Remarks to the Executive Board of the United Nations Population Fund

Ambassador Rick Barton
U.S. Representative 
New York, NY
June 6, 2011

Thank you, Madame President and thank you, Dr. Osotimehin, for your candid and thoughtful statement. On behalf of the United States, I am especially pleased to be here on the occasion of your first annual board meeting as Executive Director of UNFPA. We appreciate your leadership in reassessing the organization’s strategic priorities and sharing your vision to move us closer to the full realization of the ICPD Program of Action and MDG 5 targets to reduce maternal mortality and achieve universal access to reproductive health. We acknowledge the challenges UNFPA faces and are pleased to hear that strengthening accountability and effectiveness remain top priorities.

It is true that we have made progress in reducing maternal mortality and increasing access to reproductive health services. However, in the developing world, nearly one thousand women die each day of preventable, pregnancy-related causes and at least 215 million women still have an unmet need for family planning. It is estimated that forty percent of countries are not on track to achieve MDG 5 targets, as you said. Taking into account that the world population will reach 7 billion this year, and with this, the largest ever cohort of young people who are reaching reproductive age, the demand for family planning and reproductive health services will certainly continue to grow. For this reason, our collective efforts in support of the ICPD Program of Action and MDG5 must be further strengthened. We will only succeed if we are able to develop and implement innovative solutions and achieve better coordination and performance on the ground.

In this regard, we welcome the consultation UNFPA leadership held last month with the Executive Board and support the vision that was outlined to maximize impact over the remaining two and a half years of the current Strategic Plan. We are pleased to learn that mechanisms are already in place to better coordinate with other UN entities which have overlapping population and development activities.

We are in agreement that reproductive health is an issue that cuts across much of our development work and is one of the most powerful investments we can make to improve the lives of women and their families. As the largest bi-lateral donor of reproductive and maternal health assistance, the United States has helped women and men in the developing world gain access to modern methods of family planning, allowing them to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children. Priority areas include contraceptive commodity security; improving access to family planning at the community level; integration of family planning, maternal and child health and HIV programs; promoting healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy; and cross-cutting areas such as gender equity.

The Obama Administration has championed these efforts by establishing the Global Health Initiative. In partnership with host country governments, civil society, donors, and other health organizations, the U.S. has set ambitious targets for improving maternal and child health and increasing access to family planning. These efforts are designed to be broad-based, self-sustaining, and country-led. We’re working to build health systems that give women and children access to an integrated package of essential health services, from prenatal care and skilled birth attendants, reproductive healthcare, and the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. To increase our effectiveness, we seek to strengthen our engagement with key multilateral organizations like UNFPA.

However, the United States, along with many other countries, is faced with cutting both domestic and international program funding to reduce our deficit; therefore we must be able to present a strong case to justify our future financial commitments. We encourage UNFPA and all of our partners to strive for greater efficiencies and effectiveness to best leverage our collective resources.

Let me close by emphasizing 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. We fully support the efforts that are underway to create a business plan for 2012 that clearly delineates what actions will be needed to deliver on UNFPA’s strategic and operational priorities. We pledge to work with UNFPA’s leadership, fellow Executive Board members, other governments, civil society and the private sector to focus our efforts where the needs are greatest and where we can have the greatest impact in order to achieve our common goal of a more peaceful, just and prosperous world.

Thank you.


PRN: 2011/108