Statement of the Executive Director to the Second Regular Session of the Executive Board 2021
31 Aug 2021
31 Aug 2021
Distinguished Members of the Executive Board,
Colleagues and friends,
I am pleased to be here with you for this Second Regular Session of the Executive Board. I thank the Board for your strategic guidance more than 12 months of extensive consultations resulting in the UNFPA Strategic Plan 2022-2025 and associated Integrated Budget before you.
These planning documents are presented to you against a backdrop of considerable gains made for women and girls, despite the unprecedented and growing challenges and uncertainties faced by too many communities around the world.
UNFPA believes that now is the time to be ambitious, and with your support UNFPA is rising to meet the moment.
World events turn our attention to how important it is for us to accelerate progress on the ICPD Programme of Action because we are seeing just how quickly hard-won gains can be unwound in the face of crisis.
We are witnesses to the tremendous toll the coronavirus pandemic continues to take on women, girls, young people, and the most vulnerable communities.
We see the consequences of the all-too-frequent pushback on reproductive rights and choices.
We are united in wanting to see an end to systemic discrimination, inequality and marginalization, which leaves Black and indigenous women, migrants, refugees and those with disabilities, among others, trapped beneath the stacked stones of patriarchy, racial injustice and exclusion.
And we are united in wanting to stop in its tracks the rising tide of gender-based violence that plagues women and girls everywhere.
Concerns about population dynamics remain front and centre globally. A growing number of countries worry about low fertility and ageing, whereas other countries are facing rapid population growth. We know from experience that such concerns may lead to erosion of reproductive rights and choices, to women either being pressured to have children – or prevented from doing so.
Yet demography also presents myriad development opportunities. Timely investments in health, family planning, and education – investments that empower women, girls and young people and build human capital – these are investments in the better future envisioned in the Sustainable Development Goals and essential to bringing Agenda 2030 to life.
UNFPA’s work to protect and promote sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, achieve gender equality and help countries close data gaps for informed decision-making contribute to global efforts to address emerging megatrends – from demographic shifts to migration, urbanization and rising inequalities, to climate change and the existential threat it poses for people and planet.
The United Nations Secretary-General has aptly referred to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a “code red for humanity”. The warning signs surround us—in the blaze of wildfires, in the once-in-a-century flooding and record-high temperatures countries are newly experiencing, along with drought and rampant food insecurity.
And when human-made conflicts are added to the mix, a heavy toll is exacted upon those already in a disadvantaged position, notably the world’s women, girls and young people.
All these unfolding crises have made the road to 2030 even more difficult. The economic fallout and profound impact on the funding situation in your capitals and globally further threaten our collective efforts to realize the ICPD and 2030 agendas in this all-important Decade of Action.
The new UNFPA Strategic Plan 2022-2025 being presented to you today is a blueprint that was specifically designed to recognize, react and respond to these challenges.
The accompanying annexes detail how we plan to monitor and report on progress, the theory of change that underpins the plan, the revised business model, and the Global and Regional Programmes that support the work of UNFPA in pursuit of the strategic plan results.
I thank Member States, especially the Members of the Executive Board, and all our partners and other stakeholders for their guidance, support, and participation throughout our strategic planning process. We truly co-created this plan.
Throughout, we have sought to address the comments we have received from a diverse membership in a balanced manner, noting the Strategic Plan is not a negotiated document nor a legal instrument, but rather UNFPA’s overall programming framework.
During the consultations, I was heartened that all Member States clearly support the overall strategic direction of UNFPA over the next four years. This reflects a strong consensus among the entire Executive Board Membership on the important priorities UNFPA is pursuing to accelerate progress towards the 2030 Agenda.
The Strategic Plan is operationalized in line with national policies and national ownership through Country Programme Documents. The eight CPDs being considered at this session, for example, were all prepared under the leadership of national governments in response to national priorities and in line with national laws.
Excellencies, dear colleagues,
None of us would wish to see our hard-fought gains for women and girls rolled back.
Maternal deaths declined by nearly 40% in the period 2000 to 2017. Today, the proportion of women globally who have access to modern family planning has climbed to around 77 per cent, and over the past decade, the proportion of young women married as children decreased by 15 per cent and female genital mutilation decreased by 25 per cent.
As I reported to you when we last met in June, in the first three years of our current strategic plan, UNFPA helped avert nearly 59 million unintended pregnancies, 160,000 maternal deaths, and around 17 million unsafe abortions.
In 2020 alone, despite the pandemic, UNFPA successfully reached around 50 million women and young people with sexual and reproductive health services and assisted 1.9 million safe deliveries in 42 humanitarian crisis-affected countries.
However, there is a flip side to this success. Still, more than 200 million women in developing regions who wish to prevent pregnancy are not using modern contraceptives; still, more than 800 women die each day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth; and still, nearly one woman in three will experience sexual or intimate partner violence at some point in her life. Now pandemic-related disruptions could significantly reduce progress towards ending gender-based violence and harmful practices, including female genital mutilation and child marriage.
In the final analysis, progress is still far too slow to reach our ambitious aims by 2030. Rising inequalities, between and within countries, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, remain a pervasive threat to sustainable progress.
Our new strategic plan, therefore, is a call to action. UNFPA calls on all our development partners – not to back down or step back, but to join hands, to scale up and speed up our actions to finish the unfinished business of the ICPD Programme of Action and achieve three truly transformative results by 2030: zero unmet need for family planning, zero preventable maternal deaths and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices. All based upon improved data and analysis of population dynamics.
UNFPA's 2030 vision is to position the three transformative results in development frameworks at all levels – global, regional and national – so that the world finally achieves universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, as envisioned in the ICPD.
I believe we are closer than ever.
Our strategic plan is built upon the lessons learned from the current strategic plan, the momentum of the voluntary national commitments made in the context of ICPD25, and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To succeed, we know that we need to go beyond business-as-usual.
To drive greater progress:
UNFPA will prioritize protecting and promoting human rights, with a particular focus on those furthest behind.
We are ramping up our critical partnerships, including with the private sector, civil society organizations, international financial institutions, and the media, and through South-South and triangular cooperation, and we are moving from funding to financing for development.
We are stepping up our efforts to transform unequal gender power structures and harmful social norms and engaging more men and boys as allies in this fight.
In all our work, we are mainstreaming resilience building and adaptation and ensuring complementarity among development, humanitarian and peace-responsive efforts, in line with our clear comparative advantages.
In joining the commitment to leave no one behind, UNFPA will strategically prioritize countries with the most and, in some cases, unique needs. Therefore, UNFPA will ring-fence regular programme resources allocated to the Tier 1 countries—those countries furthest from reaching the three zeros—which will receive 60 percent of regular resources, and we will increase regular resources to the Caribbean and Pacific multi-country programmes.
Together, we want to transform the world for women, girls and all young people, and to that purpose, we seek your endorsement of this ambitious roadmap for accelerating progress.
Madam President, Distinguished Delegates,
UNFPA stands by our full commitment to United Nations reform in accordance with the 2020 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR). We continue to align our efforts with United Nations country teams to ensure coherent and effective support to Member States.
Resident Coordinators increasingly are amplifying UNFPA’s work and mandate, especially on normative issues.
For example, in Uganda, the Management and Accountability Framework has improved programme effectiveness and efficiencies through joint programming.
In Uruguay, the development of the Cooperation Framework was a true multi-stakeholder process. It led to strengthened partnerships among UNFPA, the Government and other UN system entities to address critical areas of the ICPD Programme of Action.
And through the regional Issue-Based Coalition on data and statistics in Africa, co-convened by UNFPA and the Economic Commission for Africa, in collaboration with the African Union and National Statistics Offices, significant efforts have been made to strengthen statistical systems and data use on the continent.
In the coming years, I wish to assure the Executive Board that UNFPA will work at all levels to enhance collaboration and contribute our knowledge and expertise for enhanced programmatic results. Our focus on joint accountability will ensure that our country programmes are derived from the Cooperation Frameworks, and we will continue to work toward greater use of common business operations for more efficient delivery of our collective operational activities.
UNFPA is keenly aware that leading a global transformative agenda takes much more than just a beautiful strategy. It will require continued dedication on the part of our staff towards a reinvigorated, reimagined and transformed UNFPA.
Our aspiration always is to be an organization that is ever more agile, flexible and innovative.
A green organization taking action every day to reduce our environmental footprint.
An organization that can expand its pool of donors and partners and strengthen its strategic engagement with a broader network of public and private stakeholders to strengthen social movements and deliver better together.
An organization that takes its normative role very seriously, now more than ever. The world needs a strong UNFPA that speaks up where and when needed, advocates for and gives voice to those left behind, as a global champion for the fundamental rights and choices of all.
What we all want is an organization that continually attracts and retains high-calibre staff, placing the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time. Our aim is zero. We won’t get to the three zeros unless we scale up and succeed, including in our humanitarian work. With joined up efforts and with your encouragement, I believe we will get there.
Speaking of our UNFPA staff, allow me to welcome the latest members of our senior management team. Ms. Argentina Matavel Piccin, our new Regional Director for West and Central Africa; Mr. Ian McFarlane, new Director of the Division for Communications and Strategic Partnerships; and Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, who will serve as the Regional Director ad interim for East and Southern Africa, during the ongoing recruitment process for the new director. Argentina, Ian and Bannet bring to us their decades of experience in advancing reproductive rights and choices and delivering results, and I look forward to working closely with them in their new capacities.
I would also like to extend a special word of thanks to Ms. Fabienne Lambert, as she completes her term as Director of the Office of Audit and Investigation Services. We greatly appreciate her dedicated service and invaluable contributions to UNFPA's efforts to strengthen oversight and accountability and to broader UN system efforts in this area, as Chair of the United Nations Representatives of Internal Audit Services.
Finally, I would like to appreciate all UNFPA staff at all levels in the more than 150 locations where we work. We applaud their extraordinary perseverance to deliver on the UNFPA mandate with determination and dedication, even in the face of COVID and other difficulties. For this I say, Thank you.
Madam President, Distinguished Members of the Executive Board,
UNFPA’s staunch commitment to building an organization that is resilient and fit for purpose is evident in the Strategic Plan 2022-2025 before you. It is evident in the investments we are making – technically, financially, programmatically – to drive the change we want to see.
Innovation and digitalization are among the key accelerators towards the achievement of our three zeros in the next strategic plan.
Digitalization offers new opportunities, yet it also exposes a digital divide that leaves millions unable to access or safely navigate the new technologies.
With a dedicated team supporting UNFPA’s vision on innovation, we will prioritize closing the digital gender gap to empower women and girls and increase their access to sexual and reproductive health services and information, as well as their online safety. We will also work with young entrepreneurs, especially female entrepreneurs, to develop innovative solutions that advance our mandate.
We are also taking steps to ensure that UNFPA can effectively and efficiently deliver quality supplies to the right place, at the right time, in the right quantity and at the right cost.
Our Supply Chain Management Unit, which we expect to be active by year’s end, will support UNFPA in playing its leadership role in ensuring reproductive health commodity security. That is our duty as the largest multilateral supplier of contraceptives. Cost-neutral and funded almost entirely through a Supply Chain Management fee, the unit will ensure a robust, demand-driven supply chain and logistics system across development and humanitarian settings.
Even as we meet, humanitarian crises around the world continue to evolve rapidly. Together with our partners, UNFPA continues to stay and deliver in Afghanistan and to defend the hard-won rights of Afghan women and girls.
We are working to ensure that reproductive health supplies and medicines are accessible to all. Our focus in Afghanistan is on continuing to deliver maternal health and psycho-social services through Family Health Houses and Protection Centres run by local implementing partners, and we are seeking to reopen more. The fact that these programmes have been able to continue shows why our investment in engaging local communities is so important.
We are also procuring dignity kits to respond to the immediate needs of Afghan refugees in Iran and are working with partners to assess their reproductive health needs and provide protection and other support.
Our Country Office in Afghanistan, with strong support from our regional offices and HQ, is working day and night to ensure the safety and security of all our staff, national and international, particularly those colleagues at highest risk, and we are ensuring that all staff have access to mental health and psycho-social support.
Across the globe, UNFPA is being called upon to scale up humanitarian assistance to women, girls and young people.
In Haiti, following the devastating earthquake and Tropical Storm Grace, at least 24 health facilities were destroyed or damaged. More than 137,000 women of reproductive age in Haiti are in urgent need. Working closely with the Haitian Government and partners, UNFPA is supporting needs assessments, distributing tailored dignity kits to women and girls left without menstruation and hygiene supplies, taking action to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, and working to provide much-needed sexual and reproductive health services to expectant mothers and people in need of contraceptives.
Turning to Ethiopia, in Tigray and neighbouring regions, UNFPA has delivered over 33,000 metric tons of supplies being used to respond to emergency sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence needs, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health care workers. Since March of this year, we have reached more than 24,000 women with critical midwifery services. We are using every window of access that is open to respond.
In Myanmar, despite tremendous challenges and increasing insecurity, the UNFPA team is finding innovative ways to deliver with partners. Just in the past two months, UNFPA Myanmar has distributed over 500 clean childbirth delivery kits and more than 2,600 dignity kits. We are expanding our shelters and safehouses for GBV survivors, and we have launched a small-grants funding mechanism to bolster civil society organizations to expand GBV and sexual and reproductive health services.
In Lebanon, a devastating political, economic, social and health crisis has pushed nearly 80 percent of the population into poverty. With more than 700,000 women unable to meet their most basic hygienic needs, UNFPA is supporting local production of reusable menstrual pads and piloting a new voucher system for menstrual hygiene to support Lebanese women and girls, Syrian refugees and women migrants.
These are just a few examples that underscore how much UNFPA is needed. UNFPA is now ready, willing and able, responding to humanitarian crises in more than 60 countries. Thanks to your engagement as members of our Executive Board, we continue to stay focused on strengthening operations, capacity, and supply chain management to deliver to the last mile the life-saving services women and girls need the most.
We insist that reproductive health services and gender-based violence prevention and response must never be an afterthought. They should be central to every humanitarian operation.
Madam President, Distinguished Members of the Executive Board,
UNFPA is the proud custodian of the groundbreaking ICPD Programme of Action. We are immensely grateful to all our partners for the generous contributions that enable us to deliver lifesaving services and support to millions of women, girls and young people. I am gratified to underscore that, with your support, UNFPA surpassed its resource targets for the past four years, and we fervently hope that this trend will continue to the benefit of the people we serve.
That said, the resource outlook for the remainder of 2021 is mixed. While several partners have stepped up to fill some of the gap, lingering economic challenges due to the pandemic could impact UNFPA’s ability to deliver on the three zeros.
I regret to report that recent reductions in official development assistance are having an acute negative impact on our mission-critical UNFPA Supplies Partnership family planning programme. The immediate funding shortfall for UNFPA Supplies for 2021 stands at US$50 million.
UNFPA’s 2021 provisional core funding estimate is US$409 million, with 60 Member States making commitments thus far. If this projection holds true, unfortunately we can expect a 2% reduction in core resources compared to 2020.
Co-financing continues to form the largest share of overall revenue, although slightly reduced in comparison to this time last year.
Notably, more than 40 percent of co-financing revenue this year is earmarked for humanitarian action, an indication of the increased demand for UNFPA in these settings.
Recognizing resource constraints, UNFPA is actively seeking out new partnerships and building on existing relationships. We see notable growth in our work with:
Expanded strategic partnerships, including with the private sector, foundations, and individuals through the UNFPA Individual Giving Campaign, serve to catalyze financing.
Even as UNFPA pursues every avenue for resource mobilization, we re-emphasize the importance of consistent and predictable financing, particularly core contributions.
UNFPA once again appeals to all governments to increase their contribution levels. We ask you to consider early payment to core resources and to UNFPA’s thematic funds for maternal and newborn health, humanitarian action, population data, and the UNFPA Supplies Partnership. It was timely contributions that allowed UNFPA to act swiftly in the face of COVID, and it is timely contributions that ensure UNFPA actions have the greatest possible impact.
We are grateful for generous pledges coming in from several donors to help the UNFPA Supplies Partnership. However, an additional US$600 million is still needed over the next four years, through 2025, to close the gap for contraceptive and maternal health commodities, and thereby prevent over 1 million maternal and child deaths, 53 million unintended pregnancies, and more than 1.5 million unsafe abortions.
Unless additional funds are made available rapidly, contraceptive choices and essential maternal health medicines will no longer be available for millions of women and girls whose very lives and futures depend upon these supplies.
Longer term, cuts to UNFPA Supplies may hinder plans to strengthen supply chains and expand access to care. Cuts will also affect our ability to collect and analyze data to support decision-making and accountability. We must not allow this to happen.
UNFPA is determined to work closely with all our key partners to close the financing gap, and we call on this Board for its support.
Finally, anticipating discussion of our Integrated Budget during our dedicated segment later today, allow me to welcome the Report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. I am pleased to note that most of the additional reporting recommended is already taking place.
Distinguished Members of the Executive Board,
I have a strong conviction that we need to open more dialogue on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. UNFPA is committed to this.
We appreciate there may be different perspectives on certain terms appearing in the Strategic Plan, and we welcome the constructive discussions we have had. We are encouraged by how much common ground exists. There is still so much that unites us in our common efforts to deliver on the promise of Cairo.
Local communities, women’s groups, youth networks, faith-based and other civil society organizations already are finding that common ground. They are counting on our leadership at the global level.
We can all agree that everyone values having the power to make decisions that affect their lives and futures. Humanity stands to gain as a result.
UNFPA’s mandate and strategic aims underpin the whole of gender equality and women’s ability to fulfill their potential. That is, in turn, essential for real, sustained progress towards all of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Today, August 31st, 2021, is the first International Day for People of African Descent – a day to re-enforce common values shared by societies everywhere: equality, inclusion and justice. As we recognize and celebrate the enormous contributions of communities of African descent, let us commit unequivocally to ending all forms of discrimination – to building a bridge towards justice and development for all.
In this vein, we are pleased that this year UNFPA launched a new, innovative ‘Young Professionals from Africa and of African Descent’ programme, to an enthusiastic response. The programme offers selected candidates the opportunity to gain experience in the UN System, with potential to grow into impactful leadership roles in international development.
Distinguished Members of the Executive Board,
There is a saying that is very apt for this moment: Be resolved and the thing is done.
The stakes could not be higher, and UNFPA is resolved and ready to act. With only eight years remaining until 2030, time is precious. Across the globe, women, girls and young people who rely upon the lifesaving services and support we provide, are living in the expectation that we will keep our promises to deliver.
With your intense engagement over more than a year, we have laid out our strategic vision for doing so over the next four years. We count on your unequivocal and consensual support for this vision and your endorsement of our strategic plan. We need a clear mandate to scale up and accelerate our work where it matters – in the homes, communities, villages and cities across the world where we strive to empower women and girls so that they can exercise their full human rights, live in dignity and contribute fully to building the better future we all want.