11 September 2007

Second Regular Session UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board

Statement by Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director, UNFPA

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

Colleagues and Friends,

It seems like just yesterday that we met here in June. I have been looking forward to this meeting and it is a pleasure to address you once again.

The world is rapidly changing and we at the United Nations have to change too, to serve “We the Peoples” in the quest for peace and security, human rights and development.

We have to be more responsive and dynamic, reaching out, building alliances and taking advantage of opportunities as they arise. Our guiding principle, from the first day that UNFPA was established, is nationally owned and led development. This is why UNFPA remains small, working mostly through its national partners and supported by the international community.

Today, UNFPA is poised for change. As I say to my colleagues, we owe it not to ourselves, but to the women, men and young people we exist to serve.

For UNFPA, the quest for increased efficiency and effectiveness has not centred on recasting our mission. Our focused and highly relevant mandate is one of our strengths. Over the years, the importance of the agenda of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) to development and poverty reduction has only grown stronger. And you, as Member States of our Board, are working together to ensure the necessary support to national efforts.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

UNFPA is ready to take a big leap. Our goal is to be a field-focused organization that delivers stronger results in support of national development. Today, progress in implementing ICPD recommendations is uneven and inconsistent across countries and regions and between the various goals. In response, we want to leverage greater action and resources to promote the right of every woman, man and young person to exercise their human rights to a life of health and equal opportunity, their right to development.

During the past 18 months, we have reviewed the possibilities of using our resources in a more concentrated and well thought-out way. We have strived for consensus and shared ownership of organizational priorities and strategies for achieving key outcomes in our core areas of population, reproductive health and rights, and gender equality.

We have examined our progress, challenges and opportunities and realized that we have to sharpen our focus and conduct business in a new way.

The work has been thorough, involving the staff of UNFPA at headquarters and in the field, and Member States, particularly you, as members of our Executive Board.

We held stakeholder meetings and consultations to collect viewpoints internally and externally from our development and humanitarian partners. We conducted a review of our current multi-year funding framework, resource allocation system, interregional programme and a functional analysis of our organization.

Since we last met in June, we have further refined and finalized our proposed strategic plan for 2008 to 2011, and the supporting global and regional programme, organizational structure and resource allocation system. The resource allocation system pays special attention to least developed countries and countries in emergency, transition and recovery. We have worked diligently on result-based budgeting and an accountability framework.

In developing these initiatives with your guidance, UNFPA has collaborated closely with United Nations partner agencies, especially the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to further harmonization.

Moving forward in this way has only been possible because of the strong involvement of each one of you, members of this Board, whether you are in the Permanent Missions or come all the way from your capitals. We truly appreciate your rigorous analysis, insight, guidance and commitment to make UNFPA a better field-focused and results-based organization. Your contribution, as Board members, to our strategic planning made our thinking and proposals sharper, and for that we are grateful.

Today all of us are working in a new aid environment—with a focus on aid effectiveness. This is expected to result in more direct budget support, basket funding and upstreaming of policy support and capacity development. And always, the driving concept is national ownership and leadership. This new environment requires that UNFPA works with Member States and all stakeholders in a different way. We have to adjust to the new environment and this means we have to take a big leap forward.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

The concept of national ownership applies not only to national development plans but also to the strategic plans of United Nations development agencies. Our UNFPA strategic plan is your strategic plan. And together, we will drive it forward.

We will discuss the strategic plan and related matters this afternoon in more detail, so I will touch now on only a few highlights.

As you know, the new strategic plan for 2008 to 2011 serves as the centrepiece of UNFPA’s organizational programming, management and accountability. It responds to new realities, such as changing aid modalities, and provides the overall framework for support to programme countries.

The strategic plan focuses on supporting national ownership, national leadership and capacity development; these are principles to which we are fully committed. We place a strong emphasis on strengthening South-South and triangular cooperation, and partnership, as an approach to implementation. We plan to take partnership to a higher level, empowering specialized institutions and organizations, at the national, subregional and regional levels, to provide technical support to countries in the implementation of their ICPD-related programmes.

The strategic plan has clear outputs for which UNFPA is accountable and includes a reference set of indicators, data on baseline and targets. It will guide all programme development and monitoring of performance and progress. It will measure our performance and thus our accountability in support of programme implementation.

The strategic plan is implemented through the global, regional and country programmes. Global and regional programmes provide the guidance and know-how for country programme development. You, Member States and the world leaders in the Millennium Summit and its five-year review, as well as in ICPD and other intergovernmental forums, agreed that development is about having choices and, thus, it is about exercising one’s human rights, including the right to development. It is about the cross-cutting issues of women, men and young people, especially the poor, to have access to life-supporting services and empowering institutions, including access to reproductive health.

The primary objective that you have set for us, and to which we subscribe, is to optimize UNFPA’s limited human resources to provide integrated technical, programme and management support to countries as they integrate ICPD goals as well as the Millennium Development Goals into their national plans and as they implement them.

Our strategic plan is designed to trigger stronger results at the country level.

I am proud to announce that UNFPA is a full partner in the various and soon-to-be integrated initiatives to accelerate the achievement of the health Millennium Development Goals.

Just last week, I was in London to participate in the launching of the International Health Partnership of Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, and with the participation of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, along with the first seven health ministers representing their countries to lead in this partnership, ministers from a number of European countries, the European Union and the African Union, along with my colleagues, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Administrator of UNDP and the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, representing the Executive Director.

The International Health Partnership is a framework for harmonizing and streamlining the support we all provide to the health MDGs, ensuring that together resources from national and international sources achieve the objective of strengthening health systems through national strategies and plans.

UNFPA has also been working closely with the Norwegian-led initiative—Deliver Now for Women and Children, to ensure that increased health investments accelerate progress towards MDGs 4 and 5. And there is the catalytic initiative of Canada to save a million lives, with a focus on service delivery, and other initiatives for innovative financing.

Member State partners in all these initiatives are very clear that harmonizing all these initiatives through the national strategies and plans is a priority. Within this context, we at UNFPA will continue to do our best to ensure that sexual and reproductive health is an integral part of the national health plans and that it is advanced through the Global Campaign for Health Millennium Development Goals.

Together with seven other international health organizations, we have pledged coordination and accountability in this work. We call ourselves the H8 because of our collective determination to improve health outcomes in the developing world. In this, UNFPA joins the Gates Foundation; the GAVI Alliance; the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; UNAIDS; UNICEF; WHO; and the World Bank. I am excited about this new partnership and our collective commitment to accelerated, coordinated action in support of national health plans.

Population and Development

Mr. President,

UNFPA will continue to work with governments and partners to more fully integrate population analysis, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and gender equality into national development plans and budgets.

Given the large youth population, we will continue to call for strategic investments in young people’s health and development. A publication on our comprehensive youth strategy can be found at the back of the room. And we will work to ensure that population dynamics—such as migration, changing age structures and urban growth, are factored into poverty reduction strategies and development plans.

Since countries require robust data systems, UNFPA will work to catalyse investment in censuses and household surveys. The 2010 round of censuses is a priority for UNFPA. We are working with partners to make sure the censuses meet international standards.

Reproductive Health and Rights

Mr. President,

There is a single fact that propels us forward: Poor sexual and reproductive health is the leading killer of young women in the developing world. It constitutes a large share of the global burden of poor health and disease. The target on universal access to reproductive health under MDG 5 paves the way for further progress to improve the health of women, reduce maternal and newborn deaths, expand contraceptive choices, and protect reproductive rights.

Given the resources and know-how at our collective disposal, it is indefensible that one woman continues to die every minute from the most natural act of giving life. Next month, momentum will be generated to accelerate action at the Women Deliver Conference in London. As part of our global advocacy, we have produced this very short video, prepared pro-bono by young people and professionals at the Art Center College of Design.

We will continue to repeat the message, No Woman Should Die Giving Life, in every country. And we will continue to work with partners to advance safe motherhood as we strive with Member States for universal access to reproductive health by 2015.

Greater progress in saving women’s lives depends in part on greater resources. This is especially important for the poorest countries. To respond to this challenge, I am pleased to announce that UNFPA is creating a thematic trust fund to improve maternal health. I encourage you to contribute to this noble effort. Remember -- No woman should die giving life.

Mr. President,

The Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS adopted by the General Assembly highlights the importance of linking sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. This approach represents a major step forward in our collective response to the AIDS pandemic. It is an approach that can save money by using common health workers and facilities and, more importantly, can save lives by taking a more effective and people-centred approach.

UNFPA is committed to accelerated HIV prevention. And it will continue to focus on prevention among women, for young people, including those out of school, and condom programming in line with the division of labour in UNAIDS.

If we are to achieve universal access to reproductive health; HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care; and the health Millennium Development Goals we must ensure that health systems can deliver a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services and supplies.

In the area of reproductive health commodity security, UNFPA continues to play a leading role in supporting national ownership through enhanced capacity, increased supply and improved access. These efforts are beginning to yield important results, and constitute an integral part of health system strengthening.

With your help and support we are confident that we will continue to see even greater progress ahead. We have organized an informal briefing today at 6:15 p.m. in the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium on reproductive health commodity security with champions from every region. I encourage you to attend.

Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality

Mr. President,

We have all agreed in many forums that advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality is not only a goal in its own right, it is central to development, human rights, peace and security.

With a presence in over 140 countries, UNFPA will continue policy dialogue, advocacy and support to promote reproductive rights and to address sexual and gender-based violence. We will continue efforts with partners to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), including through our work in the Inter-agency Standing Committee on Humanitarian Affairs.

As we move forward, we will continue to use a culturally sensitive approach, as we have always done, based on knowledge and understanding of local sociocultural realities and engagement of local leaders, to increase ownership of ICPD programmes and principles. We will continue to encourage men to be partners in equality.

This summer, UNICEF and UNFPA launched a $44-million initiative, with seed funding by Norway, to reduce female genital mutilation/cutting. The goal is to reduce the practice by 40 per cent within a decade and to end it in one generation in 17 high-prevalence countries.

The programme relies on partnerships with governments, religious leaders, health professionals, the media and civil society. We are grateful to Norway as the first contributor to this joint UNFPA-UNICEF Trust Fund and we look forward to the contribution of other partners.

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

Right now, United Nations Country Teams are focusing efforts to work together in support of national development, as they carry forward recommendations of the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review. This is illustrated by the “delivering as one” pilots.

UNFPA is an active member of the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), and important work is underway in both the programme and management committees to further harmonize United Nations system-wide policies and procedures. This work includes the articulation of common standards in the areas of oversight, accountability and ethics. Here I would like to reiterate what my friend Kemal Dervis, UNDP Administrator, has already informed you. Next week, on Friday, 21 September, the High-Level Committee on Management, which I have the honour of chairing, will discuss harmonization of our policies on ethical standards and conduct, including protection against retaliation policies.

We also realize that success at the country level requires harmonization of business practices that are within our jurisdiction as heads of specialized agencies, funds and programmes. There is much work being done at the country level among members of the United Nations Country Teams, led by the Resident Coordinator. And there is much work being done at the global level to make the CEB more effective in promoting harmonization among all of our institutions.

I would like to take this opportunity to especially thank Kemal Dervis, in his capacity as United Nations Development Group (UNDG) Chairperson, for his leadership in bringing the UNDG closer to all CEB members and in ensuring buy-in from all heads of agencies to provide strong and coherent support to the countries in which we serve. He has been open to new ideas and he listened carefully to the views of the specialized agencies as well as to the funds and programmes and responded positively. He has a difficult task at hand and I am sure, with our collective support, he will certainly succeed in bringing country operations and the Resident Coordinator system closer to the countries themselves and to the United Nations system as a whole, with a main objective of ensuring national leadership of the development process, supported by the resources of a harmonized and coherent United Nations system.

Furthermore, for UNFPA, the quest for coherence provides unprecedented opportunities to integrate ICPD recommendations on population, reproductive health and gender into national plans, and United Nations support to countries. But for this opportunity to be realized, UNFPA must increase its capacity to support countries and its own country offices better.

The proposals the Board is reviewing and approving at this session respond to this challenge.

Organizational Structure

Mr. President,

At the June 2007 annual session, the Executive Board took an oral decision that the so- called Scenario 3 was the most suitable structure for UNFPA to achieve its goals and outcomes.

Since then, UNFPA has revised the structure to ensure that the issues raised in June and by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) have been addressed and incorporated.

In response, the new structure reflects the need to strengthen country offices and better support country-led development, country programme delivery and the United Nations Country Teams. This is translated into a significant shift of resources to the field and country offices.

The new structure also places an emphasis on system-wide coherence and a commitment to co-location of regional offices and regional alignment with other United Nations agencies.

And our proposal recognizes that the skills and competencies required to provide effective support to country offices have become more strategic and policy oriented. Thus, we will ensure that posts are classified to reflect the adjusted competencies and that training opportunities are provided to staff members to ensure they have the right skills.

As the Executive Director, I have had to make some hard choices with regard to our structure. I am confident that the choices made support the strategic plan, goals and outcomes and respond to your guidance on this matter. And I would like to reassure my UNFPA colleagues that the changes, if approved, will take place in a phased approach over the next two years in a transparent and fair manner.

UNFPA has also placed emphasis on accountability and oversight by ensuring that within the framework of the new structure and at all levels, management is held accountable for measuring the efficiency, effectiveness and impact of UNFPA activities, as well as for managing risks. To this end, UNFPA is strengthening its oversight capacity at headquarters and is training all staff on accountability, including risk management and fraud prevention. And each regional office will have an officer to coordinate monitoring and evaluation.

Critical to improving our reporting and accountability is the adoption and implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). While the United Nations system as a whole seeks to be IPSAS-compliant by 2010, UNFPA has decided to begin this migration next year in 2008. It will require diligence on our part to change the way we account for our activities. And I would like to reassure you that we will do all we can to communicate to our Board and other stakeholders the changes on a timely basis, their meaning, and the impact both on financial policies and practices.

I am proud to inform you that our new framework on accountability embodies a new way of working, with specified responsibilities for everyone in UNFPA. The goal is to weave accountability throughout the organization so that we are able to optimize the use of resources for the benefit of the people we serve.

We are preparing the draft oversight policy and have started consultations with the external auditors, the audit committee, and legal experts to be ready for informal consultations with the Board at the end of October, with, hopefully, a final document to be presented to the Board at the first session in 2008. And you will hear more concretely about this subject later.

UNFPA Financial Situation

Mr. President,

I am pleased to introduce document DP/FPA/15, which contains the Annual Financial Review for 2006, which we will discuss this morning.

Total income in 2006 rose more than 7 per cent to $605.5 million, an increase of $40.5 million from 2005. Total income has increased every year in the last five years. However, this positive trend does not take into account inflation and constitutes minimal growth, given increasing demands.

Total expenditure in 2006 was $536.6 million – an increase of $13.3 million over 2005. Over 82 per cent of the total expenditure was directed for programme activities. Out of the almost $300 million spent at the country level in 2006, 64 per cent was spent in Category A countries–the countries most in need of assistance in achieving ICPD goals.

UNFPA ended the year in robust financial health. The Operational Reserve at the end of 2006 was $72.1 million. Cash and Investments were $488.4 million.

As you know, the number of governments supporting UNFPA has steadily increased over the years: in 1999 we had 69 donors, in 2005 we had 166 and it is very much hoped that we will maintain the 180 mark that we reached last year. This development is extremely encouraging, Mr. President, as it shows that the overwhelming majority of the United Nations Member States support the work of UNFPA. In 2005 we had 55 multi-year pledges and for the current year we are expecting 80.

Another example, Mr. President, of our widening and deepening donor-base is the fact that we will surpass the $400-million benchmark for core resources this year. This is very encouraging and it gives us hope for obtaining appropriate funding to implement our strategic plan.

I would like to thank our top 10 donors. They are the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Japan, Finland, Germany, Spain and Canada.

Furthermore, the number of countries that are augmenting their contributions to UNFPA in national currencies is increasing: in 2005, there were 39 countries increasing their contribution and for the current year we estimate that more than 40 countries will do so.

Out of the 146 pledges received as of 1 September 2007, there are 43 countries that have increased their contribution in 2007 from the 2006 level and for this we are thankful.

Out of these 43 countries, 25 have increased in national currency terms, namely: Australia, Austria, Canada, Central African Republic, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Egypt, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Norway, Philippines, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Eighteen nations have increased in US Dollar terms, namely, Argentina, Bahrain, Barbados, Chad, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Gambia, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Mozambique, Panama, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The earmarked contributions to co-financed projects and programmes, as well as to thematic funding are also on the rise; more than double the amount of a decade ago. And we expect these resources to increase substantially, given the creation of the new trust funds on maternal health and on female genital mutilation/cutting, and the continued importance of reproductive health commodity security and our successful fistula campaign.

Mr. President, here I must really express a word of thanks to the Executive Board members and to the United Nations membership at large. With your commitment and support we have become stronger and financially more stable and sustainable. For that we are most appreciative.

But I must also inject a dose of reality. Given the high unmet need for family planning, the urgent need to intensify HIV prevention and reduce maternal deaths, and to protect reproductive rights and address violence against women, the funding is far from sufficient.

Not only are predictability and assured resources far from realized, even though these principles were agreed upon by all as being the bedrock of reform, we are dismayed that the achievement of ICPD goals remains under-funded. I ask myself: Is it that lives of women really do not count? Are poor women and youth expendable?

In response, I answer with a firm no. And I am buoyed up by your commitment, as Board members, and the commitment I see in the staff of UNFPA and our other partners around the world to improve the health and well-being of women, men and youth.

Results-based Budgeting and Draft Biennial Support Budget

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

Based on ongoing discussions and consultations with the Executive Board, UNFPA’s draft preliminary biennial support budget for 2008-2009 has been prepared in the results-based harmonized format, linking resources to results. This will be further reviewed with you during today’s informal session.

Results-based budgeting will enable an improved assessment of UNFPA’s performance in the attainment of management results outlined in the strategic plan. And it constitutes an important step towards implementing the accountability framework. Management results are critical to effectively delivering the programme results, which are outlined within the strategic plan.

I would like to stress that the draft biennial support budget is still a work-in-progress. Much work lies ahead in fine-tuning the numbers and streamlining the indicators, baselines and targets to make them more specific and relevant. We are very much looking forward to your inputs at today’s informal session. Once the draft document is completed, further consultations with the Executive Board are planned before finalizing the document for the January 2008 session.


Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

In closing, I would like to stress that UNFPA is committed to intensified action to support the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Towards these ends, we have put forward proposals during this session to support and strengthen nationally led development, capacity- building, partnership and accountability. Here, I would like to express my thanks to each and every staff member in UNFPA for their dedication and tireless work in support of our mission.

Together with my colleagues, I welcome your support and guidance as the Executive Board as we take the big leap forward to make UNFPA a more responsive, dynamic and effective organization.

Thank you.