Mr. President, on the occasion of her final Executive Board Meeting, I would like to begin by personally thanking Dr. Obaid for the outstanding contribution she has made as Executive Director of UNFPA to renewing global support for women’s health and rights, and improving the lives of women, men, and children around the world.
During her remarkable tenure at the helm of UNFPA, contributions to the organization nearly doubled from $396.4 million in 2001 to $783.1 million in 2009 and there has been an impressive increase in the total number of countries providing contributions. The United States’ decision last year to reengage with UNFPA -- both as an Executive Board Member and major donor -- reflects our support for this organization and our grateful appreciation for Dr. Obaid’s leadership.
Dr. Obaid has established a solid strategic framework for UNFPA’s activities, which will continue to guide this organization’s contributions to the international community for years to come. We welcome, in particular, UNFPA’s work under her direction to improve the reproductive health and family planning services available in countries around the world. We applaud UNFPA for tackling many critical issues in the field, including preventing teenage pregnancy, campaigning to end obstetric fistula, strengthening efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS, and building support for women’s rights. UNFPA’s activities directly impact the lives of women in all corners of the globe.
And, UNFPA’s work remains essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to maternal and child health. We encourage UNFPA to work closely with UN Women to strengthen the focus on women’s issues throughout the UN system.
During this current session, board members along with the Executive Director will pay particular attention to UNFPA management issues, including the need to strengthen the internal financial controls of the organization. Given the number of countries with UNFPA programs and the difficult operating environment it faces in many of them, this is obviously not a simple task. But it is critical that donors have confidence that the funding they provide to UNFPA is being spent wisely and appropriately. We appreciate the commitment that Dr. Obaid and UNFPA’s leadership has shown particularly in our recent bilateral discussions dealing with these difficult but important issues, and we strongly encourage others on the Board to join us in supporting increased resources for staff training and improved technology to help prevent fraud and abuse.
The evaluation and audit reports and the corresponding Board decisions at the recent annual meeting highlighted several urgent issues to be addressed. These include the need to implement improved risk management and internal controls and to strengthen the Division of Oversight Services to ensure appropriate audit and investigation coverages. It is important particularly that UNFPA address weaknesses in local program and project monitoring, and ensure the timely submission of national execution audit plans and reports.
The submission rates for evaluations to the Division of Oversight Services as well remains too low. The United States urges senior management as it works to comply with policies and procedures and to submit all evaluations and corresponding management responses as a matter of priority. And, we encourage the senior management teams in Regional Bureaus to take the necessary steps to improve compliance. The United States very much looks forward to working with UNFPA on tracking the progress being made in these critical areas.
Mr. President, I’d also like to address one other important issue on which UNFPA leadership is critical to the international community.
The United States strongly supports UNFPA’s efforts to improve access to reproductive health services in crisis settings. We want to work together with UNFPA and other stakeholders to strengthen this initiative and to make certain that UNFPA has the appropriate resources and capacity to move forward. In recognition of UNFPA’s important work in this area, the United States recently provided UNFPA with additional resources specifically for this purpose in Haiti and Kyrgyzstan, where the needs for reproductive health services are critical.
The United States also commends the work that UNFPA and other UN agencies are doing to help Pakistan respond to the ongoing crisis stemming from the recent devastating floods. We urge donors around the world to support the efforts of the UN system and others to help the people of Pakistan cope with and recover from this terrible ordeal.
Mr. President, I’d like to conclude by again expressing our deep appreciation for Dr. Obaid’s remarkable record of achievement during her ten years as Executive Director of UNFPA. It has been a personal pleasure for me to have worked with her over the past year and a half, and I wish you every success in your future endeavors.
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