Statement to the Second Regular Session of the Executive Board

24 September 2002
Author: UNFPA

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates

I sat in this seat almost 21 months ago to present myself for the first time to the members of the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme and of the United Nations Population Fund (UNDP/UNFPA). At that time, few of you really knew who I was, and I introduced myself in a totally un-UNese way. Today, I assume the same un-UNese position to remind you of what I said. I informed you that I was a woman from a Muslim society who grew up in a traditional yet enabling environment that allowed me to make choices in my life. I also informed you that I had had a visionary father, who had interpreted Islam to mean faith as well as knowledge and wisdom. I also have a mother who was not able to fulfil her dream in education, so I became her dream. My mother has come this morning to honour and bless me as I sit on the podium undertaking my responsibility as Executive Director of UNFPA. Fifty-seven years ago, no one had thought of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) or its internationally adopted concepts of empowerment of women or choices for women, but my mother knew through her wisdom and faith what they were all about, and she knew it was her moral and religious duty to educate me and to empower me. So, I say to her in front of all of you - thank you for making me your dream.

Mr. President,

Returning to our UNese world, I am pleased to have this opportunity to bring the Executive Board up to date on a number of important developments that have taken place since last we met in Geneva at the annual session.

Before I do so, however, I would like to thank the Executive Board for the strong support it expressed for UNFPA and its programme at the annual session and for the corresponding decision (2002/5) the Board adopted on crucial issues concerning the Fund's work and its funding. I will address many of these same issues in this statement, as they will figure prominently in our discussions today on the revised UNFPA budget and human resources strategy that are before you.


Mr. President,

First is the issue of resources. The essence of this issue is captured extremely well in decision 2002/5, which emphasizes the need for strong political and financial support for UNFPA as well as increased, stable and predictable core funding for the Fund in order for it to carry out its mandate effectively. It also encourages all countries, in the spirit of the Monterrey Consensus, to further their support for UNFPA, in particular through increased funding to UNFPA's core resources.

I stress here the issue of core resources, for it is core resources, and the neutrality and universality they bring with them, that enable UNFPA to carry out its mandate as a trusted and valued partner and to exert influence far beyond the modest resources it is able to provide.

The Fund's resource base is precariously low. Current core income for 2002 is $242 million, a 10 per cent decrease compared to 2001. Total resources -- core and non-core -- are currently at $317 million, or 20 per cent less than the total in the previous year.

This, of course, will have serious consequences for the UNFPA programme. Early reports from UNFPA country offices indicate that plans to purchase medical equipment are being halted, family planning programmes suspended, initiatives to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS curtailed, and sexual education and family life skills courses are being cut, to name just a few. In one country, UNFPA is planning to withdraw its support for the first-ever baseline study on those at risk of HIV infection. In another, the budget for reproductive health will be cut in half. The truly sad point is that these are not isolated examples; indeed, there are numerous other examples I could cite.

Mr. President, before I leave this important topic, I would like to pause for a moment to reflect on the other side of the Fund's current resource situation - the often overlooked side - namely, the overwhelming support we have received during these difficult times, including, most importantly, from this Board. We have also received invaluable moral and financial support in the form of commitments of additional core resources from various donors, including, most recently, from the Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand, all of which have announced increases in their contributions for 2002. We sincerely thank them for their generous supplemental support.

We are also very pleased with the remarkable response from our donors for early payment of pledges, as most have already paid in full their 2002 pledges to regular resources. This not only has helped us manage our cash flow in a difficult financial year, but also indicates overall support and appreciation for UNFPA's work.

We are also extremely grateful to the European Union for its very strong support - as reflected both in the resolution of 30 May of the Council of Ministers of Development Cooperation, reaffirming the Union's support for UNFPA and underpinning the importance it attaches to the Fund's activities; and in the European Commission's announcement on 24 July of a pledge of 32 million euros for a joint project to provide 10 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific with family planning services and advice on population and health issues. Of the total amount, UNFPA is expected to receive approximately 20 million euros in non-core resources for the three-and-a-half-year project and 12 million euros is allocated for our partner, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

We also take special pride in the very strong expressions of support we have received from the countries who know our work firsthand - the members of the "Group of 77" developing countries and of the African Group of States, representatives of both of which graciously met with me personally to discuss the Fund's financial situation and to offer their unqualified support.

Equally heart-warming is the spontaneous, grass-roots initiative - the "$34 Million Friends Campaign" - that is taking place across the United States, urging individuals to contribute $1 or more to UNFPA. Letters have been pouring into UNFPA - some 150 to 200 every day - each with a contribution, plus words of encouragement and support. Most have a dollar or two clipped to them; but several include cheques for thousands of dollars, including one for $25,000 (interestingly, from a male!) and another for $18,000. We have received a total, up to now, of $50,000 from such contributions.

We certainly need, and appreciate, the money. And we will certainly put it to good use. But the spontaneous outpouring of support is, in many ways, even more gratifying to us, for it validates our work and reminds us just how deeply people care about the issues and ideals we support and stand for. The campaign has also, quite literally, brought the UNFPA staff together - usually at lunchtime, in voluntary communal letter-opening sessions.

Transition process

Mr. President,

I would now like to update the Board on the transition process within UNFPA, which is now in its final stages. At the centre of the transition process is the field needs assessment study that the Fund conducted in July 2001. The study produced some 218 recommendations, covering such issues as the Fund's vision and strategy, its organizational structure and functions, resource mobilization and partnerships, managing people, finances and information, as well as corporate culture and values. Out of these, 10 cannot be acted upon due to legislative reasons. However, I am pleased to report to you that UNFPA has taken action on more than 75 per cent of the 208 recommendations that can be implemented. The remaining recommendations will be addressed in 2003. Of course, some of the recommendations are quite complex and the implementation will require a couple of years to complete.

The next three months of the transition process will be busy ones. We will expand research, training and knowledge sharing in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and Sector-Wide Approaches (SWAps) in order to improve UNFPA's participation in these critical processes. We will launch the Fund's new logo and corporate identity in December to ensure the uniform branding of UNFPA the world over. We will develop the tools, guidelines and procedures needed to implement the new human resources strategy, including competency and career-planning frameworks and new performance appraisal systems. And we will design a comprehensive training programme to familiarize all staff with changes in policies, procedures and systems resulting from the transition process. Underpinning all of these activities will be a strong commitment to promoting a culture of knowledge sharing and communication, which is itself a major goal of the transition.

The implementation of UNFPA's new strategic direction is a crucial aspect of the transition process. It is driven by the need to position the ICPD Programme of Action and ICPD+5 key actions firmly within the context of the most pressing global concerns expressed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): eradicating poverty; reducing maternal mortality and morbidity; promoting gender equality and equity; stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS; and improving environmental protection.

The transition process provides an ideal opportunity for UNFPA to demonstrate how its programmes contribute to these goals. It also is an invaluable tool to mobilize UNFPA's staff to position the Fund's country programmes at the centre of poverty-reduction efforts and the global consensus on the MDGs. Indeed, we are developing a conceptual framework to elaborate this linkage. This must be reinforced by effective advocacy, which remains a critical strategy for building consensus on such linkages and translating it into action.

Equally important, pending the approval of the revised budget before you, we will implement a typology of country office structures based on a qualitative analysis and strategic indicators. This will enable us to develop a transparent, and systematic, process to plan and match staff profiles and competencies with office workloads.

The overall goal, of course, is to strengthen the capacity of UNFPA's country offices and to bring about a renewed, focused and more effective field presence.

The typology is designed to make optimal use of national staff -- to give them a prominent role in programming and in management and administration. It will, in essence, develop national capacity to manage field office operations and professionalize and sustain UNFPA's field presence. It will also enable field staff to better manage and monitor the ever-increasing portion of programme resources coming from extrabudgetary funds and co-financing arrangements. All this will require considerable investment in staff training and development, but we are confident that this will more than pay for itself in high returns in terms of programme implementation and management.

Mr. President, the transition also allowed us to bring about some adjustments to the structure of the Fund at its Headquarters. We have responded to the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and to your guidance to bring the audit function into UNFPA and thus, pending the approval of the budget, the UNFPA audit function is expected to move from UNDP to UNFPA within a newly restructured organizational unit called the Division for Oversight Services by 1 January 2003. We have also established a Strategic Planning Unit and a Humanitarian Response Unit, both under the leadership of the Deputy Executive Director (Programme). And within the Technical Support Division, we have amalgamated two branches into one, which we called Culture, Gender and Human Rights.

Mr. President, I cannot end this section of my statement about the transition without mentioning the important issue of culture and development. Most of the year was spent in exploring this extremely difficult area and trying to identify a specific niche for UNFPA. We know that we have rich experience in projects that were designed taking into consideration the cultural context, albeit such projects are not systematically introduced or conceptually consolidated. We also know that the Africa Division is embarking on a regional programme on culture and reproductive health. Taking all that into consideration and through various discussions within UNFPA, we have developed a project proposal for mainstreaming culture in UNFPA programmes. The proposed project rests on two major assumptions: (a) that the field is our "educator" on issues relating to culture and that there is a great deal of UNFPA experience in the field that needs to be understood, analysed, and utilized if we want to institutionalize the "culture lens" in our programmes; and (b) that capacity-building of programme staff and UNFPA partners, especially in the field, is the core component of any effort to mainstream cultural considerations in our programmes.

Pending the discussion with donors who have expressed interest in this particular area, we are proceeding to undertake an in-depth review of selected field projects that have utilized the "culture lens" specifically in the area of HIV/AIDS and gender. We will also review the rich material produced by Al-Azhar University, on Islam and population issues in general and reproductive health in particular. This review will contribute to the formulation of a proposal to make such knowledge simplified and accessible for advocacy in the various Islamic contexts. We hope that the results of such reviews would contribute to the on-going interfaith dialogue on population and reproductive health, more specifically, and to the general discussions about culture and religion and development.

PRSPs and SWAps

Mr. President, Your Excellencies,

UNFPA is committed to becoming an effective partner in sector-wide approaches and PRSP processes. If carefully executed, SWAps and PRSPs offer excellent opportunities to enlarge the scope and impact of interventions and make the most effective and coordinated use of available resources. However, these processes require technical knowledge and expertise that are, in some ways, different from those traditionally employed by UNFPA. This is particularly true of planning and execution modalities and the types of partnerships involved in SWAps.

We are convinced that the key to UNFPA's effective participation in SWAps and PRSPs is training and hands-on experience. UNFPA, as an organization, must be able to evolve and adapt to the changing environment in which it works. Its staff must be able to convey to government counterparts and other development partners how population and reproductive health programmes contribute to poverty reduction. They must also be able to negotiate sector-funding schemes that include population and reproductive health activities and maximize their outcomes. And they must gain experience in developing joint monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and in working with a wider range of counterparts within sectors.

We are committed to increasing our involvement in sector-wide approaches, as requested by the Board in decision 2002/6. But we have not yet fully developed the skills and experience we need to do so. Two in-house workshops on SWAps during the past two years have made this clear to us. We thus recognize that we need help in developing staff capacity and experience in these areas.

UNFPA has therefore developed a proposal for a special two-year project aimed at dramatically increasing the Fund's capacity in this area. Proposed activities of the project include extensive training for all field staff, Country Technical Services Teams supported under the Technical Advisory Programme and relevant headquarters staff through workshops and distance learning; the selection of six focus or pilot countries that will receive more extensive support, including additional national staff to work on SWAps; and the hiring of project staff at headquarters to improve coordination with other agencies, develop the necessary financial and programmatic guidelines in-house to facilitate participation in SWAps, identify sources of technical assistance and ensure the effective sharing of knowledge and best practices with the rest of the Fund. We plan to submit the proposal to prospective donors who are interested in this area soon as possible.

Millennium Development Goals

Mr. President,

I am pleased to inform the Board that UNFPA is playing an active role at global and country levels in supporting national efforts to achieve the targets of the Millennium Development Goals. We fully recognize that progressing towards the MDGs is critically dependent on, among other things, making progress towards the ICPD goal of achieving universal access to reproductive health services.

At the global level, UNFPA co-chairs the United Nations Development Group Working Group on the MDGs and participates actively in support of the Millennium Project. At the country level, in addition to ensuring that national reports include access to reproductive health services as an indicator, UNFPA is mainstreaming relevant MDG targets in all of its country programming processes. The Fund is also encouraging the inclusion of MDG indicators in PRSPs so as to help ensure an appropriate focus on population, reproductive health and gender issues in national poverty reduction strategies.

We are particularly gratified, in this regard, that the Executive Board recognized, in decision 2002/5, the crucial role UNFPA plays in helping countries to achieve MDG goals and to eradicate poverty.

World Summit for Sustainable Development

Mr. President,

I would now like to say a few words on the recently concluded World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD), in which UNFPA participated actively, including organizing, in partnership with the Government of South Africa and the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, a successful side panel on population in sustainable development.

As many of you know, the WSSD outcome documents have brought poverty much more centrally into the global sustainable development agenda. This, of course, is consistent with the new directions UNFPA is taking in its programmatic support to countries. UNFPA will actively and strategically engage in WSSD follow-up events in support of the Plan of Implementation.

UNFPA also plans to take advantage of the numerous opportunities emanating from the Plan of Implementation to collaborate with a wide range of development partners in the areas of its mandate. An important objective of this collaboration will be to reinforce the critical role of population dynamics and reproductive health issues in sustainable development, especially in the eradication of poverty.

Tenth anniversary of the ICPD

Mr. President,

As the tenth anniversary of the ICPD approaches, we need to reflect on the progress that has been made in achieving the goals and objectives set out in the Programme of Action, which will reach its half-way point in 2004. Most importantly, a review of progress needs to take place at the national level so as to help accelerate the further implementation of the Programme of Action, and consultations are to take place at the regional level, to exchange experiences and derive lessons learned for each region within the distinctive context of each region.

The ICPD Programme of Action must, of course, remain the basis of the global strategy for addressing population issues. However, it is fitting that in 2004 we make a detailed and thorough accounting of achievements, constraints and future needs: Where have major successes taken place? Where has progress been slowest? To what extent have the ICPD goals and objectives been achieved?

In our opinion, the need is not for another "conference event", but for a collective and considered review by all countries of the status of implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action and for giving some prominence to population and development issues on the global development agenda. UNFPA is actively seeking support for the modest, albeit important, events being planned to mark the ICPD's tenth anniversary.

Concluding remarks

Mr. President,

As I conclude my remarks this morning, I would like to come back to a point I made at the outset of this statement - namely, the strong support the Executive Board expressed for UNFPA at the annual session in June.

As I look back at decision 2002/5, it is clear that it essentially addresses the issues that are of paramount importance to UNFPA today - the crucial role of resources, especially core resources; the role of UNFPA in achieving MDGs and eradicating poverty; the important role of UNFPA in the WSSD and in its follow-up; the need for strong political and financial support to enable UNFPA to carry out its mandate effectively; and the encouragement of all countries, in the spirit of the Monterrey Consensus, to further their support to UNFPA through advocacy and increased funding.

Mr. President, at the beginning of this year, at the first regular session, I sought this Board's support in separating fact from fiction and truth from falsehood about UNFPA. I emphasized that this Board is uniquely qualified to tell the world about UNFPA and its work - what it is, what it stands for and what it does. Or perhaps more to the point, what UNFPA does not do.

The Executive Board responded in resounding fashion, issuing a joint statement of some 30 countries -- developing and developed alike -- affirming strong support for UNFPA and its work. That statement, in many ways, paved the way, and served as the basis, for the text of decision 2002/5.

Mr. President, this Board answered our call for support. And we sincerely appreciate it. But our call was for working together in giving a fair and accurate accounting of UNFPA and its work. So it is for UNFPA to do its share as well. This statement, and the areas it briefly highlights, are meant to be part of UNFPA's contribution: We are working hard to transform UNFPA into the type of organization we all envisioned as emerging from the transition process - one that is strategically positioned within the Millennium Agenda, with the strategic direction and organizational capacity to adapt quickly to emerging needs and to plan and manage for results.

And there is one final contribution I would like to make - to reiterate, for the record, what I said in my statement in January. UNFPA rests solidly on the bedrock of internationally accepted standards of human rights, and all our programmes, which are nationally owned, conform to those standards.

We use cookies and other identifiers to help improve your online experience. By using our website you agree to this. To learn more, including how to change your settings, see our cookies policy.