of the age pendulum, is the issue of population ageing. Since the last board meeting, UNFPA also worked together with Help Age International and with over 20 collaborators within the UN system and civil society, to position ageing issues in global agenda through the report called Ageing in the Twenty First Century: A Celebration and a Challenge as a follow up to the implementation of the Madrid Programme of Action on Ageing. Let me underscore what we tried to accomplish with this. We want to bring visibility to the issues around ageing and ensure that all UN agencies and development partners take ageing and the social welfare and dignity of the elderly seriously.
Let me now turn to one of the most challenging aspects of UNFPA’s work, the work we do in fragile and transition states. In 2012, UNFPA responded to 30 countries which were or are in a state of emergency or crisis. In recent months, we have intensified our response to the needs of displaced populations in Syria and the Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. As we speak, UNFPA has a high and strong representation at the pledging conference in Kuwait, making sure that the unique niche that UNFPA works on, such as gender based violence for example, is well represented in humanitarian response. In addition, we are assessing how better to respond to the crises in the Sahel region where massive population displacements have been experienced as a result of conflict and of environmental degradation particularly in Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and parts of Cameroon, Gambia and Senegal.
As already reported to you, based on our Humanitarian Response Strategy, our approach is fully aligned with the revised Strategic Plan. We will also ensure that we meet all human resources needs by the end of this year to ensure that the humanitarian response in UNFPA is at its best A capacity assessment is currently on-going to determine needs and priorities in this regard. In the meantime, UNFPA has launched in December 2012 an internal Surge Roster, which will include a cadre of internal staff who may be deployed at short notice to augment humanitarian response.
UNFPA continues to engage with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee and actively supports its Transformative Agenda for improved leadership, coordination and accountability for humanitarian response and better preparedness. UNFPA is co-leading with UNICEF, the gender-based violence sub-cluster, which is tasked to coordinate global response to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence in humanitarian settings.
With these multiple crises occurring in many countries, staff safety and security has remained one of our major concerns. We have made significant progress in complying with the United Nations Minimum Operating Security Standards, and have revised the security accountability policy, further clarifying individual as well as managerial responsibilities when it comes to safety and security matters.
Our excitement over the priorities I have just outlined for you is further enhanced by our healthy funding situation resulting from successful resource mobilization efforts. I am very happy to say that our overall revenue grew from 2011 by 7.9 per cent. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for your continued support and trust on UNFPA delivering results. This growth is a clear message from you, our development partners, of the relevance of the mandate of UNFPA. Let me thank you for your confidence in us – a confidence that we will honor by delivering on the commitments we have made. We fully understand the responsibility this brings.
Let me speak to the recommendations of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review. UNFPA is committed to supporting its implementation and ensuring strong integration of its key recommendations in our upcoming strategic plan through a joint action plan of the UNDG. In particular, UNFPA is committed to enhanced results-based management, with a particular focus on results frameworks; greater transparency, efficiencies, effectiveness and more effective use of resources and reduction of management costs. In addition, we will continue to support and monitor progress in Delivering as One, including the development of Standard Operating Procedures for Delivering as One, which I am pleased to report, UNFPA has led successfully, with a renewed and ambitious push for harmonisation of business practices and increased harmonization of planning processes.
As you recall, I reported to you about the Business Plan we developed almost one and a half years ago, in response to the challenges outlined in our Mid-Term Review of the Strategic Plan. Since then, we have put in place a number of important measures to ensure that UNFPA consistently delivers high impact country programmes with sharper focus and increased efficiency.
In addition, there has been progress in other aspects of the business plan. The cluster approach at least in two programme areas (women’s health, and adolescents and youth) have been operationalized; the staff performance and appraisal instruments have been strengthened, a management and leadership training has been initiated, a UNFPA global Communications Strategy, which I have personally led, has been rolled out, and a revitalized human resources strategy focused on career fitness and Talent Management has been put in place. Such a framework also includes strategies to avoid vacancies following the retirement of staff. We continue to promote staff mobility, both within and between UNFPA and other agencies, consistent with the UN system. A Strategic Information System is in the process of being developed to help senior managers receive updated information about UNFPA to deliver better.
I now wish to turn to the important issue of evaluation – a topic that I feel we have had significant feedback and consultations with the Executive Board. I am most grateful to you, our Board members, for your deep involvement and close attention to this vital matter. We have made good progress and please stay assured that I am personally committed to ensuring that the evaluation function within UNFPA promotes transparency, facilitates learning and improves our performance and accountability.
I will reiterate the message I shared with you at the last Board session. My team and I are fully aware of the importance of rigorous evaluation for delivery of programme results and the overall effectiveness of UNFPA’s operations. As we have reported to you at the informal about a week ago, we have made significant progress on drafting the revised policy and we hope to engage you further informally, before we submit the final draft for your approval at the June annual session.
I have taken serious note of your additional concerns on the content of the Evaluation Policy raised at the last informal, particularly in terms of better clarifying roles and responsibilities for evaluation within UNFPA and most importantly, ensuring the function’s independence. We take this forward in a manner that will ensure operational and structural independence, and clarify further the roles and responsibilities, including for planning and prioritizing of evaluations, reporting, capacity-building, training, and the provision of methodological guidance. I hope we can get your support in getting this policy adopted at the June annual session, so we can begin to implement the changes you expect of us.
On the maternal health evaluation which is a major item in this session’s agenda, I would like to thank the Board for its recognition of UNFPA’s efforts to build a culture of evidence based programming and evaluation. We acknowledge that the evaluation has pointed out areas for improvement, and we shall continue to so improve on this, through more targeted technical support and assistance to country, and the better use of already existing tools and guidelines, that we have developed to assist countries in strategic planning for maternal health interventions, including the need for greater focus on vulnerable women and girls.
Later in this session, we will discuss the recommendations of the United Nations Board of Auditors for the biennium 2010-2011. Their report reflects the considerable efforts UNFPA has made in addressing the previous audit recommendations. As I already told you in September, our efforts have resulted in an unmodified audit opinion for this period. We have made systemic improvement and increased management oversight especially with regard to nationally executed expenditures. I can only reiterate to you that you have my personal commitment that UNFPA will continue to perform at this level.
To further strengthen transparency, UNFPA has adopted the International Public Sector Accounting Standards, IPSAS, since 1 January 2012 and is now engaged in - and on schedule - to produce its first annual IPSAS-compliant financial statements. During 2012 the organization revised its financial regulations and rules; developed and operationalized its accounting policies; enhanced and expanded the functionality of its ERP system and engaged in an extensive process of change management and re-training of key finance and accounting staff. At all stages of the project there was extensive communication with external stakeholders including the Audit Advisory Committee and the Board of Audit.
We also have identified the International Aid Transparency Initiative, IATI, as a corporate priority, and will be focusing on its sound and timely implementation during 2013 as this reporting standard will further improve transparency at UNFPA. A recent partners survey indicated that UNFPA is widely known and a valued partner in the programme countries where we operate. This is very reassuring for us. You can rest assured that we will continue to deliver on our promises so we can sustain your trust and confidence.
Before ending this statement, let me briefly welcome and introduce new UNFPA Senior staff. Let me with our newly appointed Regional Director for the Regional Office for West and Central Africa, Dr. Benoit Kalasa. The newly appointed Regional Director for the Arab States Mohamed Abdel Ahad is unable to be here due to pressing demands on our census work in Myanmar. I am also pleased to welcome Bruce Campbell, our new Director of the Technical Division and our new Chief for External Relations and Executive Board Branch, your former colleague in the Board, Dr. Josephine Ojiambo.
In summary, in 2013, we will focus on strengthening UNFPA to be the best organization it can be, to be more accountable, and more responsive to the needs of women, mothers and young people. We will sharpen our strategic planning to generate stronger results in our core areas. As the Executive Director of UNFPA and together with my Deputy Executive Directors and senior managers, I will carry this mission forward towards a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. I thank you.