Statement of the Executive Director at the Joint Segment of the 2020 Annual Session of the Executive Board

03 Jun 2020

Remarks by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem at the joint segment of the 2020 annual session of the Executive Board of UNDP, UNFPA and UNOPS

Mr. President,

Excellencies, colleagues and friends,

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore, in the most devastating manner, the inequalities and vulnerabilities we urgently need to address to realize the more just and equal world envisioned in both the ICPD Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda.

UNFPA and our UN development system partners have been at the forefront of efforts to realize that world. COVID-19 has further galvanized us for that adolescent girl, for that pregnant woman, for that frontline health worker, who is highly likely to be female.

The Resident Coordinators are proving themselves as leaders and interlocutors for the UN system, and there is growing evidence of increased collaboration within UN country teams, with strong alignment to national priorities.

This coordinated response is tremendously important to ensure the health and safety of women and girls. Doing so could not be more urgent. It’s actually an emergency within an emergency. UNFPA estimates that the pandemic could result in millions more cases of gender-based violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and unintended pregnancy.

As an agency with a global presence, UNFPA works with UN country teams to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. This work is life-saving and fundamental to the humanitarian, health, and socioeconomic responses. Together, we rapidly scaled up and re-purposed existing joint initiatives and mechanisms to respond to COVID-19, often leveraging our partnerships with International Financing Institutions, the private sector and civil society.

UNFPA’s experience in the governance structures of the Spotlight Initiative, the Joint SDG Fund, the COVID-19 Multi-Partner Trust Fund, and other system-wide instruments, has validated our commitment to funding and programming platforms that draw on expertise across entities and encourage collaboration.

In crises such as this, quality, multiyear and core funding are more important than ever to support rapid responses that save lives and to allow agencies to focus on delivering results together. Without the availability of core resources, UNFPA response time would have been longer, with grave consequences for those most in need.

The COVID-19 crisis threatens to make the road to 2030 even steeper. To build back better and reach the SDGs, we need to go much further to advance gender equality and women’s rights. We need to better integrate our sustainable development, humanitarian, human rights and peacebuilding efforts. And we need to catalyze broad partnerships.

Mr. Chair,

The next QCPR presents an opportunity for member states to provide guidance on how the UN development system should work, and on the kind of integrated policy and programmatic support that should be provided to counties to accelerate SDG implementation in the context of COVID-19.

Data is one such area. COVID-19 is causing huge disruptions in data flows that are critical for the SDGs, including census and surveys. UNFPA is launching our population data dashboard using the best available census data to map populations vulnerable to COVID-19 to support countries in targeting those most at risk.

UNFPA will continue to support countries in COVID-19 response, recovery and beyond. We count on the strategic guidance and support of the Executive Board as we stand up, with our partners, for the dignity and health of women and girls when they need us most.

In the immortal words of Nelson Mandela:

“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”

Thank you.


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