An official website of the United States government

U.S. Statement at UN Population Fund Meeting
June 27, 2012

UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Board Meeting
Annual Session
Statement by Margaret Pollack
Director, Office of Multilateral Coordination and External Affairs and Senior Advisor on Population Issues
Geneva, Switzerland
June 26, 2012

Thank you, Mr. President and thank you, Dr. Osotimehin and everyone at UNFPA whose excellent work has prepared us for this year’s annual session.  As we meet this week we are half way through a year that has already brought considerable attention to the issues that are core to UNFPA’s work – sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.

Since our last meeting in January we’ve worked together on a number of momentous events that will have a broad and lasting impact on UNFPA’s work, and UNFPA’s leadership has been essential to successful outcomes.  These include this year’s Commission on Population and Development, where we adopted a forward-leaning resolution containing strong commitments to action on adolescents and youth that significantly advanced understandings on adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health and human rights reached at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference, and myriad UN conferences since.

At the UN’s Conference on Sustainable Development last week in Rio we achieved an outcome document that strongly endorses sexual and reproductive health and universal access to family planning.  As Secretary Clinton said during the conference, “In order to reach our goals for sustainable development, it is critical that we also ensure the reproductive rights of women and adolescents, including their right to decide when or if to have children.  These decisions have a direct impact on sustainable development, and we will continue to work to ensure that reproductive rights are recognized and promoted in international agreements.  The United States firmly believes that nothing in Rio’s outcome document should be read to constrain those rights in any way.”

My delegation also notes UNFPA’s engagement in preparations for the upcoming London Summit on Family Planning, to be hosted by the United Kingdom and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.   This commendable initiative is designed to overcome the barriers that limit access for women and adolescents in developing countries who want to use safe and effective forms of modern contraception and voluntary family planning services.  UNFPA’s presence in close to 150 countries makes it uniquely placed to help coordinate and implement the important outcomes of the Summit.

The United States is pleased to note UNFPA’s active leadership in support of these important meetings and initiatives and their critical outcome documents and processes.  UNFPA’s role as the world leader in providing reproductive health services to women and adolescents is both a privilege and a responsibility.  While we recognize that UNFPA’s primary responsibility is the provision of reproductive health services, the United States also encourages UNFPA to reach beyond its traditional working relationship with its vast network of service providers, donors, and governments to galvanize support for achieving the ICPD and Millennium Development Goals, especially MDGs 5 and 6.  This will be critically important in building political support as well as capacity for meaningful engagement for the ICPD Beyond 2014 review process, which is already underway.

In that regard, the United States encourages UNFPA to brief the Executive Board during the September 2012 session on progress to date with the ICPD Beyond 2014 review process.  UNFPA’s ambitious agenda includes a series of global and regional conferences and will require substantial financial and staff commitment from country, regional, and headquarters offices.   The United States supports a thorough review process that will lead us to a strong outcome that advances the reproductive health, development, and human rights framework.

Mr. President, my delegation is pleased to note that UNFPA’s senior leadership team is close to fully staffed and is now in a stronger position to meet the agency’s strategic priorities in the coming years.  We wish to take this opportunity to thank Safiye Çağar for her service with UNFPA since 2002 and her distinguished career with the UN, including with UNICEF and UNRWA.  As a result of Ms. Çağar’s efforts, UNFPA’s income almost doubled during her tenure, and her work to organize and promote the series of International Parliamentarians Conference resulted in growing support for the ICPD agenda among government officials and decision makers around the world.  She will be missed, and on behalf of the U.S. government I would like to wish her all the best.

We would like to extend a warm welcome to Kate Gilmore, the new Deputy Executive Director for Programs, and Christine Ouellette, the new Chief of the Humanitarian Response Branch.  We wish to congratulate UNFPA’s leadership for the thoughtful approach to filling these key management positions.  We also look forward to the appointment of the new Chief of the Information and External Relations Division, and the new Chief of the Technical Division, among other senior positions and we encourage UNFPA to move expeditiously to fill these important positions.

My delegation would also like to commend UNFPA for receiving a clean audit with very few recommendations for additional corrective measures.  We note your successful efforts to address some of the structural issues that had been flagged for improvement in previous audits which have resulted in better reporting and accountability.

We also appreciate the update Dr. Osotimehin provided on UNFPA’s Evaluation Policy and recognize that implementation will be challenging.  However, we note that the Evaluation Policy Review conducted by the Office of Internal Oversight, which was presented to the Board during informal consultations earlier this month in New York is not on the agenda to be discussed during this session of the Executive Board.  This is cause for some concern to my delegation as we note the review cited six critical areas for improvement, such as a lack of clarity regarding the role evaluation should play in UNFPA, confusion regarding independent versus internal evaluation, and a disjointed approach to evaluation across the agency.  An independent and strengthened evaluation office is critical for all stakeholders to have confidence in the quality of UNFPA’s work.  We urge UNFPA’s management to apply the agency’s usual high regard for transparency and accountability to this process and with the Executive Board, and to continue to work to promote a culture of evaluation across the agency.

And, as has been raised at prior board meetings by my delegation and others, humanitarian emergencies continue to increase in frequency, severity, and complexity as we have seen in the Horn of Africa, Libya, and now, Syria.  We commend UNFPA’s ongoing efforts to implement its second-generation Humanitarian Response Strategy aimed at ensuring humanitarian preparedness, response and recovery.  The goal of transitioning operational support from headquarters to regional, sub-regional and country offices is critical if the Fund is to provide coordinated, timely assistance to vulnerable populations in urgent need of sexual and reproductive health services.  This is particularly important since more than one-third of UNFPA’s country offices have been called upon to respond to humanitarian crises in the recent past.  We encourage senior leadership to increase technical and management capacity at the sub-regional and country levels and ensure that all countries develop preparedness plans so they can work effectively with other humanitarian partners in crisis settings.  And, recognizing that increased humanitarian programming will require additional resources, we look forward to learning more about UNFPA’s comprehensive humanitarian financing plan which is currently being developed.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that the United States values UNFPA’s work, especially its global efforts to reduce maternal mortality, achieve universal access to reproductive health, and to promote sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, especially for women, adolescents, and those in crisis settings.  The Obama Administration is committed to working with UNFPA’s leadership, fellow Executive Board members, other governments, civil society and the private sector to provide life-saving support so that today’s girls – and boys –live in a tomorrow that holds out great promise – of individuals who are free to decide for themselves on matters of their own sexuality, of strong healthy families, and thriving communities and nations.

Thank you.