Statement of Executive Director to the First Regular Session of the Executive Board 2018

25 January 2018

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

Good morning! And a very happy new year to everyone. Let me begin by again extending my congratulations to you, Ambassador Koonjul, on your election as President of the Executive Board. I would also like to welcome the rest of the Bureau, Ambassador Chull-joo Park of the Republic of Korea, Ambassador Besiana Kadare of Albania, Mr. Tumasie Blair of Antigua and Barbuda, and Mr. Dominique Favre of Switzerland. We at UNFPA look forward to working very closely with all of you over the course of the next year.

Let me also take this occasion to thank Ambassador Ib Petersen of Denmark and the outgoing Bureau for your partnership, guidance and support throughout 2017, and for accompanying UNFPA, along with the diplomatic community, the United Nations Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General, and all of our other UN partners, as we paid tribute to and laid to rest our late Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

Mr. President,

As you said, I have the privilege of addressing a formal session of the Executive Board as Executive Director for the first time. I would like to sincerely thank all Board members for the support extended to me since my appointment in October, and during my tenure as Acting Executive Director for the preceding four months.

2017 was quite a year. It was a year marked by challenges and change, by formidable opposition but also by opportunity.

Yet, throughout the turmoil and transitions of 2017, UNFPA staff stood together, showed their mettle and continued to deliver impressive results for the women and girls we serve.

I could not be more proud to serve as their Executive Director.

Through it all, our strength and resolve were bolstered by the partnership, mutual trust and confidence that we share with the Board.

Yes, we faced significant headwinds and funding challenges. Yet, we also saw a huge upsurge of support for UNFPA and for the rights of women and adolescent girls to control their bodies and their lives.

We saw women march in the streets in every part of the world. Civil society and governments responded with new global movements like She Decides. More men joined the movement for gender equality through initiatives like He for She, and reinvigorated UNFPA-supported youth groups made their voices heard. Millions of women and men, young and old, in more than 80 countries, raised their voices in a resounding chorus of #MeToos, sharing on social media their stories of sexual violence and harassment, underlining its pervasiveness in every industry, culture and region, and calling for an end to abuse and an end to impunity.

The European Union and the United Nations joined forces to launch the Spotlight Initiative, with the goal of ending all forms of violence against women by 2030.

The coalition of faith-based organizations and religious leaders around the world pushing with UNFPA for an end to female genital mutilation, child marriage and other harmful practices continued to grow.

Through the power of our partnerships – with the Board, with governments, with our UN partners, civil society, academia, the private sector and other actors -- UNFPA reached more than 33 million women and over 1.6 million adolescents and young people with services for their sexual and reproductive health and to tackle gender-based violence.

Contraceptives provided by UNFPA in 2017 potentially averted an estimated 30,800 maternal deaths, 11.6 million unintended pregnancies and 3.6 million unsafe abortions.

UNFPA trained thousands of health workers and treated 22,000 women and girls living with obstetric fistula.

In war-torn South Sudan, for example, we continue to strengthen midwifery services with support from the Governments of Canada and Sweden. In fact, a midwife at every birth is one of the milestones our South Sudan team has defined for their journey to the transformative result of ending preventable maternal deaths.

UNFPA and its partners reached more than 2 million marginalized girls with life skills programmes and 1 million more with prevention and protection services related to child marriage and female genital mutilation.

Girls like Adeline. She escaped child marriage at 14, was able to continue her education and is now in college, thanks to the support she received from a UNFPA safe space programme in Burkina Faso.

In Southern Africa, which has the world’s highest rate of HIV infection, UNFPA has invested heavily in the integration of HIV and sexual and reproductive health services to maximize efficient use of resources and achieve better results.

At the global level, UNFPA, UNAIDS and our partners launched the HIV prevention 2020 road map in October at the first meeting of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition, which I co-chair with the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr. Michel Sidibé. The goal is to reduce new HIV infections by 75 percent by 2020.

Together, UNFPA and UNAIDS are assisting countries in fast tracking the prevention agenda and reducing HIV infections

With funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, our project Preventing Maternal Deaths in East and Southern Africa reached 3.4 million users with family planning and trained more than 6,000 providers on a wider choice of contraceptives.

In Morocco, where UNFPA leads a joint programme to reduce maternal mortality, we saw a 35% reduction in maternal deaths between 2010 and 2017. 

Our humanitarian response teams continue to face danger and deliver in hotspots around the world, reaching nearly 11 million people in 2017 with quality sexual and reproductive health services and coordinating global efforts to tackle gender-based violence in emergencies.

UNFPA has been at the forefront of responding to the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. More than 800,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed the border into Bangladesh, the vast majority in just the last five months.

Humanitarian needs are overwhelming in the severely overcrowded refugee camps and makeshift settlements in Cox’s Bazar. Most of the new arrivals are women, young girls and children, critically in need of protection and basic services.

UNFPA has been coordinating efforts to provide life-saving sexual and reproductive health services, to ensure emergency obstetric care and to respond to the needs of survivors of sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence. With the cyclone season approaching, our continued collective efforts are essential.

In 2017, UNFPA thought leadership, advocacy and active engagement at the highest political level in Africa put the demographic dividend firmly on the map, with the African Union focus on “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”.

In July, we convened over 1200 Muslim leaders from around the world for a symposium in N’Djamena in Chad, to discuss “Islam, the demographic dividend and family wellbeing” with an emphasis on ending harmful practices against women and girls.

Now, as the demographic dividend agenda gains a life of its own, our work is to ensure that concrete actions deliver rights-based results aligned with the ICPD agenda.

UNFPA advocacy continues to drive action to combat discrimination and reach those furthest behind.

In Brazil, we led a UN inter-agency initiative called “Black Lives” to denounce the alarming levels of lethal violence suffered by Afro-descendent youth and to promote avenues for the fulfilment of their human rights to health, including sexual and reproductive health, education, employment, and access to public services and public spaces, without discrimination.

Our efforts to combat gender-biased sex selection are also bearing fruit. In Armenia, for example, where UNFPA has been on the forefront in forging a broad-based coalition to eradicate this harmful practice, the sex imbalance at birth dropped from 114 boys born for every 100 girls in 2014 to a ratio of 109/100 in the first half of 2017.

2017 also saw historic legislative action in a number of countries.

Tunisia passed a law to end all forms of violence against women and girls, and Lebanon and Jordan repealed so-called “Marry your rapist” laws.

And UNFPA continues to use evidence to inform policy and decision-making. A UNFPA-supported study in Ecuador, for example, revealed that lack of investment in sexual and reproductive health cost the country US$473 million in 2015.

The study showed that each US dollar invested in sexual and reproductive health would save the state US$17 in health and social costs. 

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

This is just a snapshot of UNFPA’s work around the world -- from advocacy to evidence-gathering and analysis to life-saving service delivery on the ground.

Expanding options and choices for the poorest women and adolescent girls is the most important thing we do. Empowering them to choose the timing and spacing of pregnancies opens a pathway towards their economic security and independence and towards more balanced economies and societies, as envisioned in the Sustainable Development Goals.

This vision of a world where no woman or girl is left behind informs UNFPA’s Strategic Plan for the next four years. And we thank the Board once again for your invaluable insights, contributions and support during its development.

The new plan is our roadmap for the first leg of the journey to 2030 and includes our three transformative results:

  1. End unmet demand for family planning;
  2. End preventable maternal deaths; and
  3. End violence and harmful practices against women and girls. 

And our work in collecting and analyzing population data will inform everything we do and ensure that everyone is accounted for and reached in the pursuit of these ambitious aims – all critical benchmarks towards our overarching goal of universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.

Going forward, we will continue working with our partners to strengthen collaboration for development, humanitarian action and sustaining peace so that work in one area reinforces the others. Our focus is on preparedness, risk reduction and building resilience – resilient health systems, resilient communities, and resilient women and young people.

Where a woman lives should not determine whether she lives.

Working together, we can ensure that every woman and adolescent girl everywhere can prevent an unintended pregnancy, can give birth safely and can live free from violence.

In all we do, UNFPA will strive to focus on innovation, on being bold, vocal and visible, and on leaving no one behind.

Working with our partner agencies, such as UNDP, UNICEF and UN Women, UNFPA is implementing the commitments we made to you in the common chapter of the strategic plan. 

We are acting collectively on two fronts. 

First, we are drafting clear, flexible guidance for our country offices to help them use existing mechanisms, processes and programmatic activities to drive collaboration, while avoiding duplication. 

Second, we are examining ways of going further to increase development impact through greater collaborative advantage. This includes making full use of our existing collective programmatic footprint, expertise and operational assets as well as complementary mandates. 

Initiatives that might emerge from this analysis would target collective results and joint efforts aimed at transformational change, and offer a sound basis for partnerships with other entities of the United Nations Development System and beyond.

We look forward to providing further updates on implementation of the common chapter over the course of the coming year.

Mr. President,

The integrated results and resources framework (Annex 1) of the new strategic plan, which you have before you, lays out the results that UNFPA expects to achieve over the next four years. It also defines the metrics -- the indicators, baselines and targets -- that will be used to measure progress towards those results and to assess the effectiveness of the strategic plan.

To provide just a few highlights:

Sixty per cent of the outcome and impact indicators are Sustainable Development Goal indicators, and 53 per cent are common indicators used by other funds and programmes. These shared indicators measure the development results on which we and our partner agencies will work together to achieve common goals.

Eighty per cent of the outcome indicators are disaggregated by age, sex, location, wealth quintile, disability and other categories.

Sixteen indicators assess progress of UNFPA humanitarian and resilience-building work.

And the majority of indicators under organizational effectiveness and efficiency are aligned with Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) recommendations -- six of them shared with other funds and programmes.

We are confident that the framework will ensure greater accountability to our stakeholders and improve decision making as we implement the strategic plan.

Evaluation is also essential to accountability and to advancing our vital mission. Tomorrow’s session will provide an important opportunity to discuss in more detail how evaluative evidence and lessons learned are informing our work and strengthening decision-making and the development and implementation of country and regional programmes, the UNFPA strategic plan, and more broadly, efforts to advance the ICPD agenda.

Aligned with the new Strategic Plan, the 2018-2021 Quadrennial Budgeted Evaluation Plan presents the strategic approach to evaluation planning at UNFPA. It guides the commissioning, management and use of evaluations, and provides the basis for monitoring and reporting on the implementation of corporate and decentralized programme level evaluations.

UNFPA appreciates the consultative manner in which the Quadrennial Plan was developed, reaching a range of stakeholders within the organization and ensuring that evaluation at UNFPA is responsive and useful.

Collective learning, knowledge sharing, mutual accountability and capacity building are key to ensuring UNFPA achieves its transformative results. In this spirit, I would like to underscore our continued commitment to supporting evaluation and to cultivating a culture of evaluation use for learning and results.

In a time of resource constraints and rapid change, it is time to think boldly about how to identify and scale up solutions.

UNFPA has recognized innovation as an indispensable engine for accelerating progress.

The formative evaluation of our Innovation Initiative is an effort to do just that, providing real-time feedback and learning to managers to improve programme design, processes and systems. We look forward to sharing more details about this with you tomorrow.

All of these efforts are linked to enhancing effectiveness and efficiency in programme delivery. That is also what underpins UNFPA change management efforts, including the Comprehensive Resource Review (CRR), which we updated Board members on at our informal session last week and which we will discuss again with you tomorrow.

The CRR aims to ensure that UNFPA’s human resources and financial resources are optimally deployed in support of the current and subsequent strategic plans and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

It is also aligned with ongoing United Nations Reform streams, especially those of the UN Development System and Management Reform, as well as the QCPR.

The CRR identified potential high-impact priority areas for streamlining and strengthening UNFPA efficiency and effectiveness.

Final recommendations, which focused primarily on headquarters functions, take into account inputs from nearly 100 senior managers from headquarters and the field through inter-divisional task teams and peer review groups.

Based on these recommendations, I have taken a series of important initial decisions. Detailed, costed proposals will be developed for inclusion in the revised Integrated Budget proposal for 2018-2021 by March of this year, and we will continue to engage and consult regularly with the Board as this process moves forward.

Regarding the inclusion of the humanitarian function in the CRR, I would like to stress that we are not scaling back; rather, we will expand and strengthen our engagement in humanitarian action and our investments in all of our core humanitarian functions, including providing dedicated funding to the secretariat of the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence cluster in Geneva.

The recommendation is to:

  1. Maintain strong humanitarian presence in New York to support interagency coordination, and
  2. Co-locate rapid response, technical and normative standards, and capacity-building functions in Geneva to benefit from proximity to the field; co-location and coherence with our closest humanitarian partners, including WHO, UNHCR, UNICEF, ICRC and others; and stronger participation in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) working groups based in Geneva.

Work continues on the best configuration of the expanded humanitarian teams in both locations. I am happy to note, however, that savings from organization wide austerity measures have enabled an initial allocation of $7.5 million to the Emergency Fund and $5 million to the Humanitarian Response Reserve. This represents a major increase over previous years. 

The CRR exercise will continue, with additional areas for streamlining, improved effectiveness and efficiency, and greater inter-agency coherence. In all change-related initiatives, we will be mindful of the possible benefits and interdependencies of the Secretary-General’s reform initiatives, including co-location and optimizing common back-office functions. 

Financial benefits from Country Office realignments for 2018-2021 mean that UNFPA will be able to allocate more regular resources for country programmes.

UNFPA is making significant investments in Country Office presence, with an increase of 357 posts and service contracts over the past 3 years. 92% are national positions and the vast majority funded from other resources. This represents an almost 11% increase, compared to virtually zero increase in the total number of HQ posts over the same time period.

88% of UNFPA posts and service contracts are in the field, and only 12% at headquarters. And UNFPA has the highest ratio of national professional to international professional officers in the UN system, further evidence of our commitment to empower, build and benefit from national capacity.

The overarching aim of all these efforts is to deliver better with a country focus -- to bring our work closer to the 10-year-old-girl, who represents all the women and girls we are proud to serve. She is the symbol of our aspirations in upholding the values and the mandate that underpin our commitment to achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Five elements are crucial to making all of this possible:

  1. Integrity – of process, of systems, of evaluation.
  2. Accountability – programme accountability and financial accountability.
  3. Optimal use of resources – deployed closer to the ground, closer to the needs, closer to communities and closer to women and girls.
  4. People – People are going to achieve this. The people of UNFPA, our dedicated colleagues, in the 155 countries where we deploy our technical know-how to governments, other partners, and to society at large. People trusted to persevere with passion and persistence to honor our mandate. And also you, our Executive Board, who give your time and talent to help us transform this mission into reality.
  5. The final element is peace, which is so essential to ensure that women, girls and young people can live their lives in safety, in security and in dignity.

Mr. President,

As I begin my tenure as Executive Director and work to bring our staff together around the ambitious aims laid out in our strategic plan, and as we all work to deliver together with our UN partners towards our common goals, these elements are foundational.

As you know, 2017 was a challenging year for UNFPA funding and resource mobilization. We did not give up or give in. We bounced back, with your help and strong support, and the dedication, creativity and persistence of UNFPA staff around the world.

While we are still waiting for the books for 2017 to be closed and audits to be finalized, I am happy to tell you that our revenue for 2017 is expected to come in at an all-time high -- topping the one billion US dollar mark for only the second time in our history.

Intensified resource mobilization efforts succeeded in raising funds from a wide range of sources, including a growing amount from the private sector.

Despite the loss of $31 million in core funds from one donor, we have managed to keep core funding at almost the same level as 2016, at approximately $350 million.

Core funding remains a precious and almost irreplaceable commodity, so it is of particular pride to me that the number of core donors increased to 120 in 2017, which was up from 107 in 2016.

And ten more governments made a contribution to co-financing, bringing the overall number of government donors to 130.

Most importantly, we feel that this reflects our donors’ and our partners’ trust in our delivery at country level and our ability to reach those furthest behind.

We are extremely grateful to those donors that increased their core contributions last year. Moreover, many of these pledges are multi-year, which we particularly appreciate in the current political climate.

In terms of co-financing, the picture is even better for 2017. We currently predict a record increase in co-financing of about $200 million, for a total of close to $700 million. A particular area of growth was new co-financing contributions from programme countries.

We do not take this support for granted. And we will continue to strengthen UNFPA with a focus on effectiveness, transparency, accountability -- and above all, results at country level. We also plan to regularly engage with you on funding issues through the Structured Financing Dialogues, which the Executive Board requested we enhance throughout the year in order to improve the quality and transparency of funding and better match resources to the outcomes of the Strategic Plan.

I would also like to note that, as more income became available during 2017, UNFPA provided an additional $10.6 million in regular resources for Country Programmes and $1 million for the Emergency Fund. And as I mentioned earlier, we were also able to fund the Humanitarian Response Reserve, for first time, and to a level of $5 million.

In 2018, UNFPA has allocated an additional $14.6 million in regular resources to country programmes, and an additional $2.5 million to the Emergency Fund.

Specific attention was paid to the needs of Small Island Developing States, with significant increased allocation to the multi-country programmes in the Caribbean and in Pacific Island States.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

As we begin the rollout and implementation of our strategic plan, I am confident that UNFPA is poised for success, and our success will be a shared success for the world’s women and adolescent girls when they can claim their right to make their own decisions about their bodies and their futures.

In the coming months we will also work with governments and other partners to prepare for 2019, which will mark the 50th anniversary of UNFPA operations and the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action. A series of regional ICPD reviews in 2018 will assess progress, gaps, challenges and emerging issues and lay the groundwork for accelerated action.

I am optimistic because I know that UNFPA is better focused and better positioned today to consolidate our gains, to innovate for scale, and to work together with a wide range of partners to deliver strong results.

Our Secretary-General, António Guterres, brings a bold new vision for United Nations reform. The United Nations is changing, and UNFPA is embracing and helping drive that change.

There may be uncertainties on the horizon, yet our collective dedication to the health and rights of women is stronger than ever. In this new year, with our vibrant new Strategic Plan, we gather our strength, imagination and solidarity to move forward.

Thanks to the work of UNFPA and our partners, fewer women are dying giving life, and more women than ever before are using modern contraceptives.

Now we need to speed up these efforts to reach a future where zero is the only acceptable number: zero unmet need for family planning, zero maternal deaths, and zero violence and harmful practices against women and girls.

We are ready to meet the challenge!

Thank you.


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