Statement

08 September 2009

Second Regular Session 2009 of the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board

Opening Statement by Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

It is my pleasure to address you as members of the Executive Board.

In my remarks today, I will update you on the commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development. I will also update you on other advances made since we last met in June – on issues ranging from maternal health to population and climate change. I will talk about how we are moving ahead to promote United Nations reform and aid and programme effectiveness, which is especially important during this financial crisis. And I will introduce the biennial support budget for the next two years and the revisions to the financial rules and regulations, which you have in the reports before you.

But before I go further, I would like to welcome the new Chief of UNFPA’s Humanitarian Response Branch, Dr. Jemilah Mahmood. She is the former President and founder of Mercy Malaysia, one of the leading humanitarian NGOs in Asia, and an active member of the international humanitarian community, who can further consolidate UNFPA’s efforts in this field. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Jemilah Mahmood to UNFPA.

I would also like to pay tribute to the outgoing Chief of UNFPA’s Humanitarian Response Branch, Pamela Delargy. Pam’s dedication, vision and expertise put an ICPD focus on the international humanitarian map and improved the lives of countless women, displaced persons and refugees. Thank you, Pam, for your excellent leadership, and we are glad you are still with UNFPA.

I would also like to acknowledge the excellent contribution of Sean Collins, Chief, Facilities and Administrative Services Branch, Division for Management Services. Sean recently retired from UNFPA and we wish him much happiness in his life post-UNFPA. He has been succeeded by Chris Hesling, who recently returned from his secondment to the International Atomic Energy Agency. We welcome back Chris to UNFPA and look forward to his continuing good work, which includes the full completion of reorganization.

Mr. President,

Last week I attended the Youth Symposium, and the NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development in Berlin, the first global events to commemorate ICPD at 15. The NGO Forum produced the Berlin Call to Action. And I can tell you that the commitment of civil society to ICPD and the right to sexual and reproductive health remains as strong as ever. I announced in the conference the launching in January 2010 of a UNFPA NGO Advisory Panel, which would complement the UNFPA Youth Advisory Panel and the Global Faith-Based Network on Population and Development, all meant to strengthen our partnerships with our stakeholders.

UNFPA is proud to have supported the NGO Forum with the Government of Germany. I was pleased to be joined on the podium by Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, the German Minister for Development Cooperation, and Imane Kachani, a young doctor from Morocco representing the Global Youth Network. It is also my great pleasure to inform you that for the first time a colleague from the United Nations participated in the opening of a UNFPA event to express support for ICPD and its link to poverty reduction and all the Millennium Development Goals. I take this opportunity to express our appreciation to a very special colleague and partner, Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator and Chair of the UN Development Group Advisory Panel. Her presence allowed us to speak with one voice and to demonstrate our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.

In the past 15 years, governments, civil society and the United Nations have made steady progress together in carrying the Cairo agenda forward. Today more women are choosing to use family planning, more women enjoy skilled attendance at birth, more infants survive, and more girls are going to school, all solid signs of progress.

But as long as 200 million women still have an unmet need for modern contraception, as long as one woman still dies every minute from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and as long as millions of adolescents still lack sexual and reproductive health education and the knowledge they need to avoid unwanted pregnancies and HIV infection, there remains an undeniable and urgent need for stronger action.

One of the key findings of the ICPD at 15 review is that we will not reach universal access to reproductive health by 2015 at the current rate of progress, and this threatens to further derail the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 5 on maternal health, which in turn would impact on the other Millennium Development Goals.

The fifteenth anniversary, which includes regional reviews, provides us with a vital opportunity to strengthen commitment to the ICPD Programme of Action and the Key Actions of the five-year review.

We look forward to the United Nations ICPD at 15 commemoration on 12 October 2009 in the General Assembly. The meeting will be followed by a reception and exhibition in the UN public lobby on violence against women, to which I invite all of you to attend.

We are also preparing for the Fourth International Parliamentarians' Conference on ICPD (IPCI) on 27 and 28 October 2009 in Addis Ababa, where we expect some 350 participants to adopt a strong statement of commitment. It will be preceded by a high-level meeting on maternal health and MDG 5, hosted by the Netherlands and UNFPA. The outcome will be presented to the parliamentary meeting to strengthen action in countries to improve the health of women and mothers.

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

Since we last met in June, UNFPA has registered advances in several areas.

I would like to thank the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development for giving UNFPA high marks for effectiveness in its institutional review recognized through additional funding. We are committed to continue to improve our effectiveness at all levels, from the country, to the regional to the headquarters.

I would also like to thank the Government of the United States for releasing funding to UNFPA. We welcome the United States back in our circle of donors as a supporter of the ICPD Programme of Action.

I would also like to thank UNFPA staff and all of our partners around the world for making the 11 July World Population Day a success. The message to invest in women and girls as smart economics to stimulate economic recovery and peace and security is a message that bears repeating.

The struggle for women’s rights is at the centre of the struggle for human rights and global progress in the 21st century. We see this clearly in our collective work to advance the right to sexual and reproductive health and reduce high rates of maternal death and disability.

According to estimates, over the next ten years there will be 2.5 million maternal deaths in Africa alone unless urgent action is taken.

Guided by the belief that no woman should die while giving life, UNFPA has joined together with the African Union in the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa. The initiative, which involves UN agencies, bilateral donors and NGOs, aims to intensify implementation of the Maputo Plan of Action to save the lives of African women and their babies. The launch of this initiative this year involves eight countries, namely Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda and Senegal.

To facilitate greater progress in countries, coordination continues to be strengthened concretely at the country level among UNFPA, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank, the H-4, and through other important partnerships. These efforts complement UNFPA’s expanding work on integrating interventions for sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS, and strengthening family planning programmes and reproductive health commodity security as part of strengthening health systems.

I look forward to the upcoming side event of the General Assembly on 23 September 2009 on healthy mothers and children, which will build on the work of the Taskforce on Innovative Financing for Health Systems. Momentum is also building with the Campaign for Maternal Mortality, and we applaud the leadership of Sarah Brown. Partnerships like these are critical to achieve the health Millennium Development Goals.

UNFPA is also working in partnership to tackle female genital mutilation/cutting. I am pleased to report that efforts are producing concrete results, with reported prevalence declines in countries. To expand this trend, in July, UNFPA and UNICEF collaborated with the World Health Organization to organize a global consultation in Kenya that mobilized medical professionals from high-prevalence countries to abandon female genital mutilation and cutting.

Progress is also being made to advance national funding for women’s empowerment. This year, four regional workshops are taking place in India, Mexico, Morocco and the United Republic of Tanzania to build capacity for gender-responsive budgeting.

UNFPA continues to be fully engaged in efforts to end violence against women and to promote the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1325 on women, peace and security and 1820 on addressing sexual violence in conflict in countries. The need remains strong to end the horror of rape in war and to increase the participation of women in conflict resolution and peace building.

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

I am pleased to report that UNFPA is the second largest recipient of United Nations peace-building funds among United Nations agencies. UNFPA continues to have steadily increasing access to pooled funds, including from the Central Emergency Response Fund and the Consolidated Appeals Process. This is a result of advocacy and programme delivery by UNFPA and its partners, trends in UN and humanitarian reform, and growing awareness of ICPD concerns in specific contexts including humanitarian crises.

This year has seen further escalation of conflicts leading to some of the largest displacements in recent years. UNFPA continues to participate in humanitarian operations in many countries and to strengthen capacity-building and mainstream population, gender and reproductive health into humanitarian responses.

The increase in natural disasters means that we need to be even better in emergency preparedness – and engage more fully in disaster risk reduction. This is critical as countries brace themselves for the increased storms, floods and droughts associated with climate change.

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

Over the past century, the world population has grown from 1.6 billion to 6.8 billion people. Deforestation and carbon emissions have increased dramatically.

The Cairo agenda addresses the interrelationships between population, economic growth and sustainable development. It calls for States to reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, and to promote policies to meet the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

UNFPA joins UN partners in calling for a climate change deal that is also a deal for development. The climate change deal being negotiated for Copenhagen must not only focus on increased investments in green technology; more critically, it should give central attention to increasing investments in people.

This is especially important for women and vulnerable groups in developing countries, who will suffer a disproportionate impact from climate change. Together we must make sure that they cannot only weather the storm but also enjoy improved opportunities, health and living standards.

An effective response to climate change must give priority to vulnerable groups, and be based on scientific information, including the analysis of population dynamics using demographic data.

In advance of the Secretary-General’s high-level event on climate change on 22 September 2009, UNFPA will host a side event on population dynamics and climate change on Wednesday afternoon, 16 September, in Conference Room 7. I am also pleased to report that the 2009 State of World Population report will focus on Facing a Changing World: Women, Population and Climate Change. The report will be launched on 18 November in London and other capitals around the world.

Mr. President,

To say that demography is destiny is simplistic. But we do know that demographic conditions affect a nation’s prospects for peace, economic growth and development.

One need look no further than countries with low fertility and declining populations, resulting from individual voluntary choices, to see rising concern over how to support an ageing population. A look at least developed countries, with high population growth rates, resulting from unmet needs for family planning, shows societies struggling to meet the needs and hopes of rising numbers of young people.

In Africa, the AIDS epidemic has left communities with grandmothers taking care of orphans. In Asia, son preference has resulted in an estimated 100 million missing girls and skewed sex ratios that have deep moral, social and economic ramifications.

The point is that these challenges are all tied up with issues of population, gender and reproductive health. And none can be addressed successfully without advancing equality and human rights for all, and integrating population analysis into development.

The 2010 census round is a priority for all countries, and UNFPA is expected to provide the necessary support. We will have a chance to discuss our work in this important area further on Friday afternoon at the briefing on censuses, where we will hear from representatives of Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq and learn more about what we should do to support the 2010 censuses in the various countries.

Mr. President,

Since we last met in June, we have continued to consolidate UNFPA reorganization. Regional offices are open and functioning in Bangkok, Johannesburg and Panama City, and I thank the host governments and UNFPA teams. However, as I have informed you, the Slovak Government withdrew its offer to host the UNFPA regional office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia in Bratislava in the course of relocation. To ensure business continuity and efficient delivery of our programme support to countries, the regional office will be operating from New York for the next two years. We are engaged in discussions with the Slovak Government on reimbursement of costs of a little more than $1 million and we are hoping for a quick resolution of this matter. I look forward to engaging you in the identification of an amenable location for our regional office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

As for the Arab States Regional Office to be located in Cairo, UNFPA, through the Office of Legal Affairs, is engaged in negotiating the host country agreement within the context of the United Nations Convention on Privileges and Immunities. We are hoping for a positive decision to allow us to take the necessary action as early as possible before the end of the year.

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

It is my pleasure to present the biennial support budget proposal for 2010-2011 in the results-based format (DP/FPA/2009/10). The total budget proposal is for $274.5 million (gross) and $236.3 million (net) and is based on a projection for total resource income of $1,400 million for the biennium. This budget proposal takes into account current global economic uncertainties and maintains the basic capacity for UNFPA to ensure effective management to deliver on its vital mandate.

The overall proposed increase is $14.7 million or 5.7 per cent. This is made up of $19.6 million or 7.6 per cent of cost increases, which are partially offset by $4.9 million reductions derived from savings and efficiencies in various areas. Thus UNFPA envisages a negative real growth of its budget for 2010-2011. Some of the main principles guiding this budget proposal were: to use realistic income estimates, taking into account actual income levels and global economic uncertainties; to expand resources available for programmes, despite statutory cost increases; to achieve efficiency gains where possible, without negatively affecting programme delivery; to strengthen links and further align the strategic plan management results framework with the biennial support budget; and to further harmonize and simplify with UNDP and UNICEF in the areas of results-based budgeting.

UNFPA also proposes a provision of $5.7 million required for the development of Enterprise Resource Planning (Atlas) system and the adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards with the aim to be fully IPSAS compliant by 2012. Furthermore, $5.8 million is proposed for replenishment of the security reserve, and $5.9 million is proposed for the one-time cost of relocating the present headquarters into new premises resulting from the expiration of the current lease in 2010.

UNFPA bases the projected total income for the next biennium on the latest projections for the current biennium. Considering the current income projections for 2008-2009 which are $1,446 million, the estimated total income of $1,400 million for 2010-2011 is lower by $46 million than the current total income level. UNFPA remains committed to increasing the total resources available for programme implementation, which are proposed to increase by 15 per cent.

Mr. President,

UNFPA is pleased with the supportive report of the ACABQ, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (DP/FPA/2009/11). And we are fully committed to further harmonization and simplification efforts with UNDP and UNICEF and further improvement of results-based management and budgeting.

I would like to thank you as Board members for your active participation in three informal sessions and superb guidance throughout the preparation of the proposed biennium support budget, which I am pleased to present to you.

I would like to reiterate that the proposed budget reflects a minimum level of resources required by UNFPA to provide the needed management and programme support at the headquarters and field offices for the delivery of programmes in accordance with the approved UNFPA strategic plan in the areas of population and development, reproductive health and women’s empowerment. In reality, there are growing needs across UNFPA for strengthening the capacity to deliver on our mandate. However, for the upcoming biennium we decided at the onset to present a negative real growth budget given the current global economic and financial situation. Therefore, today, I am asking you to support this budget proposal.

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

UNFPA continues to move to IPSAS adoption, working closely with UNDP, UNOPS and the UN system, in a phased approach beginning in 2010. To begin implementation, revisions to the UNFPA Financial Regulations and Rules are necessary.

In addition to the IPSAS-related changes, UNFPA is proposing certain new regulations to achieve greater harmonization with other United Nations funds and programmes. These regulations pertain to sector budget support and pooled funds, retention of interest on trust funds and investment revenue, and funding of financial authorizations for regular resources and trust funds.

The complete set of the revisions to the Financial Regulations and Rules will be presented to the ACABQ tomorrow. It is hoped that their comments will be available for the Executive Board before the end of this session, in order to facilitate a decision.

Allow me now to provide an update on the matter of cost recovery. The existing methodology of indirect cost recovery is currently under joint review by the UN Development Group and the High-Level Committee on Management for the entire United Nations system, and UNFPA is an active participant in the review. UNFPA will cooperate closely with UNDP and UNICEF and provide a further update to the Board at the first regular session of 2010, taking into account the outcome of the joint study.

Allow me now to turn to United Nations reform, which remains a top UNFPA priority. We continue to push forward, at country, regional and global levels for greater coherence, harmonization, simplification and effectiveness, and are recognized for our constructive and active engagement in this endeavour. I would like to stress that the proposed budget presented to you today takes full advantage of efficiencies generated in particular by the use of common services and implementation of cost sharing arrangements.

We have a new opportunity to expand working together coherently during the next three years with 90 countries preparing their UN development assistance frameworks, of which about one third have chosen to ‘deliver as one’. This will pose a real challenge to the various governing bodies that would have to deal with countries that have chosen to develop one harmonized country programme for the support provided by the United Nations.

UNFPA continues to work through partnership within the UN system to provide coherent and streamlined support to countries in their efforts to reduce poverty, advance reproductive health, women’s empowerment and gender equality, and integrate population analysis into development. This includes joint UN programmes and ongoing inter-agency collaboration to end violence against women, to improve maternal health, to scale up HIV prevention and to advance sexual and reproductive health education.

I would also like to stress that UNFPA is actively involved in the UN system coordinated follow-up to the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development. UNFPA strongly endorses a UN response that focuses on the most vulnerable and those most in need, UNFPA is part of several work streams of the Joint Crisis Initiatives put in place by the Chief Executives’ Board, and is an active member of the UN Global Impact and Vulnerability Alert System.

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

With just five years left in the countdown to 2015, we need to act with urgency to keep the promises that have been made, and we also need to plan ahead.

We need to make sure that population, women’s empowerment and sexual and reproductive health, including family planning, and participation of young people remain central to the international development agenda and the requisite resources are made available.

Some are asking: will there be a new conference on population and development when the Programme of Action comes to an end?

In the coming months, I will be consulting with our partners on the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action up to 2014 and beyond, taking into account the outcomes of the regional and global meetings being held during the fifteenth anniversary.

The result of these consultations will guide us in UNFPA in working with you, the Member States of the United Nations General Assembly, as you decide on a follow-up process that protects the achievements of Cairo, responds to new challenges and the changing development environment, and reinforces the integration of the ICPD agenda in global processes related to development.

I thank you for your support to UNFPA and to the visionary ICPD agenda.